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April 2020

Funder Spotlight: Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation

The Comcast NBC Universal Foundation is currently funding Donka’s assistive technology computer training to increase digital literacy for our students with disabilities. In a society that increasingly requires that individuals possess adequate technological skills to get a job, go to school, and go about their daily lives, persons with disabilities cannot develop such skills without access to special training. With a $20,000 grant award Comcast is helping Donka reach vulnerable individuals in our community who enroll in our training program – the only of its kind in our service area.

Donka recently had a chance to interview Gwen McNutt, External Affairs Manager for Comcast in the Greater Chicago Region, and ask her some questions about the foundation’s philanthropic work in the community. Gwen worked closely with Donka to help us secure a grant from the foundation and has visited Donka to watch our training in action and talk to our students and staff about the importance of our program.

One of the foundation's philanthropic focus areas is "Technology Access and Skills;" what experiences or knowledge of this need (at Comcast or in the community) led to the foundation’s commitment to funding this area? We’re a technology company, so we understand the importance of access to the internet and technology and the skills needed to effectively use them. As an Internet Service Provider with a network that spans all neighborhoods in Chicago, includes coverage in the suburban areas and across our footprint nationally, we recognize that we’re uniquely positioned to address the digital divide in this country. That’s why we created Internet Essentials, which has provided low-cost high-speed internet service at home to low-income families for nearly nine years – more than 880,000 individuals in Illinois alone have benefitted from the program.

What characteristics / strengths do you look for in nonprofits you fund under this area? Comcast works with and supports thousands of nonprofits in the Greater Chicago region and across our footprint nationwide. Our funding focuses on digital equity, digital skills building, youth development and economic development. We partner with organizations whose missions and programs align with our community investment focus. To this end, we work closely with national partners, ranging from Easter Seals and the Boys & Girls Clubs to the Urban League and others, at the national and local level. We also work with a host of local nonprofits that provide services ranging from veterans’ support, digital literacy, assistive technology and job readiness programs.

What progress has Comcast made in the community in helping people gain digital skills - especially for persons with disabilities? I am so proud of our Internet Essentials program, which has helped more than 880,000 individuals in Illinois alone connect to the internet at home. Last year, we expanded Internet Essentials’ eligibility significantly to include enrollees in nearly all government assistance programs, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Internet Essentials not only provides internet service; it also provides digital skills training programs. Through Internet Essentials, we’ve funded computer labs and digital skills training programs at several library branches, Boys & Girls Clubs and a host of other organizations, including Donka, Inc.

Within the organization, how does Comcast support persons as far as strengthening their digital literacy? Internet Essentials has an integrated, wrap-around design that addresses each of the three major barriers to broadband adoption that research has identified. These include: a lack of digital literacy skills, lack of awareness of the relevance of the Internet to everyday life needs, and fear of the Internet, the lack of a computer, and cost. As a result, the program includes: multiple options to access free digital literacy training in print, online, and in person, the option to purchase an Internet-ready computer for less than $150; and low-cost, high-speed Internet service for $9.95 a month plus tax. The program is structured as a partnership between Comcast and tens of thousands of school districts, libraries, elected officials, and nonprofit community partners. For more information, or to apply for the program in seven different languages, please visit www.internetessentials.com or call 1-855-846-8376. Spanish-only speakers can also call 1-855-765-6995.

Does Comcast have a special process for recruiting and hiring persons with disabilities? Disability inclusion is a priority for Comcast NBCUniversal. The company is focused on building a workforce that reflects the demographics of the disability community. The strategy focuses on three key elements including building a pipeline of talent by working with external partners in the disability community; cultivating an inclusive environment by educating our workforce; and empowering employees with disabilities by providing them equal access to the tools, information, support, and systems they need to succeed at work. Comcast NBCUniversal actively works to hire, retain, and empower people with disabilities while creating an inclusive environment across the organization.

On a personal note, what is your favorite app you use on your smartphone, computer, or tablet? Well, I’m obsessed with television and I can’t miss any of my shows. I’m binge watching so many shows, I can barely keep up! I use the Xfinity Stream App, which I have on all of my devices. It’s great when I’m traveling or just passing the time waiting for an appointment. I’m able to stream live and recorded TV and not miss a thing.

