July 2022 Accessibility Corner Blog: Accessibility & Philanthropy in the Arts

By: Elise Collins

July 2022

Philanthropic funding is a critical resource to many arts organizations. Forty percent of all arts and culture funding in the US comes from private donors and eleven percent comes from governmental support. To make the arts more equitable, we have to look at the intersection of philanthropic funding in the arts and accessibility.

This subject is useful to discuss whether you are:

  • a philanthropic organization that focuses on accessibility (like the Imagine! Foundation)
  • an organization that funds the arts
  • an artist or arts organization that applies for funding.

If you’re not a funding organization, it's still important to learn more about how to achieve equity in philanthropy. Understanding funding requirements and best practices can make your organization welcoming and accessible.

To be more equitable, funding organizations need to:]

  1. Reflect on how ableism may show up in its philanthropy

Even with the best intentions, biases may affect an organization’s work. Engage openly and honestly when discussing your practices with others.  Do your own work to educate yourself, your staff, and your organization. A great place to start is the Disability and Philanthropy Forum’s Webinar. They have an excellent webinar on How Ableism Shows Up in Philanthropy

  1. Thoughtfully include people with disabilities in all aspects of its work

Participatory grantmaking is key to achieving equity in the philanthropy sector. As the common refrain goes, “Nothing about us without us.” As Nikki Brown-Booker states, “If we want to serve people with disabilities, our work must be directly informed by them.”

(Check out her excellent article “Participatory Grantmaking is Your Future.”) 

For actionable next steps, RespectAbility’s proven roadmap about how to include people with disabilities is useful for any organization. They have excellent resources about:

  • Changing culture and priorities
  • Staffing and training
  • Communication
  • Event planning and inviting the public

  1. Assess how its funding guidelines could encourage its awardees to follow best accessibility practices

For example, the NEA requires all recipients and subrecipients to comply with federal civil rights legislation. When Colorado Creative Industries distributes funding from the NEA, all of our subrecipients for those funds need to certify that they:

As a federal agency, their guidelines affected over 24,000 projects and recipients in this last year alone! Funders have the ability to influence organizations to implement spread best practices.

(We do acknowledge that compliance with regulations is the bare minimum.  Organizations can and should go above and beyond these laws in terms of accessibility compliance. Often compliance requires individuals with disabilities to take legal action, which not everyone can do. The responsibility for making that shift should not be on the people with disabilities.)

  1. Proactively address how its grant awards could affect artists’ government assistance

As Grantmakers in the Arts (GIA) notes, “As it stands when an artist with a disability accepts a grant award, they run the risk of losing government assistance (i.e. SNAP and other benefits) they are receiving. This is due to policies enforcing a limit or “caps” on how much income a disabled person can receive while receiving public assistance.” This is a complicated and nuanced subject. We recommend watching GIA’s webinar on how funders should address these funding caps for artists with disabilities. (Non-members of GIA may need to pay a small fee to access the full recording.) This recording will be posted to GIA’s YouTube page after around August 31, 2022.

What we fund reflects our values. Placing accessibility at the forefront of the funding conversation is critical to making the arts more equitable. 

For more information, check out our Accessibility Resource Guide for Philanthropic Organizations. If you are a grant seeker and interested in learning about grant opportunities and how philanthropy affects the creative economy, read our Accessibility Resource Guide for Grant Seekers.


If you have any feedback you would like to share, please contact elisabeth.collins@state.co.us. We look forward to hearing from you! 

Note: CCI is not responsible for the content of these resources being accurate or up to date. Being featured on this list is not an endorsement of any products or services. This is an introductory list. More resources are available online. 



Source: Urban Institute, 2003. Figures for 2000 are drawn from IRS Form 990 returns for that calendar year, which are included in the NCCS-GuideStar National Nonprofit Research Database. Figures are preliminary and subject to change. Final figures will be used to update tables published in Weitzman, M., et al., The New Nonprofit Almanac & Desk Reference, Washington, DC: Independent Sector, 2002.

Source: https://www.arts.gov/news/press-releases/2022/national-endowment-arts-a….


Show Post Date