Elaine Katz on Grantmaking
In this episode of Kessler Foundation's podcast, we are talking with Elaine Katz. She is the senior vice president of grants and communications at Kessler Foundation. She spoke about grankmaking.
Below is an excerpt from the conversation.
Rob Gerth: Tell me what your role is and what the role of the Center for Grantmaking is at Kessler Foundation.
Elaine Katz: The Center for Grantmaking at Kessler Foundation over the past 13 years has funded close to $45 million both in New Jersey and nationally through our three grants programs. And what we do is support new business ventures, job training, job creation, job placement. But more importantly, we're the leading funder of innovative approaches that we hope will lead to change by creating real economic opportunity for people with disabilities. And it's really important for us to do this. When we started 18 years ago, there really weren't any foundation-- well, 18 years ago we weren't doing grantmaking, but when we started our actually grantmaking program about 13 years ago, there wasn't any foundations that focused exclusively on employment for individuals with disabilities. Through the years that's really changed. So we've seen the landscape for foundations see that that is important, that people with disabilities can contribute to the economy and do need some assistance when it comes to specifically getting them entering the job market and becoming great employees in competitive integrated employment.
RG: How important is it for people living with a disability to have the opportunity to work?
EK: Well if you look at the 56 million Americans who probably identify as having some sort of a disability, only 20% are really working. And that actually is the largest minority that crosses almost every demographic. And in fact, the Office of Disability Employment Policy in Washington has said that that's actually the third largest market segment in the US after we have Hispanics and African Americans. So when you think about that group, probably about 15.1 million Americans are of working age. It's really important because currently they want to work, we've seen that through our Kessler 2015 employment study where they're striving to work and at the same time, those who are working are often underemployed. So they're not working in jobs really up to their level. Or they're unemployed because they have not been able to enter the job market for a whole host of reasons.
RG: Do you have any success stories about organizations you've funded that have turned out really well over the years?
EK: I think when we talk about our successes, it's really the work of our grantees that we've looked at that makes us successful. In 2017, we put together a whitepaper that was the employment practices of individuals with disabilities. And what we did in that is look at 20 different projects that were all evaluated by the Heldrich Center for Workforce Investment. And what that center did-- and we have hired them-- is to evaluate each project as it happened. So we put together a report of all their information and tried to pick out some best practices and lessons learned. And through that, a lot of our projects were highlighted for a number of different reasons.