Rhode Island Foundation '14

represented by: Neil Steinberg, President & CEO

Award Profile

Courageous Thinking & Action
As the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofits in the state, the Foundation works in partnership with donors and organizations to meet the needs of the people of Rhode Island. From an original $10,000 gift almost a century ago, they’ve grown to more than $780 million in assets that are dedicated to addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities. The Foundation’s goal is to transform key elements of Rhode Island’s quality of life by seeking short-term progress and long-term impact. To advance the mission, the
Foundation works with many partners to actively inspire philanthropy and increase permanent resources available for investment in critical community programs and services.

Vision & Innovation
The Foundation seeks and tests new ideas and seeks new partners and new ways of solving problems. Two years ago, they launched the Civic Leadership Fund, which enables them to go beyond traditional grant making to provide leadership and a forum for dialogue on critical community issues. The fund supports their innovative Make It Happen RI initiative, which had several major achievements. It awarded $1 million in grants to jump-start 19 economic development initiatives, launched the positive “Rhode Island: It’s All In Our Backyard” public awareness campaign, and convened a series of focus groups that led to the creation of a new
economic action agenda to guide policymakers and the private sector. Make It Happen continues to move forward on its goal of creating jobs and jump-starting the economy. It has sparked collaborations in digital design, manufacturing and health sciences that already are producing results. The Foundation believes in building on their strengths and making statewide, regional, national, and global connections for Rhode Island. They’re a positive voice for Rhode Island and are committed to building permanent philanthropic capital for our state. They are excellent stewards of the financial resources and charitable legacies entrusted to them with a focus on finding long-term solutions over treating immediate symptoms.

Inspiring Leadership
The Foundation cultivates philanthropic partners who share their vision for Rhode Island. Through integrating core enterprises like support for a strong nonprofit sector, proactive philanthropy and thought-and-action leadership, the group fully leverages their unique role in the community. Their dedicated donors join the Foundation’s efforts to take on the state’s challenges and opportunities. The donors inspiring generosity enables the Foundation to invest
in Rhode Island as never before. In 2013, the Foundation raised $43.7 million in new gifts from individual, organizational and corporate donors, up from $38.5 million in 2012. The Foundation is more effective by building networks and partnerships, leveraging resources, and working with other sectors, and believes that the community is stronger when everyone participates, and plays a critical role by elevating the conversation and ensuring access.

Community Mindedness
As a community foundation, the Rhode Island Foundation has a responsibility to represent a broad cross-section of interests within the state of Rhode Island. Making a deep, significant impact requires focused attention and resources. Last year, they awarded more than $31 million in grants, the most in their 97-year history. They invested $7.8 million in education alone, supporting initiatives like the Highlander Institute’s Center for Blended Learning, the Learning Community Charter School’s district-level partnerships and the Northern Rhode
Island Collaborative’s Pathways to Graduation Summer Program. More than 1,300 nonprofit organizations received funding in eight critical areas: arts and culture, basic human needs, children and families, economic security, the environment, housing, public education and primary healthcare.

JA Mission Moment
Nothing compares to seeing how Junior Achievement connects young people to the real world. The classroom I visited at Carl G. Lauro Elementary School was full of children eager to learn. It was inspiring to see how they put their classroom training to work building a business from the ground up. The 5th graders were excited to have representatives from the business community to work side-by-side with. They formed a circle around me, each student clutching a red, yellow, blue or green string. As we walked through how interconnected businesses are, each student tied one end of their string with a classmate’s to develop the products from raw materials to marketing. Their rich educational preparation poured through their tasks and they who represented a different step in the process of creating their product. Raw materials connected with factories which connected with distribution which connected with marketing. Before long, I was standing in the middle of an enormous “cat’s cradle” and the students learned how interconnected the world of business really is.