We frequently talk about the line between investing in a program and actively participating in it and when we should cross that line. Research by the Center for Effective Philanthropy shows that foundations and their grantees usually have a very different view of the helpfulness of non-monetary participation by foundations. We are mindful of our limitations and tend to stay out of the way unless our grantees request Foundation involvement or we have something special to offer.
The SUSF scholarship program for state university students in Florida with disabilities is a situation where the Foundation seems uniquely qualified to add value. It is a core program. The Foundation has 25 years’ experience and an unending commitment. It has Board expertise regarding students with disabilities, Disability Support Services in Florida and the university system. The Foundation can use its money and reputation to leverage support from other funders and it has the independence and money to support the program in many other ways.
Last August, as in previous years, the Foundation offered matching grants to any state university that would raise additional money for this program. In January of this year, the Foundation attended before the Board of Governors and made a presentation on the scholarship program, what it means to students with disabilities in the system and the importance of supporting it financially. In March, the Disability Support Office was at the center of the Board’s site visit to Florida Gulf Coast University and was the recipient of a $10, 000 discretionary grant. During the year, staff and Board also visit other campuses in the SUSF to support program activities and meet with students.
Bea, King, Tori and I wrote a paper and submitted it to the Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, which is published by the Association of Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD). Bea is the President of AHEAD. The paper (copy enclosed) describes the basic elements that make this program successful. If published, this paper will add to the reputation of the program and encourage others to replicate it.
Last week in Tampa the Foundation convened and participated in a meeting of Board of Governors’ staff, the disability service directors from each of the state universities and also the career service directors. The theme of the meeting was employment after college and the idea was to explore ways that the disability and career service offices could work more closely and effectively. We brought in two guest speakers, Stephan Smith, Executive Director of AHEAD and Meg O’Connell, President of Global Disability Inclusion. Between them they had expert knowledge of “disability” issues in the university system and today’s workplace. Disability service and career service directors had the opportunity to network and obtain specialized information, both of which will help them to better serve students with disabilities.
The Johnson Scholarship for students with disabilities in the SUSF is a unique partnership among government, higher education and the Foundation. Our non-monetary participation is time consuming and expensive. The Disability Service Directors, who are the heart of the program, tell us that our participation adds value. This program has rightly achieved a big reputation in the SUSF and we believe that our non-monetary participation has contributed significantly. We believe that this is a situation where the Foundation has something special to offer, besides money.