#MoreThanMoney: Turning Disability Into Social Capital in Philanthropy

“1 in 4 people in the US has a disability. 3% of folks in philanthropy identify as disabled. 3% of funding goes to disability-related work. Which all adds up to the reality that disabled people don’t typically win in the funding arena.”

I’m delighted to present The Final Director’s Cut of the presentation given at the 10th AweSummit on behalf of our Awesome Foundation Disability Chapter. 

I had posted an earlier version on Facebook but wanted it to be easier to share and have audio descriptions. Here are two, the first with text-only descriptions and fewer images, and the second with more images and complete descriptions. Scroll down further for a transcript of the second.
As I’ve said elsewhere about access:

Disabled people are not magical access specialists. We learned stuff. By learning. We are always learning new stuff. By learning. As Crip-Yoda says, “Learn you must.”  #CripTips

The big thing I learned was that I didn’t have to learn how to do everything myself. So big crip-thanks go to Clark Matthews for his technical assistance. 

Read more about equity and ableism in philanthropy.


Each slide has a starry sky background.

1. #AweSummit Chicago, IL May 4, 2019 @IngridTischer, Trustee Awesome Foundation Disability Chapter #DisabilityIsAwesome #NoFundingAboutUsWithoutUs Image of the Star Trek Enterprise, active wheelchair symbol, and Awesome Foundation Disability logo
2. The AF Disability Chapter’s Mission: To serve as disabled, new funders who seek out awesome new disability-centered projects and boldly fund where not nearly enough funding has gone before. #DisabilityIsAwesome #NoFundingAboutUsWithoutUs #AweSummit
3. Our Prime Directives: #DisabilityIsAwesome #NoFundingAboutUsWithoutUs
4. Over our first 2 years, our Chapter’s received over 1,700 submissions and awarded $25,500 grants to 26 projects in 6 countries. This Is Awesome. #DisabilityIsAwesome #AweSummit
5. But the money’s not the only measure for what makes disability-led, disability-centered funding awesome. #DisabilityIsAwesome #AweSummit
6. (Okay, the money IS pretty awesome. Especially, I’m guessing, to our grantees.)
7. The Awesome Foundation Disability Chapter’s micro-grants are #MoreThanMoney because each generates more social capital for disabled people, by disabled people. #DisabilityIsAwesome #AweSummit
8. Each micro-grant flexes our power to fund, to attract funding. Not in spite of our disability. Because of our disability identity. #DisabilityIsAwesome #AweSummit
9. Disabled people have always had worth. Now we’re building our status. That’s social capital. #DisabilityIsAwesome #AweSummit
10. And social capital’s a thing because…? #DisabilityIsAwesome #AweSummit
11. 1 in 4 people in the US has a disability. 3% of folks in philanthropy identify as disabled. 3% of funding goes to disability-related work. Which all adds up to the reality that… #DisabilityIsAwesome #AweSummit
12. Disabled people don’t typically win in the funding arena. #DisabilityIsAwesome #AweSummit
Stylized graphic of 2 Hellenic warriors, one with a wheelchair logo, the other with a dollar symbol.
13. #DisabilityIsAwesome #AweSummitWhy? When abled funders hear “disabled people,” they tend to associate us with an object they fear. Like a wheelchair. Wheelchairs don’t have social capital.
Photo of an empty, very used manual wheelchair
14. #DisabilityIsAwesome #AweSummit Or funders think of disabled people as pitiful children who want nothing more than to be abled children.
Vintage Easter Seals ad with a little white boy on crutches asking for a dollar.
15. #DisabilityIsAwesome #AweSummit Children who – don’t forget – also lack social capital. Photo Credit: Department of Labor
Vintage March of Dimes ad of a smiling white boy on crutches against a photo of a male soldier.
16. v#DisabilityIsAwesome #AweSummit In other words, most funders have understood disabled people through the script of the charity model.
17. #DisabilityIsAwesome #AweSummit Philanthropy’s own wealth of social capital has allowed it to define the role of a disabled person in our society: Recipient of charity.
Vintage KFC cause marketing ad showing Jerry Lewis hugging a small white boy in a wheelchair.
