Employing People with Disabilities: Lessons from Kessler Foundation’s Signature Employment Grants

Since 2004, Kessler Foundation has provided more than $41.5 million in support initiatives that expand opportunities for people with disabilities. This White Paper assesses the diverse grants supported under the Foundation's Signature Employment Grant (SEG) program from 2009-2015. The SEG program funds pilot initiatives, demonstration projects, and social ventures that generate new models to address the employment gap between people with and without disabilities. Based on the independent external evaluations of more than 20 SE grants by experts at the John J. Heldrich Centerfor Workforce Development at Rutgers University, five strategic elements were identified as common to successful projects. The paper details illustrative examples of the contributions of these elements to the success of selected SE grantees, namely, 1) A focus on changing attitudes about people withdisabilities and their ability to work, 2) A person-centered approach to employment, 3) Technological platforms or model documentation, 4) Strong community partnerships, and 5) Wrap around services. The markers for success were increased employment of people with disabilities, employer and program participant satisfaction, and model replicability. These lessons learned from Kessler Foundation's experiences in grant making are important considerations for all who seek greater inclusion of individuals with disabilities in our workplaces.


Kessler Foundation


Kessler Foundation

Through IssueLab, the Foundation Center is working to more effectively gather, index, and share the collective intelligence of the social sector by providing free access to thousands of case studies, evaluations, white papers, and issue briefs.