Free Wheelchair Mission

Transforming lives through the gift of mobility.

Irvine, CA   |  www.FreeWheelchairMission.org

Mission

Free Wheelchair Mission is a humanitarian, faith-based, nonprofit organization that provides wheelchairs at no cost to people with disabilities living in developing nations. In collaboration with a network of like-minded partners, Free Wheelchair Mission has provided more than 1.3 million wheelchairs to those in need in developing nations since 2001, providing renewed dignity, independence, and hope through the gift of mobility. Our mission is to provide the transforming gift of mobility to people with disabilities living in developing nations as motivated by Jesus Christ. Free Wheelchair Mission believes in a world where everyone who needs a wheelchair has one.

Notes from the nonprofit

Free Wheelchair Mission's board and staff believe in a world where everyone who needs a wheelchair has one. We advocate for social change by providing the transforming gift of mobility in the developing world. We provide inexpensive, functional, durable wheelchairs for the 75 million people worldwide who need a wheelchair but are unable to obtain one. Free Wheelchair Mission's business model is based on economies of scale, thrift and efficiency to maintain product quality safeguard the health and safety of our recipients. We test our products for quality utilizing a whole wheelchair test track at our headquarters in Irvine, California. This test track provides data on wheelchair durability by monitoring stress, strain, acceleration, and temperature rise due to friction as wheelchairs are propelled over obstacles simulating the rough terrain in the developing world. This data helps ensure we provide the highest quality wheelchair, for the lowest possible cost.

Ruling year info

2002

Chief Executive Officer

Ms. Nuka Solomon

President and Founder

Mr. Don Schoendorfer PhD

Main address

15279 Alton Parkway Suite 300

Irvine, CA 92618 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

31-1781635

NTEE code info

Human Service Organizations (P20)

Christian (X20)

International Human Rights (Q70)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Blog

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Without a wheelchair, individuals living with disabilities in developing countries are often left to drag themselves, crawl on the ground, or consent to being carried. Unfortunately, in many cases they are simply left alone in a back room of the home. Due to sometimes unsanitary living conditions and lack of a consistent method of ambulation, pressure sores are common and individuals face a high risk of infection. By providing someone with a basic, durable mobility aid, doors that were once shut suddenly open. Children who were forced to quit school can learn alongside their classmates. Adults previously unable to work can leave their homes and earn an income. People who for years had been excluded from their own communities can finally participate, engage, and lead independent and transformed lives.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Wheelchair Program

Free Wheelchair Mission is a humanitarian, faith-based, nonprofit organization that provides wheelchairs at no cost to people with disabilities living in developing nations. In collaboration with a network of like-minded partners, Free Wheelchair Mission has provided more than 1.3 million wheelchairs to people in 94 countries, providing dignity, independence and hope through the gift of mobility.

Population(s) Served
People with disabilities
Adults
Children and youth

Free Wheelchair Mission developed a wheelchair training and certification program for international wheelchair distributors on proper wheelchair service and delivery. This certification provides a unique opportunity for those with backgrounds in physical and occupational therapy to serve alongside trained staff members on a volunteer basis. Wheelchair prescription certification participants receive both classroom and hands-on practical instruction on wheelchair assembly, maintenance, and fitting, as well as identifying the various causes and manifestations of disability. Additionally, participants are trained in wheelchair use, transfers, exercises, and proper pressure relief techniques.

Population(s) Served
People with disabilities
Adults

Through our Mobility Beyond Wheelchairs program, Free Wheelchair Mission provides mobility aids and medical supplies to the partners and communities we serve around the world. As a complement to our wheelchair program, our GIK services expand the gift of mobility to many more families as we partner with selected hospitals to provide much-needed operations, many of which reduce or eliminate the need for a wheelchair. In other cases, even though a wheelchair is still necessary, surgery can improve a person's quality of life.

Population(s) Served
Adults
People with physical disabilities

The Free Wheelchair Mission Test Lab reduces overall wheelchair manufacturing costs, creates a more durable wheelchair, and identifies better wheelchair components.  The Test Lab provides data to assess, measure, and document wheelchair strength and durability. Data provides information on wheelchair endurance, functionality, stress, strain, fatigue, strength, durability and maneuverability to provide numerical facts to improve designs, reduce costs, and quantify the lifetime use of Free Wheelchair Mission wheelchairs in years.

Population(s) Served
Adults
People with disabilities

Where we work

Accreditations

Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) 2017

Charity Navigator 2017

Charity Navigator 2016

Charity Navigator 2021

Awards

Affiliations & memberships

Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability - Member 2013

Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability - Member 2014

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of clients served

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

People with physical disabilities, Economically disadvantaged people

Related Program

Wheelchair Program

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Context Notes

Free Wheelchair Mission tracks the number of wheelchairs provided using an Shipping Status Report or SSR. Weekly reports track the status of each order including manufacturing, shipping and arrival.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

The World Health Organization estimates that over 75 million people need a wheelchair, but lack the resources to obtain one. As one can imagine, disability places a social and economic burden on communities with limited resources. People with disabilities do not have equal access to health care, education, or employment. Their exclusion is magnified in developing countries.

