Media release

Rhode Island Foundation offers $2 million to address structural racism across the state

New Racial Equity and Social Justice Program will give priority to nonprofits that are led by people of color

The Rhode Island Foundation is offering $2 million in grants to address structural racism through its new Racial Equity and Social Justice Program.

“We intend to partner with nonprofit organizations in the community to support dismantling the fundamental causes of systemic racism that impact historically marginalized populations in Rhode Island. We believe that all Rhode Islanders deserve equal economic and social rights and opportunities. With this opportunity we aim to open doors to access and opportunity for everyone,” said Neil D. Steinberg, the Foundation’s president and CEO. “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 will prioritize organizations and efforts that have consciously strived to dismantle systems of oppression and work towards a more just society.”

Applicants must be 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 will be 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.

“This request for proposals is meant to support organizations committed – in their mission and work – to ending systemic racism. It is not a good fit for organizations looking to launch a new equity initiative or a new DEI program or groups or institutions not explicitly focused on racial equity,” said Angie Ankoma, a vice president who leads the Foundation’s work in diversity, equity and inclusion.

The Foundation will prioritize applications 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 works to address the root causes of issues not the just the symptoms; prioritizing real change in policy and systems that address the origins of inequality and inequity in areas, including, but not limited to, education, economic stability, housing and community and social context; and bringing people together to build power they would not have individually.

In addition, the Foundation will prioritize opportunities to support multi-sector partnerships that have strong community engagement as well as leadership-driven partnerships that center equity and have a strong track record of working together.

The deadline to apply is Dec. 6 at 5 p.m. The Foundation has scheduled informational sessions via Zoom for Nov. 4 and Nov. 17. For more information, visit

The Racial Equity and Social Justice Program is just one more facet of the Rhode Island Foundation’s broad, 3-year, $8.5 million plan to advance diversity, equity, inclusion and access – with a first focus on racial equity – above and beyond its traditional yearly grant-making.

Recent work includes creating a capacity-building program to support nonprofits led by Asian, Black, Hispanic or Latino, Indigenous or multiracial executive directors or other decision-makers within an organization; launching a grant program to help nonprofits create anti-racist organizational cultures; and established the Equity Leadership Initiative, which is building a pipeline of leaders of color for positions of influence throughout Rhode Island.

“To achieve racial equity, we recognize that we need to expand our efforts, and do even more. Recent years and the COVID-19 pandemic have illuminated the glaring disparities that are deeply entrenched in society,” said Steinberg. “Are committed to working with our community partners to pursue racial equity and address systemic racism that fosters injustice. As we rise to meet the challenges of COVID-19, the economic instability and our racially stained past, we recognize that we can, and we must, do better. This has been highlighted in our work to address achievement gaps in education and disparities in health care.”

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 $98 million and awarded $76 million in grants in 2021. 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