Accessibility Projects: In Search of the Money Tree
by Amy Shrake, National Center on Accessibility
In these times when resources are stretched, budgets are tight and
agencies struggle with a laundry list of safety, accessibility, and
maintenance projects, identifying funding for the projects can be
one of the greatest challenges. Finding external funds can be a necessary
component to many accessibility projects. Where internal funding may
allow for the project to be completed at a minimum, external funds
may bolster the project to provide optimal access for the widest spectrum
of users through creative and innovative design. External funding
may also allow for more projects to be completed in a more timely
manner than waiting for each annual allocation where only the top
priorities are scheduled. Securing funding sources can be a tedious
task; however there are helpful resources that offer solutions to
sometimes difficult to fund accessibility projects.
The competition for external funding is high. Whether you are seeking
grant funds, soliciting organizations for donations, or conducting
fundraising activities it is critical to spell out for potential
funding sources why your project should be supported. Potential
funders are generally overwhelmed with solicitations and in almost
every case; requests far exceed an organization’s ability
to accommodate requests. One CEO recently stated, “I get at
least 10 phone calls, emails or letters per day from organizations
soliciting support. It is impossible to even respond to all of the
requests, let alone to fund them.” Prior to soliciting funds
from any source, it is critical to develop a strong case statement
for your project, program, or activity. This may be the most important
aspect of the entire fund seeking process.
There are a number of things that you can do to enhance the possibility
of getting your project or program financial support. One of the
best places to start is within your own organization. Involving
accessibility in the initial discussions and planning stages for
new programs, renovation of facilities, etc. can save your organization
a lot of money.
Plan for Access in the Initial Design Stages!
Following this simple rule can save a great deal of expense and
headache. If accessibility is included from the beginning, seeking
additional funds will not be necessary. There is often a misconception
that accessibility increases costs. When included in the initial
design, this is generally not true. Expenditures can, however, be
increased when accessibility is not considered during design stages
and pre-existing plans have to be modified to comply with the law.
It is much more cost effective to pay for one set of plans that
are in compliance rather than having to go back and make changes
to include the technical specifications for accessibility. According
to the Final Regulatory Impact Analysis for Final ADA Accessibility
Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities from the U.S. Access Board,
designing buildings for accessibility from the beginning adds less
than 1% to the total cost of construction for a new facility.
Take a Workshop on Grant Writing or Fundraising
Courses are available through continuing education programs at
universities and community colleges in both grant writing and fundraising.
In addition, several online seminars are also available. The following
websites, just to list a few, might be useful www.revisions-grants.com,
If fund raising is going to be part of your ongoing responsibilities,
these types of courses can be invaluable in saving time and providing
guidance to maximize your time searching for funding.
Get Local Support
Although frequently overlooked, the necessary funding may be right
in your own neighborhood or community. Often local businesses donate
to local projects as a way to pay back to the community for their
support. Additionally, businesses or corporations will want to know
how the project can benefit them. Sometimes it may be as simple
as an acknowledgement in the form of a plaque signifying where the
funding came from, or through a press release recognizing their
Local bank branches also frequently have designated funds at the
discretion of the bank manager to give back to the community. The
same quid pro quo can apply here by offering positive promotions
for them in exchange for their donations. A little recognition can
go a long way.
Another way of securing external funds from local sources is to
form partnerships with local organizations, schools, etc. Local
civic clubs such as Kiwanis, Lions, Rotary, Junior League, etc.
often look for philanthropic causes. Contact information for these
clubs can be found in the resources section on the last page of
Expand the Search Outside the Community
- The Internet
The internet is a great resource…even for dollars. There are
a few websites in particular that are full of funding opportunities.
Funds Net Services may be found at www.fundsnetservices.com.
This website has a variety of categories including grants specifically
aimed toward disability related projects.
The Foundation Center found at www.fdncenter.org,
offers a Finding Funders section that includes information on grant
applications. There is also an online directory of both individual
and foundation donors. The Foundation Center is arguably the most
authoritative source of grant and funding information. Generally,
local libraries will have resources available from The Foundation
Center, particularly in larger cities.
Most state university websites also offer a variety of funding resources.
