Media release

Rhode Island Foundation awards a record $87 million in grants in 2020

Generous and committed donors contribute over $68 million, many inspired to respond to the immediate needs of the COVID-19 crisis

The Rhode Island Foundation today announced it awarded a record $87 million in grants to over 2200 nonprofit organizations last year.

The state’s 105-year-old community foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofits in the state and works in partnership with donors and nonprofits to meet the needs of all of the people of Rhode Island. In 2020 the Foundation raised over $68 million in funds from individual, family, organizational and corporate donors, making it the third best year in the Foundation’s 105-year history. Gifts ranged in size from $1 to several million dollars. At the end of 2020, total assets stood at $1.2 billion and its total investment return for the year was just over 12 percent.

"We are grateful for the passionate and committed donors who have partnered with us for 105 years to take on the challenges and issues of the day," said Neil D. Steinberg, the Foundation’s president and CEO. “Working with nonprofit organizations to support their critical services in the community, inspiring donors, and providing leadership around crucial issues all played a role as we worked to meet the needs of all Rhode Islanders during a year unlike any we’ve experienced before.”

Even as its traditional grantmaking and fundraising continued last year, the Foundation raised an additional $21 million that was awarded to local organizations in direct response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Both the Foundation’s traditional grantmaking and COVID-19-specific grantmaking efforts were made with equity at top of mind – ensuring individuals and communities have the resources they need to succeed; and were aligned with the Foundation’s three strategic priorities: educational success, healthy lives and economic security.

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

Last year, the Foundation also launched a broad, three-year $8.5 million plan to expand the Foundation’s ongoing commitment to promoting racial equity and inclusion.

“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. Now is the time to commit to listening more, and doing more, and to hold ourselves accountable to this focus,” said Steinberg.

In addition to grantmaking and fundraising, community leadership is central to the Foundation’s work.

In 2020, the Foundation raised over $610,000 for its Civic Leadership Fund. The annual fund enables the Foundation to go beyond traditional grantmaking 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 Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Working with generous and visionary donors, the Foundation raised $68 million and awarded a record $87 million in grants in 2020. Since its centennial five years ago, the Foundation has awarded more than $284 million in grants and has raised more than $328 million. Through leadership, fundraising and grantmaking activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential.