Community news

Rhode Island Foundation’s response to COVID-19

More than an ounce of prevention.


Updated June 26, 2020

As Rhode Island moves through the coronavirus pandemic - from crisis response to relief and recovery – there are widening gaps in the community as a result of the pandemic’s impact on Rhode Islanders. Whether it is food insecurity, inability to make ends meet due to job disruptions, access to testing and healthcare, resources for the hardest hit communities, virtual learning tools, or personal protective equipment for frontline workers - there is still tremendous need for more funding to flow through our state’s nonprofit organizations and out into the community. With that, the Foundation continues to raise funds toward the support of COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts, and will respond to community need via proactive grantmaking.

For example, thanks to the generous support of over 850 donors, gifts and commitments to the Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund total over $6.6 million. The full list of donors is posted here.

We’ve been so inspired by the many notes of appreciation we’ve received from both donors and grantees of the Fund in recent weeks, and wanted to pull together a selection of those for all to enjoy. Please take a look at the “gallery of hope and thanks” by clicking here.

Recently, we distributed another round of COVID-19 response funding in partnership with United Way of Rhode Island, bringing total grantmaking to $7.9 million distributed to over 200 organizations. You can find the list of grantee organizations and a brief grant description here.

Last week we announced a $200,000 contribution to support a collaborative effort with Dorcas International Institute, Governor Raimondo, Mayor Diossa of Central Falls, Mayor Elorza of Providence, Mayor Grebien of Pawtucket and other community partners to launch the weR1 Rhode Island fund. The Fund, which we hope will grow, will provide direct cash assistance to Rhode Islanders who are unable to benefit from most public programs and emergency relief efforts due to their immigration status.

Finally, due to the pandemic we have cancelled in-person capacity building workshops through the end of July. But good news, there are a number of virtual workshops on our website for you to view in the meantime. Find them here.

Updated May 22, 2020

Recent COVID-19 related activity at the Foundation has included the awarding of $3.7 million in grants from the COVID-19 Behavioral Health Fund. The more than three dozen recipient organizations include Samaritans of Rhode Island. Denise Panichas serves as their executive director and noted the following in reaction to receiving a grant from this fund, "Many funders are delaying grants, government budgets are decimated, and fundraising events had to be postponed. At the same time, we expect a surge in daily supported callers as people who already struggle with overwhelming fear cope with the pressures of the COVID-19 experience. And then, in the months and years ahead, we anticipate a wave of new callers driven to call our listening line by the hopelessness associated with the financial, health and social ramifications of the pandemic. This grant ensures we have the resources to continue responding to all calls for help."

See the full list of awardees and a brief description of what each grant will support here. The COVID-19 Behavioral Health Fund was recently established with more than $5 million in funding from Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island, Tufts Health Plan and UnitedHealthCare, in partnership with the state Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner. A second round of grant awards from this fund will be made later this summer.

Individuals, local corporations, and foundations responded to a challenge to match the Foundation’s $100,000 commitment to assist students struggling with distance learning because they did not have computers and/or Internet access at home. We are truly appreciative that more than $400,000 was raised to support our leaders of tomorrow. Read the Rhode Island Department of Education announcement about this effort.

In other Foundation news, we’re pleased to welcome Tony Mendez and Theresa Moore to our Board of Directors. Tony is general manager of Video Mundo Broadcasting, which operates WPMZ on 102.1-FM and 1110-AM. The station serves the Latino community in greater Providence. Theresa is president of T-Time Productions, which produces diverse and inclusive programming and content for various media platforms including television, film, digital and educational distribution. You can learn more about our new board members here.

Finally, as we continue to follow state-level guidance regarding events and gatherings, we have canceled in-person events and workshops led or hosted by the Foundation through the end of June. We are, however, offering virtual capacity building opportunities for nonprofits. Check out these recorded workshops. We also are not accepting new room reservations from external groups through the end of June. We will revisit this temporary policy as time goes on and guidance evolves.


Updated May 6, 2020


With a focus on assisting healthcare workers at nursing homes and medical facilities throughout the state, the COVID-19 Response Fund recently awarded an additional $1.4 million in grants. This brings the total awarded to $7.2 million since the fund was established by the Rhode Island Foundation and the United Way of Rhode Island in mid-March. The grants, which range from $10,000 to $75,000, help nonprofits assist Rhode Islanders who have been affected by the crisis with food, housing, health care, and other basic needs. The full list of awardees and a brief description of what each grant will support is posted here.

“The need for assistance has been surging all over Rhode Island and as Rhode Island’s community foundation we are trying to build this fund to support those in need. The combination of the health impact and economic impact has brought us to the point now where it will take more resources to continue to provide help to people across the state,” said Foundation President & CEO Neil D. Steinberg. A full list of donors to the fund is available here.

Gifts to the fund, in any amount, can be made at rifoundation.org/covid19response. Donations will be accepted as long as the need continues.

Updated April 17, 2020

The COVID-19 Response Fund has made grant awards to 130 local organizations, bringing total grantmaking to $5.7 million - thanks to generous donors to Rhode Island Foundation and United Way of Rhode Island.

A full list of current awardees and a brief description of what each grant will support is posted here. Grants range from $10,000 to $75,000. Many will help local nonprofits provide food, housing, and health care to Rhode Islanders affected by the crisis. Additionally, funding has been awarded for medical supplies as care providers face unprecedented challenges to maintain operations and deliver services to those most in need.

While generous donors have contributed $7 million since the fund launched in mid-March, we are seeing demand outpace resources available. Applications in the queue significantly exceed the resources that are left - and we expect requests will grow by several million dollars more. We are focused on continuing to raise funds and would encourage those who are able to give to do so at rifoundation.org/covid19response.


Updated April 6, 2020

More than 75 nonprofit organizations on the frontlines of responding to the COVID-19 crisis have been awarded $3.6 million grants from the COVID-19 Response Fund, created by the Rhode Island Foundation and United Way of Rhode Island.

A full list of current awardees and a brief description of what each grant will support is posted here. Nonprofit organizations may continue to apply at rifoundation.org/covid19grants.

The grants range from $10,000 to $75,000. Many will help local nonprofits provide food, housing, and health care to Rhode Islanders affected by the crisis. Additionally, funding has been awarded for medical supplies as care providers face unprecedented challenges to maintain operations and deliver services to those most in need.

The Foundation and United Way established the COVID-19 Response Fund on March 17. In the three weeks since the effort was initiated donors have made gifts and commitments to the Foundation totaling $4.3 million. You may view the list of donors here. Additional contributions to United Way bring the combined fund total to just over $5.8 million.

Gifts to the fund, in any amount, can be made with the Foundation at rifoundation.org/covid19response. Donations will be accepted as long as need persists.

Additionally, Governor Raimondo and Health Insurance Commissioner Ganim announced last week that the COVID-19 Behavioral Health Fund has been established here at the Foundation with more than $5 million designated to fund nonprofit organizations working to address Rhode Islanders’ behavioral health needs resulting from the COVID-19 crisis.

Grant applications opened today for this fund. For more information please click here.

The funding is being made available by Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island, Tufts Health Plan, and UnitedHealthcare as a result of a state compliance review. This new fund will provide valuable and timely resources to support, expand, and enhance the capacity of nonprofit organizations to deliver behavioral health services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring continued access to services for Rhode Islanders.

Finally, we invite you to tune in to one of our recent COVID-19-related virtual workshops, offered as part of our capacity building support for our state's nonprofit organizations.


Updated April 1, 2020

As Rhode Island’s community foundation we hope to provide our partners across the state with remote learning and convening opportunities that will meet the changing needs of this time.

In fact, we have two offerings focused on crisis-time fundraising for nonprofit organizations:

A live webinar presented by Tom Ahern, Ahern Donor Communications.

Communicating with your donors during the COVID-19 crisis, Tuesday, April 7, 2:00-3:00. Please register here.