An example is Indiana University’s Research Gateway found
This source incorporates various federal agencies as well as organizations
and Indiana state funding opportunities. Other state Universities
will most likely have similar websites.
- State and National Funding Directories
Many directories are available and are extensive resources for external
dollars. Directories are categorized by state, region, national,
international and topic specific. There are also directories that
focus on non-profits. Directories can be purchased through various
resources including bookstores, amazon.com, and organizations such
as the Foundation Center and the Research Associates. As indicated
earlier, they are also often available at the Reserve Desk in local
and University libraries.
The Foundation Center has several directories such as the Foundation
Directory which offers key facts on the nation’s 10,000 top
foundations by total giving, the Guide to Ohio Grantmakers which
profiles of over 3,800 foundations in Ohio, and the National Guide
to Funding in Arts and Culture which features essential information
on over 7,500 foundations, corporate direct giving programs, and
public charities with a demonstrated interest in the field just
to name a few. They can be purchased through the Foundation Center’s
website at fdncenter.org/marketplace.
The Research Associates have various other directories found at
Directories from the Research Associates include Federal Grants
and Agency Funding which profiles nearly 100 popular federal grant
and contact information, National Corporate Giving Programs which
contains more than 150 national corporations such as Microsoft,
and National Large Foundations (Volume I, II & III) which lists
over 100 of the largest foundations with assets over $90,000,000.
- University Grants and Contracts Offices
State universities have departments specifically focused on contracts
and grants. These grants and contracts offices can be used as a
source for funding opportunities. The University of Colorado at
Boulder is a good example and can be found on the web at www.colorado.edu/ocg.
Another example is the University of Michigan and can be found at
In addition to funding opportunities, university grants and contracts
offices are resources for proposal preparation and answers to frequently
asked questions on grant writing and fund raising.
- Disability Publications and Newsletters
Disability publications such as the Disability Compliance Bulletin
and Disability Funding news have resources specific to funding accessibility
or other projects directly involved with people with disabilities.
These publications require the purchase of a subscription and can
be ordered through their publishers. The Disability Compliance Bulletin
is published by LRP,
and the Disability Funding News is published by CD
Publications. Both are good resources to obtain if seeking funding
for accessibility related projects will be an ongoing task.
Seek Non-monetary Donations
Dollars are critical in any project, however many other things
can be sought for donation. For example, if you are building or
altering a play area, equipment or portions of the play surface
may be donated by vendors or manufacturers. In addition, the use
of volunteers instead of paid laborers can save a great deal of
Volunteers offer a valuable service through the donation of their
time. Organizations such as Americorp
Pioneers are sources of volunteers. Each of their websites provides
contact information for various regional chapters all over the country.
Forming relationships with local chapters of these types of service
organizations are an excellent way of having ongoing volunteer support.
In addition, another source of volunteers is students. In particular,
college students in certain majors are often required to have service
hours to complete their degree. For example, for Therapeutic Recreation
majors volunteer work is required. Contacting the advisor for recreation
students at the local university can be an effective method of attracting
Local retailers are a good source of specific materials and possibly
labor as well. For example, home improvement stores such as Home
Depot and Lowe’s may be willing to donate materials and workers
to build a ramp. Home Depot offers corporate grants through the
Home Depot Foundation in addition to donating 7,000,000 hours of
volunteer time in 2002. Other goods and services might be available
through chain corporations such as Wal-Mart, Target, K-Mart, or
even your locally owned hardware store. Target also offers grants
and has the Target Volunteers who are involved in many community
projects all over the country.
Whether you are seeking money, volunteers or materials, keep in
mind the importance of the project. As stated earlier, having a
strong case statement is critical in getting any type of resources
and donations. Convincing potential donators the importance of your
particular project is difficult with the harsh competition for resources.
However, resources are attainable and available to be tapped.
About this Monograph
This monograph was produced by the National Center on Accessibility
under a collaborative partnership with the National Center on Physical
Activity and Disability, with funding from the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC).
About the Author
Amy Shrake is an Accessibility Specialist for the National Center
on Accessibility. She has a Bachelors degree in Recreation with
a concentration in Therapeutic Recreation from Indiana University.