About The Abilities Fund
The Abilities Fund is committed to the economic advancement of people with disabilities and devoted to the fullest expression of their entrepreneurial spirit in all its diversity, strength and boundless originality
The Abilities Fund is the first nationwide nonprofit community developer and financial institution focused exclusively on expanding entrepreneurial opportunities, including access to capital, for people with disabilities. We do this by providing a unique combination of financial products, training, technical assistance services and advisory supports to individuals with disabilities.
When it comes to building the capacity of entrepreneurs with disabilities, the staff of The Abilities Fund has significant experience. The core staff includes Executive Director and Founder, Patti Lind, whose work in microenterprise and microlending spans twenty years. Lind has worked as a practitioner serving the microenterprise and microfinance needs of women, ethnic minorities, refugees, and veterans and in 1995 she established Iowa's Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Program, a nationally recognized business development program targeted to individuals with disabilities. In that program, Patti assisted hundreds of individuals with disabilities to explore, start or expand business operations. In April 2000, Lind completed Getting Down to Business: A Blueprint for Creating & Supporting Entrepreneurial Opportunities for Individuals with Disabilities—a report commissioned by the President’s Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities. At that point, she recognized the need for a national non-profit organization to open the doors of microenterprise and microfinance to the national disability community. In that year, she also founded The Abilities Fund.
Since its inception, The Abilities Fund has worked with two dozen state vocational rehabilitation agencies in recommending policy revisions, training rehabilitation counselors, and developing self-employment program services for people with disabilities. She writes on the subject of disability and entrepreneurship and speaks to agencies and organizations nationally each year as an advocate for sustainable business development through adequate capitalization. Lind is an original member of the Small Business Administration’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Entrepreneurship for Individuals with Disabilities and the Microenterprise National Advisory Council.
While the organization is young, a chronology of development notes that in its initial year of operation, the Abilities Fund was contracted by the Presidential Task Force on the Employment of Adults with Disabilities to convene a national summit on disability & entrepreneurship and to provide policy and programmatic recommendations to the Task Force for alleviating barriers to business ownership for people with disabilities. In 2001, the Abilities Fund was one of ten outstanding organizations nationwide selected by American Express to participate in the Community Business program. In 2002, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation awarded a significant grant to the Abilities Fund to create capacity among the nation’s 400+ microenterprise organizations to serve the disability community. In 2003, the US Department of Education-Rehabilitation Services Administration awarded a $500,000 grant to the Abilities Fund to cultivate connections between microenterprise organizations and VR clients. In 2006 - 2008, The Abilities Fund received funding from Citigroup for their project targeting women entrepreneurs with disabilities in need of growth capital. In 2007, with funding from the US Department of Labor-Employment Training Administration, the Abilities Fund established a $1,000,000 technical assistance and microloan program for people with disabilities nationwide. Today, the Abilities Fund continues to work on critical issues surrounding access to markets and growth capitalization.
Partnerships have been formed with Hewlett Packard, COVAD Communications, Trickle Up Foundation, the Association for Enterprise Opportunity, National Cooperative Bank Development Corporation, US Department of the Treasury, JM Foundation, and the Tides Foundation among others.