It seems that in the 21st century, a foundation that offers grants would make sure they were
inclusive as far as disabilities were concerned. But that is not always the case. Even the Ford
Foundation, which has done so much good for so many, was called on the carpet by disabled
people, saying that it excluded people with disabilities. Since this happened in 2016, however,
they have worked tirelessly to create a more equitable situation with their philanthropy.

The Ford Foundation heeded the advice of the organizations they served to make it more
inclusive to people with disabilities, and they started by joining their efforts to Impel
Consultancy, which helped them to evaluate their ability to be inclusive. Once they evaluated
their own situation, they knew it was time to reach out and help others. Senior leadership is
critical in situations like this, in order to drive further investments.

“In 2019, for instance, Ford and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation launched the
Council on Disability Inclusion in Philanthropy
. The council facilitated the creation of a $5 million
disability justice fund at Borealis Philanthropy, the first collaborative fund on disability in the
United States.” Incredibly, there were pledges from almost 70 donors that were earmarked to
get rid of ableism within philanthropy, and to set out to make it more equitable.

The Ford Foundation, after not understanding how to be inclusive enough at the outset, was
able to change their thinking, and they now serve as a model for others in the philanthropic
world to be allinclusive and make sure that everyone’s needs are met when it comes to grants.


Clearly it is difficult to walk in people’s shoes and realize how disability is linked to the

discrimination of marginalized groups. But by opening up the conversation, the Ford Foundation
is hoping to create a more equitable society which understands “social norms” and how they
might lead to problems. “To move from the abstract to people’s real lives, the foundation also
hosts a storytelling session with individual disabled people called “Disability Dish.’’ Nonprofit
leaders such as Dior Vargas, founder of the
People of Color Mental Health Project, have shared
their life stories and struggles.”

According to Adnan Zai, Advisor to Berkeley Capital, “All human beings have fundamental
rights, and we need to be willing to have the conversation about our biases and the way the
system is currently set up to fail some people. The Ford Foundation is laying the groundwork for
these conversations and conversions, so that all those who are marginalized can be respected.”

The hard work of the Ford Foundation is paying off. With senior leadership on board, which is a
definite key to success, senior leaders set targets and met them in terms of disability grant
making. According to the
Ford Foundation, “Ford tripled its disabilityrelated funding from 2018
to 2021 to $150 million. This grant making is spread throughout our programs and regional
offices so that disability is integrated into all the foundation’s work.”

Change takes time, and it takes people who are willing to work hard. The Ford Foundation is
ahead of its time in making inclusivity important in grant situations, and with their leadership on
board they are already making a positive impact.