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Investing for social and financial impact
By Chris Barnett / October 30, 2017 /   Loading Disqus...

Launched this year, the Rhode Island Foundation’s Impact Investing initiative aims to invest up to 5 percent of the Foundation’s endowment, beyond traditional grantmaking efforts, in Rhode Island-based efforts that generate measurable social impact and a financial return. The Impact Investing initiative will support projects that are local and place-based, and that will yield a direct impact for Rhode Island.

“Impact investing is about aligning financial investments with mission,” said Jessica David, senior vice president of Strategy and Community Investment. “We believe it is a powerful tool that will allow us to support larger scale and different kinds of projects than we typically do through our grant programs.”

The two initial investments from the Impact Investing portfolio are a $1 million bridge loan to Rhode Island Public Radio (RIPR) and a $300,000 purchase of preferred stock in the Urban Greens Food Co-op.

The loan to RIPR will be used to support the purchase and relocation of the 89.3FM signal, allowing RIPR to expand its potential listening audience. It was the first to be approved by the Foundation’s Impact Investing Committee and Board of Directors. It will be used to bridge receivables during the station’s $6 million capital campaign. Specifically, the investment will be used to support the station’s expansion, to move the 89.3FM transmitter location, seed the beginning of a new digital broadcast strategy and hire additional staff. 

“As Rhode Island’s only not-for-profit, public radio news organization, we are able to offer independent and rigorous reporting on local issues,” said Torey Malatia, RIPR's president, CEO and general manager. “We are honored by the Foundation’s confidence in our expansion efforts and look forward to growing our listening audience and continuing to meet the area’s need for quality journalism.”

The participation in Urban Greens' Community Investment Campaign will allow the co-op to leverage additional investment in its plans to open an 8,000-square-foot, community-owned grocery store in the West End of Providence – a federally recognized food desert. The co-op has the potential to positively impact community health in west and south Providence, create economic security through job availability and profit sharing, and boost the food economy by sourcing from local providers.

“We are confident that Rhode Island Foundation’s commitment to purchase preferred stock in the co-op will help us to encourage additional investors and bring this project to life,” said Janiqua Jackson, general manager. “Around the country local food co-ops have been touted as community anchors: supporting the local food economy, creating jobs in a neighborhood and for a neighborhood, and encouraging participatory democracy.”

Nonprofit organizations, for-profit companies and governmental entities interested in the Rhode Island Foundation’s Impact Investing strategy will find additional information and guidelines on its website. Individuals are not eligible to apply.

After the submission of a preliminary application, applicants that are selected to advance must complete a full application, including supporting materials.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. In 2016, the Foundation awarded a record $45 million in grants to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities. Through leadership, fundraising and grantmaking activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential.

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