Al and Linda Potter established the Potter Family Fund, a donor advised fund at the Foundation, in 2004. Here, Al answers questions about the causes they support, what inspires him to give, and his hope for Rhode Island’s future.
1. What do you support through The Rhode Island Foundation?
My wife and I use our Rhode Island Foundation fund as a source for grants mostly to non-profit social service organizations that we care about here in Rhode Island and sometimes nationally. We have used our fund to focus in the areas of child welfare, hunger and homelessness.
2. Why did you choose to partner with the Foundation?
We were looking for a way to be more strategic and more forward-focused in our giving. We also liked the idea of establishing a family fund with some permanency, so that we could leave a legacy after we are gone, and our daughter could learn something about philanthropy as our successor in stewarding the fund’s grants. Also, The Rhode Island Foundation provides us with the guidance on what areas of need are most critical and which organizations in those areas of need seem to be effective in using donated funds. Hence, we feel the Foundation gives us more confidence our giving is well-placed and effective.
3. What inspires you to give?
Our commitment to giving is really grounded in our faith as Episcopalians. We believe that all we have ultimately comes to us through the grace of God, and that we have a Christian obligation to be good stewards of the financial resources that we are fortunate enough to have. That faith-based foundation has grown into a strong sense that we want to help others who can benefit from what we can give them.
4. What was your first act of philanthropy?
That’s hard to remember! I guess that after I joined my current employer, Gilbane Building Company -- now 31 years ago(!) -- I was impressed with Gilbane’s sense of corporate commitment to the community. That led to my making an annual commitment to United Way through work payroll deduction. Over the years, we grew that commitment, as we saw the good work we thought it did. That was really the first time we got focused on philanthropic giving.
5. What is your hope for Rhode Island?
I believe that if we can spread the sense or awareness to more of our fellow Rhode Islanders that philanthropy can really have a substantive impact on the people of our state, we can make a lot of progress. The beauty of it is that as people become more aware of philanthropy in their own lives, it can also bring them a sense of joy and fulfillment that is personally satisfying, and they’ll want to share that enthusiasm with their friends. That’s where I think The Rhode Island Foundation can play a big role, and is one reason why we have enjoyed our affiliation with the Foundation so much.