RIF expands grant opportunities, staff, recommits to strategic priorities

THE RHODE ISLAND FOUNDATION'S President and CEO Neil D. Steinberg announced Saturday the immediate launch of a new grantmaking opportunity, Responsive Grants, among other updates for the ney year. / PBN PHOTO/MICHAEL SALERNO
THE RHODE ISLAND FOUNDATION'S President and CEO Neil D. Steinberg announced Saturday the immediate launch of a new grantmaking opportunity, Responsive Grants, among other updates for the new year. / PBN PHOTO/MICHAEL SALERNO

PROVIDENCE – While the Rhode Island Foundation closed out 2017 having doled out $43 million in grants to more than 1,700 nonprofit organizations and received more than $38 million in gifts, the celebration did not end there.

On Saturday the organization announced the launch of a new grantmaking opportunity, the Responsive Grants program.

Of the new program, Neil D. Steinberg, the foundation’s president and CEO, said in prepared remarks: “We are determined to tailor our grantmaking, investment, fundraising and operational approaches” to what he called the “considerable work ahead.”

A flexible funding opportunity, Responsive Grants start at $10,000, “generally” last one year and address the “urgent” needs of the community, according to the application website. Responsive Grant program recipients may be functioning outside of the foundations’ strategic initiatives of economic security, educational success and healthy lives.

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The foundation is accepting applications for the Responsive Grants program immediately. While organizations can apply at any time, each group will only be eligible for one award per calendar year. Further information can be found online.

“While we will continue to provide support for the arts, housing, human services and the environment, we are opening our doors even wider so that more charitable organizations in Rhode Island have access to needed resources,” said Steinberg in his prepared remarks.

The announcement also mentioned new staff additions in 2018. On Monday, Jessica David, senior vice president of strategy and community investments, told the Providence Business News the foundation will grow by three, “hopefully by the first half of the year.”

She explained two of the positions are “behind the scenes” finance and technology support roles while the third is a strategic initiative officer who will focus on the foundation’s economic security initiative.

No hires have been made for the new positions to-date, she said, but once they are the foundation’s total employment will grow from 45 to 48.

In the announcement, the foundation also reiterated its commitment to its previous strategic priorities – economic security, education success and healthy lives – for 2018 and “beyond.”

“Investments of funding and leadership in these areas fuel positive change for our state,” said Steinberg in his statement.

He added in an interview with PBN Monday, “we’re doubling down.”

Additionally, the foundation has adopted a set of 2025 impact targets which go beyond those focuses. Within its economic security strategic priority, the foundation hopes to:

  • Raise median Rhode Island household income to $78,000 from its 2011 to 2015 rate of $56,852
  • Increase the number of Rhode Islanders with a degree or credential to 70 percent from the 45 percent who held such accreditation in 2015
  • Score a 0.40 on the GINI Index which measures income inequality, a decrease from the 0.467 scored in 2016
  • a 50 percent reduction in education and income gaps
  • Add 45,000 net new jobs

Expounding on its healthy lives strategic priority, by 2025 the foundation will work toward:

  • Have 90 percent of adults report a healthy checkup within the last year, an increase from the 81.5 percent who did so in 2016
  • Increase the percent of children who received one or more preventive dental care visits in the past year from 79.3 percent in 2016 to 90 percent
  • Bump up the percent of children with a medical home from 51.2 percent in 2016 to 90 percent
  • Have 80 percent of health care dollars be paid through alternative payment methods
  • Halve the disparity in health status among Rhode Islanders

Finally, four educational success strategic priority goals which the foundation hopes to accomplish by 2025 are to:

  • Increase the percent of students graduating from high school to 95 percent from 2016’s 82.8 percent
  • Help 75 percent of third graders be proficient in reading, an increase from the 41 percent who were in 2017
  • More than triple the percent of students achieving the highest levels of proficiency in reading from 6 percent in 2017 to 20 percent and quintuple the percent of students whose math proficiency is at the highest level from 4 percent in 2017 also to 20 percent
  • Halve the achievement gaps among students

In addition to the more than $38 million in new gifts raised by the foundation in 2017, which increased the institution’s total assets to approximately $950 million (including a 17.4 percent investment return), last year the foundation raised $400,000 toward its Civic Leadership Fund.

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.