Disabled in Development Project Storyteller #11: Dom Kelly

I sometimes daydream about managing the campaign of a disabled candidate and hiring a staff of all disabled folks – that and maybe even running for office myself one day.

Smiling photo of Dom Kelly

Photo courtesy of Dom Kelly


Multi-colored hexagonsWhen I asked if I could create a disability council at Fair Fight Action, I was given enthusiastic support and encouragement.


Name or Anonymous:
Dom Kelly
Please share how you prefer to introduce yourself:
I am a progressive political and nonprofit fundraiser, disability justice advocate and organizer, digital and editorial strategist, and former professional musician.
I am one of a set of triplets with Cerebral Palsy and have been involved in disability advocacy since I was 4 years old. I am currently the Senior Fundraising Manager at Fair Fight Action, a voting rights organization based in Georgia, and I also lead our Disability Council.
Previously, I spent nearly a decade working in leadership positions in the digital media space while touring the world and making records with my rock band. I hold a bachelor’s degree in music production and master’s degree in new media journalism, and I am currently completing a graduate certificate in interdisciplinary disability studies at the University of Maine as well as a master’s in nonprofit leadership from the University of Pennsylvania.
Your pronouns are:
he/him/his
Current Job Title(s) and Organization(s) (if applicable):
Senior Fundraising Manager
Years in philanthropy on both the fund-seeking and fund-giving sides:
1-5
Number of years in the workforce prior to 2007, when there was a surge into social media?
0
Number of years in the workforce prior to 1990, when the ADA was passed?
0
Number of years in the workforce prior to 1977, when the federal Section 504 regulations were signed?
0
Have you held any positions that make funding decisions and/or sets funding priorities?
Yes
Are you currently opening identifying as disabled, managing a chronic illness, and/or dealing with aging issues in your workplace or with contracting companies, or in volunteer roles? 
Yes, I have Cerebral Palsy.
Do you have any colleagues on your team or in your organization who identify as disabled/chronically ill/aging?
Yes
Do any of the funding decision-makers who are your peers, or who you report to, identify as disabled/chronically ill/aging?
Unsure
Have you had any ongoing connections with other disabled/chronically ill/aging philanthropy professionals where you can support each other?
Not yet
Have you felt it was difficult to build strong relationships with peer colleagues, superiors, donors because of communication barriers?
I have not had that experience myself.

Multi-colored hexagons“My disability advocacy and organizing is a part of my life, my identity, and my survival, so I do not want to work at a place that won’t hire me because of it.”


Have you ever been provided with professional development, mentorship, and/or leadership training programs where you didn’t have to provide informal programmatic and/or physical access advising? 
N/a
Have you ever experienced what you consider significant secondary stress, anxiety, and/or fear about meeting professional expectations because of disability/chronic illness/aging-related barriers and/or stigma?
Yes, I have experienced that at past jobs, but not in my current role.
Have you ever left a position because of disability/chronic illness/aging-related barriers and/or policies made continuing in the position untenable?
No
Have you ever been told in a work performance-related conversation with a superior that your presence is an inspiration to others, and/or that your presence in the workplace is itself remarkable?
No
Have you ever been physically touched, grabbed, patted on the head, had your assistive equipment handled without your consent by a peer, superior, or donor in a work environment?
No
Have you ever struggled to participate in team-building exercises, workplace wellness programs, or other initiatives that were optional but not understood as presenting access barriers? 
 Yes, in past jobs but not my current one.

Multi-colored hexagons“Getting to do the advocacy and organizing work with the Disability Council alongside my primary job as a fundraiser has been really thrilling.


Have you belonged to any other employee resource groups (ERGs), affinity groups for disabled/chronically ill/aging people? Any for other groups (parents, LGBT, etc.) where you found support?
No
What has your most positive experience of being disabled/chronically ill/aging in your philanthropic work life been?
I have had the privilege of working for a very progressive, inclusive organization that does work to expand access to the right to vote for marginalized communities, including the disability community.
When I asked if I could create a disability council at Fair Fight Action, I was given enthusiastic support and encouragement. Now since the council has been up and running, we have done some really great work, and I have had the opportunity to share this work with some of our donors. Getting to do the advocacy and organizing work with the Disability Council alongside my primary job as a fundraiser has been really thrilling.
What was it like to disclose your disability, chronic illness, and/or aging issue in your philanthropic work life?
In my current role, I never felt uncomfortable disclosing. In fact, I shared about my disability and advocacy work in my cover letter. In previous jobs, I also never had trouble disclosing my disability. However, I share that with the understanding that while I am disabled, I also have the privilege of being a white cis-straight male and that many multiply-marginalized disabled people do not have similar experiences.
My feeling, though, is that, again, I say that from a place of privilege, but thankfully I have not had any negative experiences disclosing my disability.
Has the focus of your fundraising work ever been disability-related?
If no, did you have any see it as a viable possibility, that disability could be a future focus? 
It has not been directly disability-related.
I would love to lead a disability-focused organization in the future. I also sometimes daydream about managing the campaign of a disabled candidate and hiring a staff of all disabled folks – that and maybe even running for office myself one day. All of those would all require me to raise money, which I know I’m really good at. I’ve thought about maybe working on the fund-giving side in the future, helping fund disability organizations. The possibilities are endless!

THANK YOU, DOM!


Multi-colored hexagons

Do you have something to say? The Disabled in Development Project (DiD) would love to feature you as a Storyteller if you’re a disabled, chronically ill and/or aging Storyteller who wants to share your experience in advancing disability equity in philanthropy and fundraising.

DiD’s community development goal is to make philanthropy more effective and thus more powerful by centering more disabled people from multiply-marginalized communities. DiD Storytellers educate funders about ableism, celebrate advances in disability inclusion, and testify to the ableist structural barriers they’ve encountered, and that may have halted their career advancement or forced them out.

All Storytellers self-select questions to answer from an extensive list. All Storytellers are modestly compensated for providing their expertise on how to move disability inclusion from principle to practice in philanthropy and fundraising.

If you’d like to become a Storyteller or Field Ally, contact DiD Founder and Director Ingrid Tischer at ingrid@talesfromthecrip.org. Tell your truth about our disabled labor to transform philanthropy!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s