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Dear Friends

Throughout 2017, we were inspired by generous donors committed to improving the lives of Rhode Islanders, focused and hardworking grantees turning philanthropic dollars into positive change, scholarship and fellowship recipients on the verge of educational and entrepreneurial success, and all Rhode Islanders who proudly make our state unique.

We are humbly committed to bringing together the resources, skills, and experiences from each individual, organization, and community across Rhode Island to transform our state into a place where every person has an opportunity for prosperity, productivity, and quality of life.

This past year, we reaffirmed and refined our commitment to three strategic areas for investment and leadership that have a profound impact on every person in our state. Read on to learn more about our focus on economic security, educational success, and healthy lives.

Thanks to our generous donors, we were able to award $43 million in grants to more than 1,700 nonprofit organizations in 2017. That includes Foundation-directed grants that funded charitable organizations working in the arts, housing, the environment, to provide basic needs, and to assist children and families.

2017 was a successful year for growing our endowment too. With an impressive 17.4% investment return, complementing our 20-year total fund return of 7.8%, our financial foundation is solid. We are grateful to our individual, family, organizational, and corporate donors of all sizes for entrusting us with $38 million in new gifts this past year, including adding more than $400,000 to our Civic Leadership Fund.

As we continue to work together to embrace and invest in opportunity, to listen and respond, to express ideas, to meet community need, and to solve for the challenges we face as a state, we remain excited about the possibilities, inspired by your trust and partnership, and energized to do more.

– Marie J. Langlois, Chair

– Neil D. Steinberg, President & CEO

Looking to the Future Together

Changing the state, and the lives of Rhode Islanders, for the better is our passion. It’s one we’re strategic about.

For each of our three strategic initiatives – economic security, educational success, and healthy lives – we focus on places these initiatives intersect, seek statewide investment, and support cultures of civic engagement and philanthropy. To briefly highlight each strategic area:

Economic Security

To raise the state’s long-term financial stability and wealth, we focus our investments in effective workforce development, small business growth, and high opportunity clusters with potential to produce many good-quality jobs.

As an example, Year Up helps low-income young adults move from poverty to professional careers in a single year through training, coursework, and skill development, followed by a six-month corporate internship that gives them hands-on experience. With Foundation support since 2005, nearly 1,000 young adults in our state have graduated from the program with practical tools and experience that prepared them for a stable future.

Educational Success

We direct our efforts at improving student outcomes, the quality of educational environments, and coordination and collaboration within the sector. We focus on three specific strategies — improved student learning experiences, strengthened educator capacity and leadership, and meaningful partnerships within and across the K-12, early learning, and higher education systems.

One grantee, the Center for Leadership and Educational Equity (CLEE), offers professional development programs for educators. With funding from the Foundation, CLEE has implemented a new program, the Novice Principal Induction Network. The Network provides support for 12 new school principals through peer networking, individual coaching, and ongoing feedback.

Healthy Lives

To keep our state as healthy as possible, we invest in improving health outcomes, providing better care, and lowering costs so that health care dollars go further. We’re committed to achieving health equity across race, ethnicity, income, and geography, so we focus on increased access to, use of, and quality of primary care; expanded alternative care models and collaborations; and reform that reduces health care costs while improving patient experience and overall health.

One Foundation-funded program, the Health Professionals Loan Repayment Program, encourages providers to practice and improve health outcomes in underserved communities. In return, their educational debt is reduced or forgiven.

“Enabling doctors, nurses, dentists, and other front-line clinicians to concentrate on providing essential care in areas of greatest need goes to the heart of our commitment to closing health disparities and growing primary care options for all Rhode Islanders.”

—Neil Steinberg

By the Numbers

Generous Rhode Islanders have entrusted their philanthropy to the Rhode Island Foundation for more than a century.

We take very seriously our responsibility to steward their legacies by deploying prudent, long-term financial strategies to maximize grantmaking and to preserve and grow the Foundation’s endowment for the future. We awarded more than $43 million in grants in 2017.


Our investments are managed by a committee of Foundation directors and community members with expertise in the field. We are committed to a “total return” investment goal to ensure that our endowment grows in perpetuity. Any investment return earned over the spending policy is added to principal. In 2017, our investments had a return of 17.4%.

