Media release

Rhode Island Foundation awards $76 million in grants in 2021 and raises $98 million in gifts

Combined 2021 grant-making and fundraising total is highest in the Foundation’s 106-year-history

The Rhode Island Foundation today announced it awarded $76 million in grants to more than 2,300 nonprofit organizations and raised $98 million in gifts last year, the second highest respective totals in the Foundation’s 106-year-history.

As the long-time largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofits in the state, the Foundation works in partnership with donors and nonprofits to meet the needs of the people of Rhode Island while also providing leadership on key state issues. At the end of 2021, total assets stood at $1.4 billion and total fund investment return for the year was 20.4 percent.

"In a time when COVID-19 continued to wreak havoc on the lives of Rhode Islanders, we had our highest combined year for grants and fundraising ever," said Neil D. Steinberg, the Foundation’s president and CEO. “We are appreciative of our insightful and dedicated donors and the nonprofit organizations that provide crucial services in the community.”

Many of the $76 million in grants aligned with the Foundation’s three strategic priorities: educational success, healthy lives and economic security. Through these, the Foundation invests in organizations and programs that strive for long-term solutions to significant community issues.

“Working with committed nonprofit partners, our support helps reduce achievement gaps in education, address health disparities across all populations and promote real opportunity for economic security for all Rhode Islanders,” said Steinberg.

The Rhode Island Parent Information Network received $85,000 to launch a telemedicine program to help older adults in Pawtucket access health care services; the Cranston Public School District received $135,000 to expand its STEM Advantage initiative; and the Innovation Studio received $128,000 to support its Small Business Entrepreneurship Program.

The Foundation also made grants to nonprofits doing critical work in a wide variety of sectors, such as arts and culture, basic human needs, the environment and housing.

The recipients include the Mixed Magic Theatre in Pawtucket, Lucy’s Hearth in Middletown, the Jonnycake Center in Westerly and the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council in Providence.

The Foundation also continued its grant-making in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including partnering with the state to distribute $5.4 million in federal CARES Act funding to support the work of more than 160 nonprofits across the state. The grants covered the cost of housing, behavioral health services, health care, job training, food pantries and child care among other uses

Last year, the Foundation launched its Equity Leadership Initiative, which will build a pipeline of future leaders of color in established positions of influence throughout the state. Other work includes creating a capacity-building program to support nonprofits led by Asian, Black, Latino or Hispanic, Indigenous or multi-racial executive directors or other decision-makers within an organization; and launching a grant program to help nonprofits create anti-racist organizational cultures.

“Addressing the underlying causes of inequity and working to eliminate disparities is one of our core organizational values, and has been an important part of our work for years. It’s a lens that we use to make decisions about how we allocate discretionary funding and civic leadership resources across all our activities,” said Steinberg.

In addition to grant-making and fundraising, community leadership is central to the Foundation’s work. In 2021, the Foundation raised a record $880,000 for its Civic Leadership Fund. This annual fund enables the Foundation to go beyond traditional grant-making to meet emerging opportunities and challenges, and engage Rhode Islanders in civic and civil dialogue.

“Our Civic Leadership donors recognize that progress entails many different approaches. Leading long-term planning in education and health are primary examples, as is stepping up quickly to provide help and hope during the COVID-19 pandemic, and enhancing our commitment to creating an equitable Rhode Island,” said Steinberg. “The initiatives we led included providing recommendations for the spending of ARPA funds received by the state provided state leaders with input and insights on this key topic.”

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Through leadership, fundraising and grant-making activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential.