How to Make the Business Case to Be a Fellow

Laura Isaacs
August 31, 2021

You have done your due diligence, gotten all the facts about Disability Lead and its leaders and you’ve found your two nominators. Now there’s just the tuition. Well, if you’re a corporate employee, there’s probably an option that you haven’t considered and that Disability Lead fully supports: sponsorship by your employer.

When I was working on my application for the Institute, I knew I couldn’t afford to pay the tuition out of pocket, so I talked to my boss. I went into the conversation hopeful because he had been supportive of my work with Diverse Abilities, our disability-focused Business Resource Group (BRG). He was very supportive in that he knew I had been advocating for disability accessibility in the workplace and thought this would be a great fit for me. He asked me to put together a document that outlined how participating in the Institute aligned with the firm’s goals. I specifically focused on the Institute’s goal of growing leadership skills and tied that into our firm’s goals for self-development and continuing education. I also highlighted how being a Member of the Network would benefit not only me, but also the firm by giving them access, through me, to civic leaders and leaders with disabilities that they may not have had before.

A group of 20 people pose for an indoor group shot. Everyone is wearing dressy clothes and smiling. Laura is in the center, holding a red cane.
Laura (center) poses with the the 2020 Fellows Class

I will be forever grateful for his support because participating in the Institute has been life-changing for me. I have made connections that I never would have made in addition to learning about disability history and how disability intersects with other forms of marginalization. I’ve also made some lifelong friends, and I know that the Network is always there if I ever need support. Having that conversation and putting that document together also gave me areas of focus when I was participating in the Institute. By knowing that I wanted to focus on growing leadership skills, I was able to ask questions and connect with other Members in a more intentional and thoughtful way.  

So how do you make the business case?  Does your employer encourage continuing education or leadership development? Tie that into the Institute’s framework of increasing self and social awareness. Or if they encourage leadership training, be sure to emphasize the leadership development and opportunities that you will gain not just as a Fellow, but as a Member once your fellowship year is complete. Here are additional elements of the Institute’s framework and goals.

By aligning your reasons for wanting to attend to the business’s strategic goals, you’ll have a much easier chance of getting your employer on board. It is more than worth it to work with your manager or HR person to make the business case for participation in the Institute. Neither you nor your employer will regret it!