And, a recorded session that you are free to watch at your own convenience presented by Sharon Danosky, Danosky & Associates, LLC.

Access the session here - COVID-19: when and how to raise funds during and after a crisis.

We will continue to be in touch with more remote learning opportunities in the coming weeks. In the mean time, the Foundation’s Capacity Building team members Jill Pfitzenmayer and Keith Tavares are available for one-on-one phone or video consultation. Feel free to be in touch with them.

Updated March 27, 2020

Rhode Island Foundation and United Way of Rhode Island today announced a first round of funding for local nonprofit organizations at the forefront of COVID-19 response. $1.2 million in grants will be distributed in the coming days to 27 local organizations. A list of organizations who are receiving this first round of funding is available here.

The joint grants review committee - composed of team members from the Foundation and from United Way of Rhode Island - are working together to review applications and make funding decisions in real-time. We expect to make additional awards next week. Qualifying nonprofits may apply for funding at www.rifoundation.org/covid19grants. Application information can be found here in Spanish.

Rhode Island Foundation and United Way of Rhode Island jointly established the COVID-19 Response Fund. In nearly two weeks the Foundation has raised $3.9 million in contributions from many generous donors. For the current list of contributors please click here. Additional contributions to United Way bring the combined fund total to just over $5 million.

In addition to the COVID-19 Response Fund Grants we have signaled an openness to hearing directly from our current grantees about their immediate needs, and are willing to find innovative ways to support them through this time - no matter the sector or subject that they focus on. So far, this has meant advancing grants that were planned for later this year, and providing flexibility on reporting deadlines or in our grantees' use of current Foundation funding. We also provide resources beyond grantmaking. Our capacity building team stands ready to assist nonprofit leaders one-on-one as they think through the impact that this situation may have on their organization, and have begun to plan virtual workshops for our nonprofit partners

A reminder: Rhode Island Foundation team members are working remotely and operations continue. However our offices at One Union Station are closed to the public through the end of April. For assistance please call (401) 274-4564.


Updated March 20, 2020

Rhode Island Foundation and United Way of Rhode Island today announced that local nonprofit organizations at the forefront of COVID-19 response can apply for funding from the COVID-19 Response Fund at www.rifoundation.org/covid19grants, application information can be found here in Spanish.

COVID-19 Response Fund Grants will be awarded to support nonprofit organizations providing direct assistance to Rhode Islanders with financial need or demonstrable hardship resulting from COVID-19 and not otherwise covered by other resources. This may include organizations that supply basic needs to Rhode Islanders, including but not limited to, food, relief from rent and other household expenses, and access to healthcare.

COVID-19 Response Fund Grants will also be awarded to provide operating support to nonprofit organizations that are meeting community needs resulting from COVID-19, and are in financial distress.

Rhode Island Foundation and United Way of Rhode Island have formed a joint grants review team to review initial crisis applications in real-time.

Rhode Island Foundation and United Way of Rhode Island jointly established the COVID-19 Response Fund. In just a week the Foundation has raised over $3.3 million in initial contributions from many generous donors. For the current list of contributors please click here.

Contributions to United Way stand at $735,000.

The fund total stands at just over $4 million, and will begin making grants as early as next week.

Updated March 18, 2020

In just a few days donors have contributed $2.3 million to the COVID-19 Response Fund at Rhode Island Foundation. And, contributions to United Way are nearing $500,000, bringing the total to approximately $2.8 million. Thank you, Rhode Island!

Donors to this effort include Delta Dental of RI, BankNewport, the Salem Foundation, Navigant Credit Union, the Partnership for Rhode Island, the van Beuren Charitable Foundation, AAA and many generous individuals and families from across our state.

On behalf of a community in need, we are grateful for this outpouring of support and know it will continue as response efforts evolve.

To give today click here or call (401) 274-4564.

