Rhode Island Foundation gave $76M in grants in 2021, raised $98M – The Providence Journal

The Rhode Island Foundation announced Thursday that it awarded $76 million in grants to more than 2,300 nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island last year.

The foundation, which is the state’s largest funder of nonprofit organizations, also raised $98 million in gifts.

The combined monetary amount of awards and fundraising is the highest in the foundation’s 106-year history.

“In a time when COVID-19 continued to wreak havoc on the lives of Rhode Islanders, we had our highest combined year for grants and fundraising ever,” Neil Steinberg, the foundation’s president and CEO, said in a news release. “We are appreciative of our insightful and dedicated donors and the nonprofit organizations that provide crucial services in the community.”

More: Opinion/Steinberg: An investment plan for Rhode Island’s future

The foundation said many of the grants aligned with its three strategic priorities: educational success, healthy lives and economic security. It says it “invests in organizations and programs that strive for long-term solutions to significant community issues.”

“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,” Steinberg said.

Among the organizations receiving grants was The Rhode Island Parent Information Network, which received $85,000 to launch a telemedicine program to help older adults in Pawtucket receive health care.

A lot of the people who are most in need of telemedicine services either lack access to the technology or the ability to use it, said Samuel Salganik, executive director of the organization.

In the program, a bilingual community worker brings an iPad to the patient and sets up a meeting with the health-care provider, according to Salganik. The worker can stay with the patient to help or step away if privacy is needed, he said.

The program initially focused on residents at some senior housing apartments in Pawtucket and has expanded, Salganik said.

“It was born of COVID necessity,” he said, “but it feels to us like this will be valuable long after” the pandemic subsides.

Another organization receiving support was the Elisha Project, a food bank that delivers food to homes, food pantries and soup kitchens throughout the state.

“We deliver from Burrillville to Hope Valley,” said George Ortiz, co-founder and executive director of the organization.

 The $193,000 from the foundation, which came in several grants, helped the organization with its delivery of 300,000 pounds of food each week in 2021, Ortiz said.

The financial fallout from COVID was even worse in 2021 than it was in 2020 as people’s savings ran out and public assistance expired, Ortiz said.

“We woke up from the nightmare and we were still in the nightmare,” he said.

Ortiz commended the foundation for getting the money out quickly to meet the demands exacerbated by COVID.

The foundation’s $76 million distributed in 2021 was second only to 2020, when it gave  $87 million, driven in large part by $20 million delivered in the early stages of COVID, according to Steinberg.

“We’re here to work with the nonprofits, who are doing the boots-on-the-ground work,” Steinberg said.

While COVID hit some populations especially hard, donors also recognized the increased need and responded, according to Steinberg. “People step up in a time of need,” he said.

Some others receiving grants include the Cranston Public School District, which got $135,000 to expand its STEM Advantage initiative, and the Innovation Studio, which received $128,000 to support its Small Business Entrepreneurship Program.

The foundation also made grants to Mixed Magic Theatre in Pawtucket, Lucy’s Hearth in Middletown, the Jonnycake Center in Westerly and the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council in Providence.

At the end of 2021, the foundation’s total assets were $1.4 billion, and total fund investment return for the year was 20.4%.

With the stock market down so far in 2022, Steinberg said he isn’t worried. “Our portfolio is built for the long term,” he said. “You ride it out.”