Since 2001, Free Wheelchair Mission has provided the transforming gift of mobility to 1.3 milion people with disabilities in developing countries. In 2017 we delivered our millionth wheelchair to Flor, a twelve-year-old girl living in Peru.

The problem of mobility in the developing world is too large for one non-profit alone to solve. Free Wheelchair Mission is working to collaborate with other non-profits and humanitarian agencies to serve as many people as possible with the transforming gift of mobility — because no one should have to crawl.

Through an efficient method of manufacturing, shipping, and distribution, Free Wheelchair Mission sends wheelchairs to the countries it serves for only $96 each. Wheelchairs are manufactured and shipped directly in containers of approximately 500 units to the port of entry of the destination country. There, pre-approved distribution partners clear the container through customs, pay any duties incurred in importation, and arrange for overland transport and distribution of the wheelchairs to local recipients. Recipients receive training on the use and maintenance of their wheelchair, as well as contact information for the distribution partner should the need for repairs or any questions arise post-receipt.

Over 850 distribution partner staff and volunteers have been certified in Free Wheelchair Mission’s wheelchair prescription and assembly training program. Detailed training, monitoring, and evaluation processes ensure every wheelchair recipient receives the appropriate mobility device for his or her age, size, and lifestyle.

Free Wheelchair Mission piloted a Central America Partner Development project in 2017 to increase the capacity of our distribution network in Central America. This project encourages collaboration to enable deeper transformation for every wheelchair recipient. By evaluating every partner through the use of an in-depth matrix, Free Wheelchair Mission can ensure all distribution partners have the resources and training to grow with with us.

Free Wheelchair Mission is also continually updating and improving our program offerings including in-person training, remote training, and a combination of the two for distribution partners around the world. This training includes interactive activities, practical application, and classroom-style discussion-based activities; all developed in partnership with occupational therapists, physical therapists, and education professionals.

In 2017 Free Wheelchair Mission delivered its one millionth wheelchair to Flor, a twelve year old girl living in Peru. There are still millions of people with disabilities in need of a wheelchair.

During the 2020 pandemic, Free Wheelchair Mission also shipped needed medical supplies, including masks, gloves, and various mobility aids, to select distribution partners around the world, through our existing "Mobility Beyond Wheelchairs" program.

The stigma of disability in the developing world is often heartbreaking. Free Wheelchair Mission is working to open the conversation on disability stereotypes, cultural interpretations, and myths to clarify the facts about disability causes. We hope to help initiate a discussion on the hardship of disability in the developing world to advocate for those without a voice.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • Who are the people you serve with your mission?

    We serve those living with disabilities in 94 developing countries around the world. We provide them with the transforming gift of mobility by providing our manufactured wheelchairs as well as mobility aids and medical supplies. We also serve our wheelchair distribution partners who are often other non-profits who are stationed locally in the communities we serve. These distribution partners help us to distribute our wheelchairs to those in need.

  • How is your organization collecting feedback from the people you serve?

    SMS text surveys, Electronic surveys (by email, tablet, etc.), Paper surveys, Focus groups or interviews (by phone or in person), Case management notes, Community meetings/Town halls, Constituent (client or resident, etc.) advisory committees, Suggestion box/email, Training webinars,

  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals,

  • What significant change resulted from feedback?

    Our wheelchair designs are constantly refined based on feedback by end users. In 2021, eight improvements were implemented in the manufacture of our wheelchairs.

  • With whom is the organization sharing feedback?

    The people we serve, Our staff, Our board, Our funders, Our community partners,

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We take steps to get feedback from marginalized or under-represented people, We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We look for patterns in feedback based on demographics (e.g., race, age, gender, etc.), We look for patterns in feedback based on people’s interactions with us (e.g., site, frequency of service, etc.), We engage the people who provide feedback in looking for ways we can improve in response, We act on the feedback we receive, We tell the people who gave us feedback how we acted on their feedback, We ask the people who gave us feedback how well they think we responded,

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    We don't have any major challenges to collecting feedback,

Financials

Free Wheelchair Mission
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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Free Wheelchair Mission

Board of directors
as of 10/05/2022
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Mr. Stuart Rattray

Retired Shipping Executive

Term: 2017 - 2022

Debbie Hendry

No Affiliation

Don Schoendorfer

No Affiliation

Dennis Kromer

Retired; Dunn-Edwards

Connie Salios

No Affiliation

Bob Shank

The Master's Program

Stuart Rattray

Retired; Hapag-Lloyd

Dan Hanson

LoanDepot

Marjorie Terner

Retired; Boeing

David Hummelberg

The Capital Group

Dave Link

Retired; Precision Pet Products

Susan Shore

Azusa Pacific University

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 2/10/2022

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Black/African American/African
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

The organization's co-leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Male, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

 

Sexual orientation

Disability

Equity strategies

Last updated: 10/05/2022

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

Data
  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We analyze disaggregated data and root causes of race disparities that impact the organization's programs, portfolios, and the populations served.
  • We disaggregate data to adjust programming goals to keep pace with changing needs of the communities we support.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We have a promotion process that anticipates and mitigates implicit and explicit biases about people of color serving in leadership positions.
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.