2017 gains, 2019 plans announced at annual Rhode Island Foundation meeting

PROVIDENCE – Uniting as a community, toward common goals and improvements, was at the core of Neil D. Steinberg’s remarks at the Rhode Island Foundation’s annual meeting held Thursday at the Rhode Island Convention Center.

He characterized the foundation’s work in 2017 as rooted in reflection and forward-thinking ideas in an effort to “assess and reaffirm” their mission: to be a proactive community and philanthropic leader dedicated to meeting the needs of the people of Rhode Island.

“We have accomplished a great deal … together. And we have a great deal more to do … together,” he told those gathered.

On Thursday, Steinberg addressed a gathering of more the 750 community and business leaders as well as donors and grant recipients updating them on the group’s 2017 philanthropy – focused mainly on economic security, educational success and healthy lives – especially their Together Rhode Island campaign.

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Calling it “a very good year,” Steinberg said the foundation raised $38 million from donors in 2017 while awarding $43 million in grants to more than 1,700 nonprofits.

The organization received a 17.3 percent return on its investments and now holds more than $950 million in assets.

“These figures translate into impactful results throughout all of Rhode Island for all Rhode Islanders,” said Steinberg in his speech.

The Rhode Island Foundation also awarded three organizations – Care Transformation Collaborative, Renée A.R. Evangelista and Delta Dental – with awards at their annual meeting. Recipients were announced in early February.

The Champlin Foundation, Center for Women and Enterprise, Rhode Island Society of Certified Public Accountants and the family of Frederick B. Wilcox were similarly honored at the 2017 annual meeting.

Roughly 1,300 local residents attended the Rhode Island Foundation’s Together RI dinner and breakfast discussions. / COURTESY RHODE ISLAND FOUNDATION

Launched on March 22, the foundation’s 20 planned community dinners and breakfasts – which made up the Together R.I. campaign – drew 1,300 local residents.

While the foundation, with the help of the University of Rhode Island Social Science Institute for Research, Education and Policy, is still analyzing the data generated at those talks, Steinberg said public education, the size of the state, natural resources and open spaces, housing, public transportation, and diversity were among the topics that came up most frequently.

When surveyed by the foundation, 72 percent of 1,000 of those participants reported being better educated about community issues after attending while 75 percent said they were more likely to get involved in community issues after attending a Together RI event.

“We will encourage participants and others across the state to spread the word and embrace the community spirit of Together RI by following up on what they heard,” said Steinberg Thursday.

The foundation expects to release a complete analysis of the results later this summer.

Steinberg characterized the foundation’s upcoming work in 2019 and beyond as “planful and opportunistic.

“We will continue to push for positive and inclusive systemic change, while not ignoring the needs right outside our door. We will balance the long-term and short-term challenges. And we will strive, together with all of you, to be bold, innovative, and proactive,” he added.

Three items on the foundation’s 2019 docket are as follows.

A “long-term,” possibly 10-year, plan to improve healthcare and K-12 education, which Steinberg hopes will be undertaken as a collaborative effort, as well as a “robust online resource” accessible to small businesses and linking to a “full array of services.”

Steinberg also spoke to an effort to “insure long-term sustainability” of the state’s nonprofit community.

Emily Gowdey-Backus is a staff writer for PBN. You can follow her on Twitter @FlashGowdey or contact her via email, gowdey-backus@pbn.com.