By Lynne O’Hara, The Special Hope Foundation
In Part One of her blog, Lynne O’Hara described how she used landscape scanning to help her board see the benefits of a high-risk grant that was very different from The Special Hope Foundation’s usual direct service grants. The grant was to fund SmartWorks, a computerized system to help placement agencies that contract with the Social Security Administration (SSA) under the Ticket to Work Program, which helps SSA disability beneficiaries find jobs. In this entry, she talks about the impact of the grant on job placement agencies in 10 states and a government program—an impact that will ultimately affect thousands of people with disabilities.
Leveraging Other Funding
With a grant of $50,000 to support SmartWorks operations in California, we became the project’s first funder and catalyzed other state and foundation funding totaling over $1,000,000—including a second grant from The Special Hope Foundation. We were the small foundation that flipped the switch. Not only did we leverage other funding, but our support is enabling nonprofits to work more effectively with the Ticket to Work Program and access a stream of government funding in the form of payments for placement services.
Now, three years later, SmartWorks is rolling out to agencies in nine states and will soon add a tenth. The downside is that progress has been slowed because of the complexities of working with a large government agency. Our grantee had less control over their timeline, and we had to wait longer for results. The upside is that thousands of people with disabilities will ultimately be served, and agencies across the country will be able to administer their programs more effectively and efficiently.
Another exciting aspect is that our funding provided the crucial first step for a project that can fill a gap in a government program that SSA was unable to fill itself. Of course SSA could have created its own SmartWorks if the need had been foreseen before the program was established. That not being the case, however, it was hard for SSA to retroactively add a new piece to the program once regulations were set.
While our “partnership” with SSA is far from formal, we’re betting that the creative minds that developed SmartWorks and the flexibility and agility of a small foundation willing to take a risk will be just the “ticket” to help the Ticket to Work Program work effectively and efficiently for those agencies using the web-based system.
Lynne O’Hara is President and Executive Director of The Special Hope Foundation, a family foundation that promotes the establishment of comprehensive health care for adults with developmental disabilities. When the SmartWorks grant was made, the foundation focused more broadly on innovative programs that could combat stereotyping and marginalization of people with disabilities.