I recently spoke to Zakiya Mabery, founder of B. Global Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Planning, to spark an action-oriented conversation in philanthropy about including the needs and voices of the disability community in efforts to combat systemic racism.

As I sought out the voices of people of color doing this work, a trend started to emerge: A vast majority of the people most visibly working on disability justice are contracted consultants.

One such consultant is Vilissa Thompson, LMSW. A macro social worker, disability rights consultant and founder of Ramp Your Voice, Thompson has worked on disability rights issues for about 7 years without grant support.

Thompson said this was an intentional decision because there are many regulations and rules governing nonprofits, as well as burdensome processes to acquire philanthropic resources.

She believes the nonprofit path isn’t as appropriate for her work; incorporating as an LLC gives her more independence and does not come with the constant struggle to fundraise from grantmakers and other donors as a Black disabled woman.

Much like society’s historical view of disability is that those with them are prevented from succeeding, funders relied on outdated assumptions when determining which groups to fund.

“Foundations and donors disregard … leaders because these individuals seem to lack the educational credentials or formal capacity that grantmakers expect from experienced nonprofit executives,” our ATSG research found.

However, “the capacity to effectively relate to, persuade and represent communities is more important than the capacity to write a grant proposal or speak a funder’s language.”

The structure of how Thompson gets paid doesn’t impact the professional joy that she gets from the work. For her, working with the Movement for Black Lives — a nonprofit-based movement — as an accessibility consultant for virtual events has been a positive experience.

Read the full article about disability justice by Adam Fishbein at the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.