Disabled in Development Project Storyteller #6: Cara Liebowitz

My fundraising career has been very affected by the income restrictions imposed by public benefits systems.

Color photo of Cara Liebowitz, a youthful white woman with shoulder-length brown hair and glasses, who is smiling.

Photo courtesy of the Disabled and Proud Conference


Multi-colored hexagons“It’s hard to work in this sector and to be asking mostly people with disabilities for money.  People with disabilities are disproportionately low income, and the system keeps us poor… And if foundations aren’t interested in funding disability rights and individual donors just can’t give enough, where does that leave us?”


Name:  Cara Liebowitz
Please share how you prefer to introduce yourself:
I’m a multiply-disabled activist and writer.  I’m the Development Coordinator at the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), where I handle all of our grant-writing, fundraising, and partnerships.  I like cats, country music, and books about plagues.

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Celebrate #OurDisabledLaborDay With the Disabled in Development Project

DiD’s first Storyteller goes live on Monday, 9/2/19 – and all I’m going to say about them is, “They’re AWESOME.”

We’re taking the whole thing easy ’cause it’s Labor Day! Our next Storyteller will follow the next Monday.


The Disabled in Development Project (DiD) is about advancing disability equity in philanthropy and fundraising. Because access to funding is an equity issue.

Our representation matters because access to funding is a critical component in dismantling structural ableism.
Telling our stories matters because we need to make philanthropy more effective and thus more powerful by centering more disabled people from multiply-marginalized communities.
DiD is our storytelling place to both celebrate advances in disability inclusion and to testify to the ableist structural barriers we’ve encountered, and that may have halted our career advancement or forced us out. Tell your truth about our disabled labor to transform 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.

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#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.
/drumroll/
As I’ve said elsewhere about access:

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A Crip in Philanthropy: The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

The Best of Times, the Worst of Times: This Moment in Disability, Dignity, and Human Rights

A Crip in PhilanthropyAn earlier version of these remarks was shared at Congregation Beth Jacob in Redwood City, California on March 3, 2018. I deeply appreciated their welcome when I was invited to address their community by Anne Cohen, an activist, disabled parent, and board member at the organization where I am Director of Development, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF) or, as Anne has dubbed it, “the ACLU of disability rights.” CBJ’s cross-disability access allowed me to take the first step in organizing community support: communicate.
I grew up with a disability, one that is genetic. I have been a plaintiff in an ADA access case here in California. It involved a bathroom. That required a lot of talking publicly about my using the bathroom. For disabled people like me – physically disabled — being disabled means never knowing where your next accessible public bathroom is. Today. Nearly thirty years after the ADA was passed. And keep in mind those 30 years coincide with my fundraising career in social justice non-profits and their philanthropic allies. Those are whole decades of trying my best to use empathy and imagination to shift that stubborn disability narrative that says I receive but can’t give. That disability is a health thing. That I need a cure when a toilet would be preferable. That I am charity, personified, not justice, denied.

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