18. #DisabilityIsAwesome #AweSummit (Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with receiving assistance from a funder or program.) Photo Credit: Department of Labor
Vintage Hire the Handicapped flyer
19. #DisabilityIsAwesome #AweSummit But the rise of the disability rights movement in the US in the late 1960s and through the 70s, 80s, and 90s threw off the charity model.
Disability rights flyer, You gave us your dimes, Now we want our rights
20. #DisabilityIsAwesome #AweSummit Yet even with the power of the movement that started in the late 1960s in Berkeley… even after the Section 504 occupations in 1977… Photo Credit: Unknown
B/w white photo of Don Galloway and Ed Roberts on the UC Berkeley campus in 1974
21. Photo Credit: Tom Olin
Crowd shot of Section 504 protestors outside SF’s city Hall in 1977.
22. Photo Credit: Tom Olin
Shot of a packed room of disabled Section 504 occupiers.
23. #DisabilityIsAwesome #AweSummit Even after the ADAPT housing and transit protests in the 80s… Photo Credit: Tom Olin
Powerful shot focusing on a Black man in a wheelchair raising ae fist in power, folding a sign, Nursing Homes = Jail.
24. Photo Credit: Tom Olin
4 diverse wheelchair users parked in front of a Greyhound bus, holding signs, Lifts Not Lies, Buses Are for Everyone
25. #DisabilityIsAwesome #AweSummit Even after a cross-disability coalition passed the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990…
26. Photo Credit: Tom Olin
Iconic march shot with Judy Heumann, Justin Dart, many others under a banner, “Injustice Anywhere Is a Threat to Justice Everywhere” Martin Luther King, Jr.
27. Photo Credit: Tom Olin
Iconic shot of disabled marchers under a US flag with the stars making a wheelchair symbol.
28. #DisabilityIsAwesome #AweSummit . …Even after disabled people had proved we could flip the script in the courtroom and the legislature… Photo Credit: Tom Olin.
Iconic shot of the Capitol Crawl
29. #DisabilityIsAwesome #AweSummit …we still faced the same tired old ableism in philanthropy…
Photo of Jerry Lewis with his infamous quote about how muscular dystrophy would make him half a person.
Image of ASAN’s text about how Autism Speaks’ fundraising amplifies stigma.
30. Making philanthropy not only the final frontier of disability rights and inclusion… #DisabilityIsAwesome #AweSummit Image Credit: Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN)
Image of ASAN’s text about how Autism Speaks’ fundraising amplifies stigma.
31. #DisabilityIsAwesome #AweSummit …but also the most radical space on which to build our social capital: The very space once controlled by the charity model.
An older Jerry Lewis and his quote about how pity raises money and disabled people should stay in their house if they don’t like it.
32. #DisabilityIsAwesome #AweSummit In 2017, Tiffany Yu (right) and Alice Wong (left) founded the AF Disability Chapter. The 10 Trustees are all culturally fluent disabled people who are economically diverse.

Image description: two Asian American women next to each other at a kitchen table. The woman on the left [Alice] is in a wheelchair with a mask over her nose and wearing a navy blue hoodie. The woman on the right [Tiffany] has a necklace and a black v-neck shirt on. Both are smiling to the camera.

33. #DisabilityIsAwesome #AweSummit By positioning economically diverse disabled people as funders who are decision-makers, Awesome Foundation’s Disability Chapter up-ends the historical relationship between philanthropy and disabled people.
34. #DisabilityIsAwesome #AweSummit We become the people with social capital who are recognized as contributors and decision-makers. We become the people who set agendas.
35. #DisabilityIsAwesome #AweSummit You have now reached the final frontier in philanthropy. The Awesome Foundation Disability Chapter hopes you will fund long and help others prosper. Thank you!

A Crip in Philanthropy (CRIP) is an occasional column about working in the philanthropic sector as a white, disabled fundraiser for cross-disability advocacy and other social justice issues in community-based organizations, and as a micro-grant-maker. They are the author’s private opinions about physical and attitudinal barriers to success and opportunities to contribute disability cultural fluency.

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