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Signature Employment Grants

Kessler Foundation awards Signature Employment Grants yearly to support  non-traditional solutions and/or social ventures 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. 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. 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.

Our Population Interests
Since affiliation with rehabilitative medicine is 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 related impairments. We require that 65% of the target grant population meet these criteria.

We do not fund projects for which the primary diagnosis of disability is related to autism, developmental/intellectual disabilities, mental illness, post-traumatic stress, learning disabilities, chemical dependency, or sensory impairments of vision and/or hearing. However, the aforementioned populations may comprise the remaining 35% of participants.

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. Although matching or supplemental funds are not required, applicants with additional cash funding provided by the applicant or collaborator(s) will be scored higher. A proven track record managing collaborative grant projects is also desirable. A carefully selected group of candidates is invited to submit grant proposals, which are reviewed and scored. Final grant candidates are chosen and invited to meet with Kessler's grant committee by video conference in the fall of 2014. All grants recommended for funding are subsequently approved by our Board of Trustees and are awarded in December 2014 for the grant period January 1, 2015 – December 31, 2016. Final grant selection is at the discretion of Kessler Foundation.

Who Can Apply
Nonprofit organizations that are tax-exempt according to the Internal Revenue Code may apply for funding. This includes US based non-profit organizations, public/private schools and public institutions, such as universities and government. Application is open to eligible organizations in any state or 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 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$1,000,000 if applying for the largest grant available ($500,000), or be affiliated with a larger fiscal agent. Indirect expenses are funded up to 15%.

Key Dates 

Grant Concept Deadline: February 7, 2014 at 5 pm EST
Grant Concept Acceptance Notification: March 4, 2014
Invited Full Proposal Deadline: May 16, 2014 at 5 pm EST
Grant Approval: December 12, 2014

Funded Grant Projects 
Grant listing by year

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