Through the Inclusive Lens
The U.S. government estimates that approximately 20 percent of the population has a disability — about 60 million people. Those disabilities affect not only the individuals but also their families, friends, classmates, co-workers and community members. This means that your organization’s target audience of constituents includes people who are affected by the issue of disability.
The Ruderman Family Foundation — where I work as the director of communications — supports innovative programs that foster the full inclusion of people with disabilities in the Jewish community and Israel. We believe that no matter the program, no matter the age of your organization’s constituents, people with disabilities can and should be included. We have seen organizations that have become inclusive and have flourished because they were determined to help everyone in their target audiences.
Our foundation recently ran a conference in New York to teach funders how to make their funding strategies more inclusive. We did not advocate that philanthropists stop funding their current projects and switch to exclusively supporting programs that are fully inclusive of people with disabilities. Just the opposite! Our aim was to show funders how projects they advocate for can become more inclusive and reach out and help more people.
As funders begin to support inclusive programs, nonprofits need to look at their own programming through the disability lens.
Why should you?
There are many reasons why your organization should consider becoming inclusive. Everyone knows someone with a disability, and odds are your current and potential constituents are affected by this. Being inclusive can help your overall effectiveness and impact. Look at your target audience — could a disability be contributing to the problem you’re trying to fix? If yes, becoming more inclusive and looking through the disability lens can improve efficacy.