The Rhode Island Foundation made $4.2 million in grants in Newport County last year, helping push the organization to the second-best year of grant-making in its 107-year history.
Statewide, the Foundation made nearly $84 million in grants last year, which trailed only the $87 million that was awarded in 2020. The Foundation also raised more than $75 million in gifts in 2022.
“In addition to our focus on core initiatives, our aid brought relief to people who are coping with hunger, surging housing prices and the behavioral health crisis as they struggle to recover from the pandemic,” said Neil D. Steinberg, the Foundation’s president and CEO. “We are grateful for our passionate and committed donors and the nonprofit organizations that deliver a wide range of services to our diverse community.”
The local groups that won grants include the Boys & Girls Club of Newport County, Conexion Latina Newport and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Newport; Lucy’s Hearth and Newport Mental Health in Middletown; the Herren Project in Portsmouth; the Little Compton Community Center, the Jamestown Community Food Pantry; and the Katie Brown Educational Program to support relationship violence prevention education in Tiverton schools.
The Boys & Girls Club of Newport County used its grant to install a portable pool chair lift that can be used by guests of all ages who cannot use the stairs due to mobility issues to safely enter and exit the pool.
“Our pool is the only community pool in Newport. The goal of this project is to remove a barrier and provide those with mobility issues with access to a pool so they, too, can enjoy the activity and reap the health benefits,” said Joe Pratt, executive director and CEO.
Newport Mental Health used its grant to expand services it offers children and their families in schools, at its specialized Healthy Transitions Young Adult Center and during home visits across Newport County. In addition, the grant also supported the rollout of Mobile Crisis Outreach Teams in Newport and Bristol counties, and East Providence in partnership with Horizon Healthcare Partners, the Community Care Alliance and Health RI.
“This funding is so important to us and will help us in two critical areas. We can reach children to improve their present, as well as positively impact their future. There’s so much of a need for mental health care in children now, more than ever before,” said Jamie Lehane, president and CEO of Newport Mental Health.
Many of the grants that the Foundation awarded in 2022 aligned with its three strategic priorities: educational success, healthy lives and economic security. Nonprofits doing work in a wide variety of sectors, such as arts and culture, basic human needs, the environment and housing also received funding.
“Working with committed nonprofit partners and key community stakeholders, including elected officials and state officials, our support and leadership help reduce achievement gaps in education, address health disparities across all populations and promote real opportunity for economic security for all Rhode Islanders,” said Steinberg.
At the end of 2022, the Foundation had total assets of approximately $1.3 billion, which ranks the organization among the nation’s 20 largest community foundations. In a year when the S&P was down 18.1 percent, the Foundation’s endowment return was only down 10.6 percent, which ranked in the top quartile of foundations and endowments nationwide. The Foundation’s long-term returns are often in the top decile, with a 20-year annualized return of 8.1 percent.
The Foundation also continued its grant-making in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including partnering with the state to distribute a total allocation of $20 million in federal America Rescue Plan Act funding with $13.9 million having been committed through February.
The Foundation launched its second very successful Equity Leadership Initiative class. The leadership development program is designed to build a pipeline of future leaders of color for positions of influence throughout the state. In addition, the Foundation offered $2 million in grants to address structural racism through its new Racial Equity and Social Justice Program.
“Correcting the root causes of inequity and addressing disparities are two of our foundational principles, and for years have been central to our work. They are values that are at the core of our decisions about how to allocate discretionary funding and civic leadership resources across all our work,” said Steinberg.
In addition to grant-making and fundraising, community leadership is central to the Foundation’s work. In 2022, the Foundation raised $854,761 for its Civic Leadership Fund. This annual fund enables the Foundation to go beyond traditional grant-making to meet emerging opportunities and challenges, and to engage Rhode Islanders in civic and civil dialogue.
“Our Civic Leadership initiatives recognize that progress requires flexibility, innovation and the capacity to respond to key issues of the day. It enables us to take on challenges like addressing the housing shortage, supporting the growth of small businesses in communities of color and jump-starting the life sciences sector,” said Steinberg.
The announcement comes as Steinberg is about to complete his 15-year tenure at the helm of the Foundation. The Foundation’s board of directors selected David N. Cicilline to succeed him as president and CEO after a thorough national search that included significant community input and generated an impressive pool of diverse candidates. Cicilline will begin his service to the Foundation on June 1.
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