The University of Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Center is using a $75,000 grant from the Rhode Island Foundation to coordinate shared use of maps and data across state agencies as it helps the public prepare for the next major storm.
Along the way, that 2013 foundation funding for the Rhode Island Shoreline Change Special Area Management Plan, which provides collaboration to combat flooding and erosion in the state’s most vulnerable coastal areas, has helped attract $200,000 more in funding from state, federal and other sources, said Jennifer McCann, director for the U.S. Coastal Program of the Coastal Resources Center.
In 2013, the Rhode Island Foundation awarded more than $31 million in funding, a record amount, to 1,300 nonprofits. A well-managed $733 million endowment is a big part of the reason, said Neil Steinberg, foundation president and CEO. The foundation rolls gifts into the endowment but uses only the earnings on that investment to make philanthropic awards, he said.
“What we really want to do is fund good ideas, good programs and good people, and we have flexibility to do that,” said Steinberg. “Sometimes a smaller grant that leverages national foundation funding can be more impactful than a larger grant we give by ourselves. The more we can demonstrate that philanthropy can have an impact, the more we can educate and inspire people to become donors.”
The funding for Coastal Resources Center has allowed it to hold meetings attended by the directors of various state agencies to ensure that there is improved coordination on the issue of climate change – like using the same metadata and Geographic Information System maps, and using the same 1-foot, 3-foot and 5-foot sea-level rise scenarios as baselines, McCann explained.
“We want to make sure that the decisions made on issues related to climate – whether they be health transportation or zoning – are made based on the best information available,” McCann said. “Our scientists are internationally recognized, yet their data is not getting to the people. Our job is to communicate that to the public.