R.I. Foundation awarded $76M in grants in 2021, second-most in its history

PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island Foundation in 2021 awarded $76 million in grants to more than 2,300 local nonprofits and also raised approximately $98 million in gifts, the foundation announced Thursday.

That grantmaking total is the foundation’s second-highest in its 106-year history. In 2020, the foundation distributed $87 million in a year in which the Ocean State was mired in the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the combined grantmaking and fundraising total is the most ever recorded by the foundation in a single year.

The foundation said most of the grants were aligned with the nonprofit funder’s strategic priorities – educational success, healthy lives and economic security. The foundation also assisted in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, including partnering with the state to distribute $5.4 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds to support more than 160 nonprofits across Rhode Island.

One notable initiative was the Rhode Island Gives Vax Challenge incentive program, in which the state and the foundation distributed $750,000 to local organizations. Gov. Daniel J. McKee said at the time the program was meant to keep the vaccination story still “front and center,” while also offering thanks to the nonprofits for their efforts, including running clinics in their organizations.

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“Working with committed nonprofit partners, our support helps reduce achievement gaps in education, address health disparities across all populations and promote real opportunity for economic security for all Rhode Islanders,” Rhode Island Foundation CEO and president Neil D. Steinberg said in a statement.

Additionally, the foundation’s total assets at the end of 2021 stood at $1.4 billion, it said, and total fund investment return for the year was 20.4%. The foundation also raised a record $880,000 for its Civic Leadership Fund that helps Rhode Islanders engage in civic and civil dialogue.

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at Bessette@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.