Your Community Foundation

At a time when conflict often overshadows collaboration and hinders progress, community foundations serve a unifying purpose. They possess the unique ability to mobilize generosity and financial resources, build and activate networks of people, provide an enduring safe harbor during times of uncertainty, and celebrate and leverage differing experiences – all with the aim of solving critical community challenges.

Community foundations are a vehicle that anyone can use to turn their generosity into a powerful force for good.

As nonpartisan public charities, community foundations, like ours here in Rhode Island, accept charitable gifts of all shapes and sizes, invest those gifts in financial markets so that they grow over time, and use a responsible portion of the proceeds from those invested charitable dollars each year to make grants, provide scholarships, and support organizations and efforts focused on strengthening our communities and enhancing the quality of life in our state. The design is intended to provide a permanent source of funding to help improve the lives of all Rhode Islanders now and for generations to come.

As the primary focus of my first six months as president and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation – I’ve been in the community and working alongside our able team and Board of Directors on a series of activities intended to meaningfully inform the way we work and how we can best serve the state going forward. 

We are assessing the Foundation’s fundraising, grantmaking, and programmatic efforts. We’ve travelled the state to see first-hand the impact of our investments – from Westerly, to Woonsocket, to Newport. We’ve studied and have been in conversations with peer foundations from across the country. We’ve spoken at length with many generous Rhode Islanders who have terrific ideas, and financial capital, to share. And we’ve sought the opinions of stakeholders and the public on the growing need in priority areas where we have focused grantmaking and beyond-grantmaking efforts for several years – health, education, and economic security.

We’ve also heard the call to do more to address the state’s housing crisis, mitigate the persistent root causes of inequity, support climate action efforts, and help communities form stronger connections to civic life.

In the months ahead, we will chart a course for the Rhode Island Foundation informed by all we’ve been learning, and we welcome further participation in this effort from the community we serve.

To capture your perspective, we hope that you will respond to a brief survey, available at The survey is available for response in English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish.

By engaging with us as we map the Foundation’s next steps, you will be actively sharing your thoughts on what matters most to Rhode Islanders and helping inform our work. Your feedback will help guide the Foundation’s grantmaking investments and our efforts beyond grant funding, from community engagement activities to the development of research and the convening of partners and policymakers. You’ll have a stake in our collective work to improve the lives of all Rhode Islanders.

My team and I, along with our Board of Directors, approach the work we do with genuine humility. We do not have all the answers, resources, experience, or expertise to alone address the challenging issues we face as a state. We work best and have the most impact when we listen to, learn from, and collaborate with the community we serve.

This Spring we’ll further discuss what we’ve learned at a series of in-person conversations about the Foundation’s future focus. At those events, we hope to hear more from you, and to talk about ways we can address shared priorities together as we strive to continuously improve and adjust to the needs of the community.

I am so honored to serve as president and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation – and I look forward to the work ahead where, together, the things we hope for can become reality.

David N. Cicilline became President and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation on June 1, 2023.

This commentary piece was first published in The Providence Journal on February 4, 2024.