RIF announces $10M impact investment program

PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island Foundation is looking to invest $10 million in local business projects during the inaugural year of its new Impact Investing initiative, and is now accepting applications for the funding, the foundation announced Thursday.

Neil D. Steinberg, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation, told the Providence Business News that he’s hoping to see a two-pronged return on these investments.

Socially, he would like to see a “positive impact on the Rhode Island community” and, financially, he expects “modest rate returns.”

He explained these investments are “larger dollars” which go beyond what the foundation “would be able to do in our everyday grantmaking.”

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The program, he added, “enhances the resources that we can bring to the community.”

The initiative is not open to individuals, but Steinberg explained the foundation welcomes applications from nonprofits, for-profits, government agencies – any “company looking to both do good and make money would be eligible.”

More information and a preliminary online application are available on the foundation’s website.

While the foundation is looking for applicants to reach their $10 million investment goal, there are two organizations already benefiting from the impact investment program.

The first is Rhode Island Public Radio, which last week received a $1 million bridge loan from the foundation in support of the purchase and relocation of the 89.3, formerly WUMD FM, signal, explained Steinberg.

Relocating the signal to RIPR will help the station expand its listening audience. In addition, the $1 million loan will launch the beginning of a new digital broadcast strategy and allow for the hiring of additional staff.

“We are honored by the Foundation’s confidence in our expansion efforts and look forward to growing our listening audience and continuing to meet the area’s need for quality journalism,” said Torey Malatia, president, CEO and general manager at RIPR, in a statement accompanying the foundation’s announcement.

The second is the commitment to purchase $300,000 in Urban Greens Food Co-Op preferred stock. The investment will provide increased leverage for the 8,000-square foot community-owned grocery store in Providence’s West Side neighborhood to secure additional funding.

“We are confident that Rhode Island Foundation’s commitment to purchase preferred stock in the co-op will help us to encourage additional investors and bring this project to life,” said Janiqua Jackson, general manager, in a statement accompanying the foundation’s announcement. “Around the country local food co-ops have been touted as community anchors; supporting the local food economy, creating jobs in a neighborhood and for a neighborhood, and encouraging participatory democracy.”

Construction on the facility began in September.

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.