Signature Employment Grants

subject sitting at a table Kessler Foundation awards Signature Employment Grants yearly to support  non-traditional solutions  that increase employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities. 

Our success is in stimulating ideas from the field that spark new models that are adaptable to replication and scalability, and may be models for policy change. Kessler Foundation’s flexible funding dollars encourage organizations to pursue promising approaches and concepts beyond what they might have done without our support.

What We Fund  Signature Employment Grants are awarded nationally to fund new pilot initiatives, demonstration projects or social ventures that lead to the generation of new ideas to solve the high unemployment and underemployment of individuals with disabilities. Preference is given for interventions that overcome specific employment barriers related to long-term dependence on public assistance, advance competitive employment in a cost-effective manner, or launch a social enterprise or individual entrepreneurship project, but are not limited to these ideas. Signature grants are not intended to fund project expansions or bring proven projects to new communities, unless there is a significant scale, scope or replicable component. Innovation lies at the core of all signature employment grants.

What We Value We are looking for organizations that use bold ideas and innovation for pilots and new employment models with potential for adaptation by public and private institutions to change today's job market for Americans with disabilities. Collaborating, braiding or leveraging grant funding with other public and private monies, especially sources not typically funding disability, e.g. community or economic development funds, is encouraged. Organizations must be able to transform concepts or ideas into action, using new solutions for current problems, in the communities served. All funded projects will be data driven, evidenced based projects, with real-time feedback to refine systems and processes.

Our Population Interests In recognition of the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 2015, Kessler Foundation is encouraging any organization with a focus on employment and disability to apply for funding. We strongly believe that through investing and promoting employment models that are inclusive, all individuals with disabilities gain economic stability and security.

Our Process The Signature Employment Grant program begins with online concept submission. The concept is scored and reviewed for originality, creativity, feasibility and collaborative stakeholder team. Beginning in 2015, supplemental funds, 15 percent of the total request amount, are required to be added to the overall project budget.  Funds must be newly acquired and available for the grant project. Federal or state funds reimbursable for job placement are not eligible as a match source (see application instructions for details). Applicants are required to add this additional percentage to the total project budget.

A proven track record managing collaborative grant projects is also desirable. A carefully selected group of candidates is invited to submit full grant proposals, which are reviewed and scored. Final grant candidates meet with Kessler's grant committee by video conference in the fall of 2015. All grants recommended for funding are subsequently approved by our Board of Trustees and are awarded in December 2015 for the grant period January 1, 2016 – December 31, 2017. Final grant selection is at the discretion of Kessler Foundation.

Who Can Apply Organizations recognized as a tax-exempt entity according to the Internal Revenue Code may apply for funding. This includes non-profit agencies, public or private schools, and public institutions, such as universities and government (state, local, federal) based in the United States or any of its territories. Kessler Foundation will not fund projects that discriminate in hiring staff or providing services on basis of race, gender, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, age, or national origin. Organizations employing a large number of staff members self-identifying as having a disability will be scored higher.

Amount Organizations may apply for up to two years of funding. Yearly funding ranges from $100,000 - $250,000, with maximum project funding at $500,000. Applicant organizations must have operating budgets greater  than $3,000,000 if applying for the largest grant available ($500,000). Indirect expenses are funded up to 15 percent.

Key Dates 

Grant Concept Deadline: February 13, 2015 at 5:00 p.m. EST
Grant Concept Acceptance Notification:    April 15, 2015
Invited Full Proposal Deadline: June, 5, 2015 at 5:00 p.m. EST
Grant Approval: December 11, 2015


Funded Grant Projects  Grant listing by year

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