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Community Employment Grants

Kessler Foundation’s Community Employment Grant Program focuses on awarding projects, primarily in New Jersey, that increase employment and career opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

According to Kessler Foundation and the National Organization on Disability's (NOD) 2010 Survey of Americans with Disabilities, only 21% of individuals with disabilities are employed, as opposed to 59% of those without disabilities. Individuals with disabilities have valuable skills and competencies that can benefit employers. In fact, the survey revealed that employees with disabilities have more job dedication, fewer turnovers, and equal absenteeism and workplace adaptability. However, multiple barriers continue to result in high unemployment numbers for people with disabilities.

Kessler Foundation's Community Employment Grant Program seeks to support projects, programs, capacity building, pilot initiatives, and creative solutions that focus on job placement, education, training and retention for New Jersey citizens with disabilities. These solutions improve the employment landscape and  lead to full-time or part-time employment, which provides independence and economic self-sufficiency, important factors towards living a purposeful life.

What We Fund
The purpose of Community Employment Grants is to support New Jersey based nonprofit organizations that increase employment opportunities and career advancement for individuals with disabilities. Some areas of interest are transition to work for youth and adults, vocational training and workplace preparation, employment-related transportation issues, and strategies to support recruitment, hiring, placement and retention. Other related projects or programs may be considered and/or funded at the discretion of our Board of Trustees. It is very important to have a plan for sustaining a funded project beyond the grant period if the proposed project will be ongoing. Additionally, Kessler Foundation is also interested in knowing how the grant will be judged effective at the end of the grant period.

Our Population Interests
Since an affiliation with rehabilitative medicine has been a significant part of Kessler Foundation's history, a priority is placed on serving individuals with mobility disabilities, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, stroke, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, epilepsy or other impairments primarily from neuromuscular disorders. We require that 65% of the target grant population meet these criteria.

Please note: We do not fund projects for which the target population served has a primary diagnosis of disability related to autism, developmental/intellectual disabilities, mental illness, post-traumatic stress, learning disabilities, chemical dependency, or sensory impairments of vision and/or hearing.

Who Can Apply
Nonprofit organizations serving New Jersey residents that are tax-exempt according to the Internal Revenue Code may apply for a Community Employment Grant. This includes nonprofit organizations, public/private schools and public institutions. We will accept applications from non-NJ based groups as long as the proposed grant projects are based in NJ and serve NJ residents. Kessler Foundation will not fund projects that discriminate in hiring staff or providing services on the basis of race, gender, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, age, or national origin. Please note: Any organization awarded a Community Employment Grant for the past three (3) consecutive years is not eligible to apply for this program.

Grant Duration and Amount
Community Employment Grants are awarded for one year. Funding ranges from $25,000 - $50,000.  Organizations may apply for indirect cost expenses up to 8% in their project budgets.

Geographic Focus 

For this program, our primary target service area is New Jersey.

Our Process
Application to the Community Employment Grant program begins with an online application submission. Grant applications are screened and reviewed by Kessler Foundation staff and grants committee. All grant applications recommended for funding must receive final approval by the Foundation's Board of Trustees. The application process, from submission deadline to final approval, takes approximately seven months. A required final report is submitted online at the project's close, providing details about the use of grant funds.

Key Dates

Grant Application Deadline: 3/14/2014 4pm
Grant Approval: September 2014

The grant program application has closed for 2014 and will re-open in January 2015.

Grant Limitations
The Community Employment Grant Program does not support:

  • Grants to individuals
  • Grants to underwrite fundraising events, such as benefits, dinners or theater events, ticket purchases, advertising, etc.
  • Endowment campaigns
  • Scholarship funds
  • Deficit reduction or loans
  • International organizations or causes

We only accept online submissions for Community Employment Grants.

Funded Grant Projects
Grant listing by year

For more information
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