R.I. Foundation’s new strategy looks to inspire charitable giving

The Rhode Island Foundation’s strategic plan for the next five years makes “inspiring philanthropy” a new priority and creates a new position within the organization responsible for assessing the foundation’s progress toward its goals. More

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R.I. Foundation’s new strategy looks to inspire charitable giving

PBN FILE PHOTO/RUPERT WHITELEY
JESSICA DAVID, the Rhode Island Foundation's vice president of strategy and community investments, guided the drafting of a new five-year strategic plan for the foundation, which places new emphasis on "inspiring philanthropy" both within and beyond the organization.
Posted 1/16/14

PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island Foundation’s strategic plan for the next five years makes “inspiring philanthropy” a new priority and creates a new position within the organization responsible for assessing the foundation’s progress toward its goals.

Completed in mid-December and released Wednesday, the 2014-18 Strategic Plan recommits to priorities of “education success” and “healthy living,” which were the focus of the previous four-year plan, and adds a focus on “economic security” that had already been taken on in 2013, said Jessica David, the foundation’s vice president of strategy and community investments.

Foundation leaders and the board of directors shaped the strategic plan over the past several months with David guiding the process, she said.

“We are seeking a plan that builds on the successes of our current strategy with greater consideration to clarity of purpose, evaluation, alignment and capacity,” David said.

Adding an emphasis on “inspiring philanthropy” to grow charitable giving both within and beyond the foundation became important as the organization strained to fulfill its mission, David said.

“We felt strongly there are a lot of great things happening in Rhode Island,” said David. “There’s great potential, and philanthropy is a powerful source of seed capital. It drives new creative things; it’s what allows pilot projects to be brought to scale. With the challenges Rhode Island faces, it’s an important resource for making change.”

That said, she added, while there is no shortage of ideas, resources are harder to come by.

“We turn down good grants every day because we don’t have enough money to fund them, so we would love to see more resources and have other places in the community for funding so they could actually get implemented,” she said.

In December, the foundation named Mary-Kim Arnold as an evaluation and resource officer to assess whether and how the organization is meeting its goals.

“It’s a resource we didn’t have,” David said. “Her role is to create an organization-wide system and approach to evaluation: how are we going to measure progress in the priorities. We’re going to be looking at clusters of grants. We’re going to experiment with a lot of different approaches, figure out what works for us.

“It’s not about casting blame or taking credit,” she added. “It’s about maximizing every dollar we have and making sure that we’re learning from our experiences so we can make the most out of every grant. We did not come nearly as far as we wanted to [in the past.] We do a great job in terms of due diligence and accountability, but what we’re really looking for is what does it all add up to: what are the sum of its parts.”

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