Also, please note, the Rhode Island Foundation remains open with many team members working remotely and operations continuing. That said, One Union Station will be closed to the public starting tomorrow – Thursday, March 19 – and extending through the end of April. If you are scheduled to attend an event or meeting at our building, you will receive information about postponements or virtual meeting opportunities directly. Finally, the Racial Equity Groundwater trainings scheduled for April 17 at CCRI Newport and April 21 at San Miguel School have been cancelled.


Updated March 17, 2020

We are in the midst of an unpredictable, rapidly changing public health emergency - one that is having immediate impact on the community we care so deeply about, and that will likely have lasting, consequential effects.

Given the circumstances Rhode Island Foundation and United Way of Rhode Island have jointly established the COVID-19 Response Fund. The Foundation contributed $250,000 to seed the fund. Individuals, local philanthropic organizations, and corporate donors quickly joined in. While the fund is launching with $1.5 million to allocate immediately, donations will be accepted as long as the need continues.

Contributions in any amount can be made directly to either Rhode Island Foundation or United Way of Rhode Island. We welcome your contribution.

In partnership with the United Way, we will form a joint grantmaking committee to rapidly deploy financial resources to nonprofit organizations that are assisting vulnerable populations on the front line of COVID-19 response in our state. Details on the application and grantmaking process are being determined and will be rolled out in the coming days.

We are confident that this collaborative effort will complement the work of public health officials by expanding local capacity to address the outbreak’s social, health, and economic impacts.

Also, we want to hear about what local nonprofits are experiencing so that we are able to determine, with our partners, what types of resources are needed as response and recovery efforts come together.

Please click here to complete a short questionnaire about the impact of COVID-19 on your organization and the community you serve. Atención, organizaciones sin fines de lucro afectadas por COVID-19 en Rhode Island, comparta sus experiencias con nosotros aquí.

Posted March 14, 2020

As your community foundation, we are doing all that we can to take precautions and contribute to preparedness and response efforts related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). In this case, we’re hopeful that more than an ounce of prevention will aid the community that we, and you, care so deeply about.

The Foundation has a disaster preparedness and recovery plan in place which is updated regularly as situations evolve. Overall, the plan instructs us to keep the health and safety of our staff and constituents at the very top of our priority list when evaluating a disaster, and to determine how best to mitigate disruption of our critical business functions so that we can continue to meet the needs of our community.

In line with state-level guidance and our disaster preparedness and recovery plan, here are some of the preventative steps we are taking:

• Encouraging our team members to be vigilant about handwashing and social distancing, to stay home if they are not feeling well, and to share information about recent or planned travel.

• Encouraging our team members to work remotely if needed.

• Temporarily adjusting personnel policies to be sure we are providing team members with adequate paid leave time if they are unable to work – either in the office, or remotely – due to the effects of the virus on themselves or members of their household.

• Cancelling events and workshops led or hosted by the Foundation where we anticipate that a significant group of people will be in attendance, through the end of March. And, moving many small-group meetings to a virtual platform.

• Monitoring community need by connecting with agencies who are on the frontline, listening to the needs of our community partners, evaluating how we might be able to assist, and responding quickly.

We encourage our community partners to take similar steps, and to regularly monitor guidance from the Rhode Island Department of Health, available here and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), available here.

Most specifically:

• Provide clarity to staff around sick leave and telecommuting policies. Proactively share policies and expectations about time off and coming to work when ill with employees.

• Consider adapting your personnel policies if they might inhibit someone from taking sick leave or caring for family members who are sick. For more information on the enacted emergency TDI benefits in Rhode Island click here.

We recognize the concern regarding the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and its potential impacts on Rhode Island nonprofits as employers, conveners, and service providers.

We want to hear about what local nonprofits are experiencing so that we are able to determine, with our partners, what types of resources are needed as response and recovery efforts come together.

Please click here to complete a short questionnaire about the impact of COVID-19 on your organization and the community you serve.

As the state’s community Foundation our role is to address both short and long term need in Rhode Island. With that, we will continue to adjust our approach and will be very closely monitoring the impact that COVID-19 is having on the community. If you identify increased needs, or are interested in supporting frontline organizations, please feel free to contact us.