Thank you, Gwen, for sharing information about the Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation’s dedication to increasing digital literacy and access to technology for all – and for Comcast’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in the workplace!


The Coleman Foundation's COVID-19 Matching Grants Program Supports Donka!

Donka is happy to announce that we have been invited to participate in The Coleman Foundation's COVID-19 Matching Grants Program. A gift made to Donka from now through June 1st will be tripled - up to a total match by the foundation of $25,000! We hope you will take advantage of The Coleman Foundation's generosity and maximize your gift to Donka today. Here are two ways you can give:

Please note that donations from private foundations, service clubs, DAFs, and trusts controlled by individuals will be matched. If your employer provides a matching gift, the foundation will match your gift but not your employer’s.

We want to thank The Coleman Foundation for caring deeply about the health, safety and well-being of who they serve in the community and their grantees. To support grantees, including Donka, they created the COVID-19 Matching Grant Program as an emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by the global pandemic. They are part of a national response through #DayofGlobalGiving, which will take place on May 5th.

In these uncertain times, we recognize what is certain-caring people who continue to work together for the good of all. We certainly appreciate our Donka donors and friends too. We hope you will consider a donation to Donka and take advantage of this 3 to 1 match!


National Volunteer Week

During National Volunteer Week, Donka would like to take a moment to recognize our faithful volunteers. Donka is fortunate to have a dedicated group of community volunteers who help us increase the impact of our programs and keep the organization operating smoothly.

Volunteers serve on Donka’s Board of Directors and board committees and help with fundraising activities – such as Race for Abilities in the fall. Our volunteers also help out seven days a week in the computer lab during open hours. DuPage Care Center residents who are Donka graduates use the computer lab during these times to communicate with friends and family and explore their interests.

Thank you for your service! Donka really appreciates you. We miss you and can't wait to see you back in the computer lab when it opens.


Update on Donka’s COVID-19 Activities

  • Now training over 50% of our students virtually; also working with DPCC staff (remotely) to help them set up residents’ computers and iPads to communicate with family members
  • All staff working from home; regular virtual check ins scheduled
  • Staff worked hard to get students ready for training from home – getting their computers ready; preparing loaner laptops; installing applications and AT software; testing web-conferencing
  • Foundations in the Chicago area - such as the DuPage Foundation and The Coleman Foundation - have been generous in developing COVID-19 response grants - and Donka is exploring and applying for all COVID funding for which we qualify.
  • Donka recently applied for a Payroll Protection Loan from the Small Business Administration - through the Disaster Relief CARES Act - and was awarded enough funds to cover 8 weeks of payroll plus utilities. At the end of the loan period, Donka can apply for loan forgiveness, essentially converting the loan to a grant.

AT Corner – Featured Technology

Chrome Extensions for Struggling Students and Special Needs
Technology can be a powerful tool to assist students with special needs or any sort of learning challenge. In particular the Chrome web browser allows users to install a wide variety of web extensions that provide tools that can help all learners, regardless of ability level.

Read&Write for Google Chrome
The "Swiss Army Knife" of extensions with tools including word prediction, dictionary, picture dictionary, text to speech, screenshot reader, speech maker, screen mask, translator, highlighters, voice note, and more. Works on webpages, PDFs, Google Docs, and Google Slides.

Read More

VoiceIn Voice Typing
This speech-to-text extension allows the user to dictate text for any text box or text entry portion of a web page. You can either click the extension or right-click and choose "Start recording" to use it. Be sure to click the extension again to turn off the speech-to-text function when done.

Read More

Mercury Reader
Make any website easier to read by removing ads, comments, and all other distractions, so just the core content remains. Users can also adjust the font size and color scheme of the new text.

Read More

Google Dictionary
Don't get stuck on an unknown word. Double-click on any word to get a pop-up definition, as well as spoken pronunciation for many words.

Read More

To see our full list of assistive technology browser extensions, please visit the Donka website.


Copyright © 2019 Donka Inc., All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
400 N. County Farm Rd.
Wheaton, IL 60187
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