Media release

Rhode Island Foundation awards nearly $2.2 million to dismantle structural racism in Rhode Island

The Foundation also invests more than $1.2 million in designated endowments for 14 organizations that work to achieve social justice

The Rhode Island Foundation has awarded nearly $2.2 million to help six organizations address structural racism through its Racial Equity and Social Justice Grants program. The funding supports work to dismantle the fundamental causes of systemic racism that impact historically marginalized populations in Rhode Island.

“Our state faces an urgent need to be more inclusive and equitable, and this means breaking down barriers caused by long-standing structures that stand in the way of progress. We prioritized organizations and efforts that have consciously strived to dismantle systems of oppression and to work towards a more just society,” said Neil D. Steinberg, the Foundation’s president and CEO.

The grant recipients are all Rhode Island-based nonprofit organizations or community groups that have served Rhode Island for at least a year in partnership with a local nonprofit. Priority was given to organizations that are led by people who identify as Asian, Black, Hispanic or Latino, Indigenous or multiracial as well as people who are engaged in efforts that are grounded in the needs of diverse communities in Rhode Island.

“We prioritized proposals that focused on investing in systems, policies and practices that build wealth and stabilize communities. The priorities include seeing and dismantling barriers that hold inequities in place and work that addresses the root causes of issues, not just the symptoms,” said Jenny Pereira, vice president of grants and community investments. “Our goal is to support real change in policies and systems that address the origins of inequality and inequity in education, economic stability, housing and community and social context; and to bring people together to build power they would not have individually.”

The seven grant recipients are DARE (Direct Action for Rights and Equality), the Economic Progress Institute, Fuerza Laboral, the Reentry Campus Program, Rhode Island for Community & Justice, SISTA Fire, and Youth In Action.

Fuerza Laboral in Central Falls will use its grant to further its work educating the community about immigrant and workers’ rights, developing community leaders, organizing for workplace justice; and incubating, supporting and connecting worker-owned cooperative businesses into a community economy network of good jobs, fair conditions and self-governance.

“Fuerza was started in 2006 by members of the low-income immigrant community of color in which it organizes, to fight the systemic racism that dehumanizes workers of color and an immigration system that supports conditions of exploitation. At its core, Fuerza believes in a world based on inclusion, mutual respect and solidarity; and its programs work to build that very world at the local level,” said Heiny Maldonado, executive director.

The Reentry Campus Program in Providence will use its grant to support the "Leveling the Playing Field" initiative, which addresses inequities in the criminal justice system. The organization helps currently and formerly incarcerated individuals receive a post-secondary education on their way to becoming self-sufficient and successful.

“We hope to increase equitable access to post-secondary education and certification programs for people behind the walls of our prison, overwhelmingly people of color, while working to change the public image of individuals impacted by the criminal justice system,” said James Monteiro, founder and executive director.

In addition to its Racial Equity and Social Justice Grants, the Foundation also announced it has invested more than $1.2 million to create designated endowments for 14 long-standing Rhode Island-based nonprofits that are led by, and primarily serve, people of color and that are working to reimagine systems that are built on structural inequity and racism.

Ten organizations will benefit from $100,0000 designated endowments: the Elisha Project, Higher Ground International, Mixed Magic Theatre, Mt. Hope Community Center, Oasis International, Progreso Latino, Rhode Island Black Storytellers, Teatro ECAS, Tomaquag Museum and Youth Pride Inc.

Four organizations will benefit from $50,000 designated endowments: the Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education (ARISE), DARE, the Refugee Dream Center and the Women’s Refugee Center.

“The 14 new designated fund holders have all been in existence for over a decade, and were identified by the Foundation as being community-serving organizations that have been historically underinvested in. We hope they will quickly attract philanthropic support to strengthen these outstanding community-facing organizations,” said Angie Ankoma, vice president and executive director of the Equity Leadership Initiative at the Foundation.

The Foundation stewards of thousands of similar funds using the endowment model. An endowment is a pool of donated assets that aims to make a percentage of the investment growth over time available for charitable purposes annually, which may help provide long-term stability, financial viability, alleviate some fundraising pressure on nonprofits annually and position organizations to continue their mission well into the future.

There is a gap in endowment holders in nonprofits led by, and primarily serving, people of color. With the Foundation’s seed funding, and depending on market performance, each of these new fund holders can expect to receive an annual grant from the Foundation that will be calculated using its spend rate for designated funds -- currently 4.5% calculated on the average of the previous 16 quarters of investment performance -- which may provide a predictable stream of grants, while maintaining a prudent rate of endowment growth. With further investment in these new funds, the annual grant amount should grow over time and in perpetuity. For more information on the Foundation’s finances and spend rate, please visit

Two and a half years ago, the Foundation’s Board of Directors committed to a 3-year, $8.5 million investment to advance diversity, equity, inclusion and access. Community members were asked to help define a plan for use of those resources, via a survey. Nearly 250 Rhode Islanders responded with thoughtful and instructive recommendations. The overarching themes were to create more opportunities to hear underrepresented voices from the community, to provide training and capacity building regarding diversity, equity, inclusion, and access for Rhode Island residents generally and to agencies and organizations, to help develop new leaders from the community, to provide more funding and support for grassroots organizations and those led by people of color, to partner with and raise up organizations that are already engaged in diversity, inclusion and racial equity work, to confirm and publicize the Foundation’s commitment to its three strategic initiatives – economic security, educational success and healthy lives; and to lead by example and be publicly accountable.

That community input was used to shape spending and develop programs.

That includes:

*Nearly $1.5 million to be responsive to requests from the community; for example, the Foundation helped to fund "When Justice Works," a partnership between the Center for Health and Justice Transformation and the Rhode Island Courts' Committee on Racial and Ethnic Fairness;

*Nearly $300,000 for convenings related to diversity, equity, inclusion and access;

*Nearly $1.5 million to build capacity among community organizations through two new programs: Capacity Building for Community Organizations Grants, and Anti-Racism Training Grants;

*More than $1.8 million to fund the Foundation’s leadership development program for Rhode Islanders of color – the Equity Leadership Initiative;

*Nearly $2.2 million to support programs to dismantle systemic racism and promote social justice, as detailed earlier in this release;

*More than $1.2 million to create designated endowments for 14 local nonprofits, that are led by, and primarily serve, people of color and that are working to reimagine systems that are built on structural inequity and racism, as detailed earlier in this release.

As of this month, all $8.5 million has been committed.

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 more than $75 million and awarded nearly $84 million in grants last year. Through leadership, fundraising and grant-making activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential. For more information, visit