Spending policy and operating expenses

Our spending policy determines both the dollars available for grants and our operating budget. It is based on a trailing sixteen quarter average endowment value, which allows us to provide a predictable stream of grants while growing the endowment over the long-term. Last year, our operating budget, as measured as a percent of our total assets, was 1%, a value widely considered to be an indicator of sound budget management.

Bringing Community Together

Hard-working, caring nonprofits around Rhode Island work year-round to bring people together – to inspire through the arts, to provide food and shelter for the homeless and hungry, to preserve and help Rhode Islanders enjoy our natural environment, and so much more.

We are proud to partner with the organizations that do this good work and to highlight a few of them here.

Sparked by a report that hunger is at a 10-year high in Rhode Island and the state has the highest poverty rate in New England (Rhode Island Community Food Bank 2017 Status Report on Hunger in Rhode Island), the Foundation in December 2017 awarded $100,000 to the Food Bank to support its statewide work with soup kitchens, senior centers, and food pantries. One such agency is the Jonnycake Center of Peace Dale (top left photo) which annually serves more than 2,000 individuals living in South Kingstown and Narragansett.

Foreign-born Rhode Islanders face complex legal and financial barriers on the path to legal residency and citizenship. Early in 2017, we invested $150,000 in three organizations – Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island, Progreso Latino, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence – to build their staff capacity to help an estimated 1,400 additional immigrants proceed toward legal status over the next year and to provide more education opportunities (top right photo).

The Audubon Society of Rhode Island protects nearly 10,000 acres of natural habitat - and the birds and other wildlife that inhabit them - through conservation, education, and advocacy. The organization connects people with nature through educational programs (bottom left photo), an aquarium, and more than a dozen wildlife refuges with hiking trails. Recent Foundation grants have assisted the Society in seeking national accreditation from the Land Trust Alliance, an achievement which shows it meets high standards of being well-run.

Trinity Rep is committed to its Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) initiative, an effort to reflect the diversity of our state at all levels of the organization – audience, staff, board, artists, and programming. Foundation support contributes to this work, with 2017 efforts including two mainstage productions written by, directed by, and featuring people of color; bilingual productions of Romeo and Juliet; and EDI-focused workshops for board, leadership, staff, and artists (bottom right photo).

"I didn't know if I was ready to be a principal — CLEE gave me the tools and the confidence to convince me that I was ready.”

— Danira Ortiz, principal at Kevin K. Coleman Elementary School, Woonsocket

Working Together

Thanks to generous Rhode Islanders who step up, either by approaching us with their ideas to improve some aspect of life in Rhode Island or by responding to our ideas and providing resources, together we can do more.

For example, our Community Grants program, launched for our 2016 centennial and renewed in 2017, supported additional community-building projects when an individual and a local business both provided funding for the program. A supporter of Community Grants each of the two years, Anne Sage made unrestricted gifts to the program and in 2017 Navigant Credit Union helped fund the revitalization of the Baker Street Playground, located near its Warren branch.

In another partnership, generous donors are stepping up to help fill the gap between the dollars needed to support good projects for which we receive applications and what we are able to fund. One such partner is the Grace K. and Wesley S. Alpert Charitable Foundation which has worked with the Rhode Island Foundation for several years to tackle a number of challenges facing Rhode Islanders, including chronic homelessness. (Photo: Riverwood Mental Health Services’ Housing First Program)

A third partnership is with individuals who make unrestricted gifts to the Foundation, either during their lifetimes or through estate plans. Such gifts allow the Foundation to meet the state’s most pressing needs, even as those needs change through the years.

One such donor is Bhikhaji Maneckji who has a donor advised fund at the Foundation. He states, “My estate plan calls for an unrestricted gift to the Foundation because I trust the judgement of the Foundation. While I would hope that my gift would support the general areas I supported during my lifetime, I trust the Foundation to determine needs after my death. To me, ‘unrestricted’ means unrestricted - without reservation.”

New Donor Stories

We are proud to connect philanthropic Rhode Islanders with the causes and organizations that matter most to them.

In 2017, generous individuals, nonprofit organizations, and companies established 73 new endowments at the Foundation, bringing our total number of endowments to more than 1,700. We are appreciative of their passion and commitment which will support:

  • organizations ranging from libraries to youth-serving agencies and from schools to hospitals;
  • causes including scholarships, the environment, arts and culture, children, and more; and
  • Rhode Island’s most pressing needs.

To learn more, please contact James S. Sanzi, J.D., senior vice president of development, at (401) 427-4025 or


Launch or download the complete 2017 Annual Report below!