With the United States still reeling from the effects of the Great Recession, charitable giving hasn’t exactly been a high priority for most people. Community foundations and nonprofits have experienced a rough few years because of that reality – unless you happen to be The Rhode Island Foundation.
The foundation is the largest funder of nonprofits in Rhode Island and regularly provides grants to community-improvement initiatives. And thanks to the fiscal leadership of the organization’s chief financial officer, Michael Jenkinson, The Rhode Island Foundation hasn’t just maintained stability, it’s actually growing. From 1996 to 2011, the community foundation’s assets increased from $258 million to almost $600 million, while its yearly grant-making went from $9.4 million to $28 million. In fact, 2011 was a record-breaking fundraising year for the organization.
“We’ve been able to very successfully weather the turbulent financial markets, be able to sustain our grantmaking, and provide the best service to our donors,” said Neil D. Steinberg, president and CEO of the 96-year-old foundation. “Mike’s steady hand, attention to expenses, and overall management of our overhead here enables us to be able to be more efficient in order to provide services to the community.”
So what is Jenkinson’s secret to sound fiscal management during troubled times? “Lots of generous donors, a long-term investment strategy and conservative spending policies,” Jenkinson said.
His vast amount of experience in the accounting and finance world doesn’t hurt, either. Fifty-seven-year-old Jenkinson grew up in Massachusetts, where he attended college before beginning his career as a certified public accountant in Boston. After 15 years in the business and spending some time as a sole proprietor, Jenkinson joined the foundation in 1996 as a controller. After 18 months, he was promoted to senior vice president of finance and administration/CFO, a position he’s held for the past 14 years.
While Jenkinson, a humble guy, would never attribute the foundation’s success to his own leadership, others are quick to acknowledge his accomplishments. Marie Langlois, head of The Rhode Island Foundation’s investment committee, said that committee members and consultants rely on Jenkinson’s knowledge to properly manage the foundation’s endowment and investments. Jenkinson provides detailed financial information on the foundation’s needs and commitments, which helps the committee and consultants work together to create successful investment and allocation plans, she said.