Media release

Rhode Island Foundation seeks applicants for new Equity Leadership Initiative (ELI)

ELI will help to build a pipeline of leaders of color for positions of influence across sectors in Rhode Island

The Rhode Island Foundation is accepting applications for the inaugural class of its new Equity Leadership Initiative (ELI). The deadline to apply is Monday, July 12.

"ELI seeks to advance people of color in greater leadership and decision making positions within our state by identifying, mentoring and supporting a pipeline of accomplished leaders. Organizations and teams thrive when they’re led by diverse leaders to meet diverse needs.”

- Angie Ankoma, vice president and executive director

Applicants must be residents of Rhode Island who identify as Asian, Black, Hispanic or Latino, Indigenous, or multiracial. They must currently be engaged in work in the public, private or nonprofit sector. Applicants must also have a demonstrated track record of, and commitment to, racial equity and social justice.

The 12-month leadership development initiative is scheduled to begin in September; those interested in applying must be able to participate in monthly leadership and program activities. Up to 20 applicants will be invited to participate in the inaugural ELI cohort. There is no cost to apply or participate.

In addition to monthly half-day group meetings, participants will receive regular one-to-one coaching sessions; will develop a personal leadership vision and goals; will be matched with a mentor; and will make high-level connections across industries.

Two informational sessions will be held via Zoom for interested individuals on June 29 from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. and July 1 from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.

Visit for more information and to apply.

Applications will be reviewed by the Foundation and the ELI Steering Committee, which is comprised of senior managers, executives and stakeholders who will contribute to the development of ELI by advising regarding planning and strategy; recommending experts to support ELI; recommending applicants and reviewing applications; promoting ELI in the community; and playing a role in monitoring the success of the initiative.

“Developing a leadership pipeline for people of color here in Rhode Island is a priority for many organizations. ELI will create much-needed development and leadership opportunities, tailored to its participants’ unique aspirations, needs and challenges.”

- Kim Barker Lee, vice president, diversity and inclusion, IGT

The leadership program is just one 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 grantmaking.

It comes shortly after launching a $150,000 initiative with Commerce RI to support minority-owned businesses; launching a $3,000,000 initiative to expand the number of teachers of color in Providence public schools; making a joint $500,000 contribution with Brown University and The Partnership for Rhode Island to the Nonviolence Institute; selecting four students of color to receive Carter Roger Williams Initiative scholarships worth up to $320,000 over four years; awarding $124,000 to the Providence Police Department to provide de-escalation and implicit bias training to more than 400 members of the force; launching an initiative to make recommendations with a focus on equity to state leaders for spending $1 billion in broad new stimulus funding the state is projected to receive from the federal American Rescue Plan Act; creating a capacity-building program to support nonprofits led by Asian, Black, Latino or Hispanic, Indigenous or multiracial executive directors or other decision-makers within an organization; and launching a grant program to help nonprofits create anti-racist organizational cultures.

“Dismantling the root causes of inequity and striving to eliminate disparities is among our core organizational values, and continues to be a major focus across all of work in the community. We incorporate a racial equity lens when making decisions about allocating resources to improve health, educational success and economic security among other crucial issues."

- Neil D. Steinberg, president and CEO of the Foundation

He continued, “It’s clear that this work deserves even more of a priority and more resources, to bring just and fair inclusion into society in which all can participate and prosper. Despite the progress made, we must strengthen our resolve with a greater sense of urgency to eliminate disparities and achievement gaps to meet the goal of a better future for all Rhode Islanders.”


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.