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Funding Tips - Utilizing Community Resources to Fund Assistive Technology

When families or individuals cannot afford to purchase technology for someone with a disability, they usually turn to public funding sources for help. . . state and federally funded programs mandated to serve people with disabilities. When those sources fail, families may try private insurance. That may or may not work. The question then becomes, "Where can I go for help?"

Sometimes in the funding maze people must turn to private funding sources, such as local community groups or foundations to help meet the financial cost of technology. These alternate sources can, and do provide financial assistance to individuals and families. Local community groups and foundations can provide money for a broader scope of services than publicly funded programs. They can range from purchasing equipment, to sponsoring a child's summer camp tuition or even building a ramp for an older adult.

Before contacting any organization for funding, there are a few things you must know about your request. Specifically, you need to know exactly what you want/need, why you need it and why you cannot afford to pay for it. You also need to know where you can get it, how much it costs (if you have to order it, be sure to include shipping costs) and when you need it.

What You Need to Know

What is the Organization's Giving Priority?
Most philanthropic organizations have special causes for which they like to target their grants. These might include a specific group (i.e., people with disabilities, Hispanics or religious organizations) or certain types of social issues (i.e., education, empowerment or cultural) or within a specific geographic area (i.e., inner city, county or state). Make sure your application matches the organization's giving priorities.

What is the Group's Average Grant Amount?
If you want $1,000 to purchase a communication device for your child and you apply to a group that usually gives $500 (or $50,000) as its average grant, the likelihood of getting a "yes" is slim. Find an organization that usually gives about how much money you need.

How Do You Make an Application?
Some organizations have printed brochures that outline each step of the process. It appears that others try to make it very difficult. You will then need to ask around to find out the best way to approach your potential funder. People whom you know, may know... Don't be afraid to ask for help. You will need to do some sleuthing, if the organization does not have printed material available.

When Does the Group Review Applications?
Some funders review and vote on applications as they arrive. You usually hear from them within 30-45 days. Some wait and review applications quarterly, semiannually or even (egad!) annually. It will help in planning to know when they review applications.

What Does the Funder Want Out of the Deal?
Some funders want publicity. Others may just want a tax break. Find out ahead of time. If the funder wants publicity, make sure you mention it in the application. If they don't (and some do not want any publicity) honor and mention that preference too!

How to Apply

Make sure you follow the application procedures that the organization specifies. That always helps make a good impression. Here are some other ideas that can help you get that "yes!"

  • If applying to a community group, have a case manager, social service or other professional, friend or family member make application on behalf of the family or individual.
  • Send a photo or video tape of the person. It makes the person real, in their eyes.
  • Have documentation that verifies the need for the equipment.
  • Send literature about the technology Include a picture if you can. Be sure to include any add-ons too if you request those.
  • Be sure to include a complete price list.
  • Describe how the technology will enhance the user's life. Give examples of what life is like without the technology and how the technology will improve life.
  • Be sure to mention how you fall within the specific group, issue, or geographic area the organizations serves.

Community Groups

Where to Find Local Community Groups

  • Look in the yellow pages under social service agencies, clubs, associations, civic and/or fraternal organizations.
  • Look in the white pages for the specific name of a group.
  • Call the Welcome Wagon and ask if they have a list.
  • Call the local Chamber of Commerce for a list.
  • Call the visitor's bureau for a list.
  • Scan the paper for publicity about organizations that give donations.

Community Organizations to Consider

United Commercial Travelers, Jaycees, Lions Clubs, Rotary Clubs, Eagles Lodges, SERTOMA Clubs, Kiwanis Clubs, Shriner's Club, Moose Lodge, Sororities & Fraternities, Zonta, Pilot Clubs, Telephone Pioneers, Hospital Auxiliary, Am. Assoc. of University Women, Salvation Army, Unions, American Business Clubs (AMBUC), Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services Churches, March of Dimes, Muscular Dystrophy Assoc., Easter Seals, United Cerebral Palsy and many more...

Funding Links

Finding a way to pay for assistive technology is often a major obstacle for people with disabilities. So where should you start looking? IATP has devoted a special section of our website to assistive technology funding. Visit IATP Funding Links

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IATP is pleased to offer BrowseAloud from Texthelp Systems. BrowseAloud reads web pages out loud for people who find it difficult to read online. BrowseAloud