Responsive Grants

Responsive Grants are made to address urgent community need, emerging opportunity, new ideas, and proven programs in the nonprofit space.


What we fund

Responsive Grants are awarded to respond to the expressed needs of the community. Nonprofit organizations that are interested in applying should be working to address urgent community need, emerging opportunity, to test new ideas, and to support proven programs. 

These grants will support organizations that may not be working in areas that are directly aligned with our three Strategic Initiatives – Economic Security, Educational Success, and Healthy Lives.  

Grants made through this program will start at $10,000, and the grant term will generally be one year.  Organizations can apply any time, but are only eligible for one award per calendar year from this program. 

Responsive Grants are designed to support organizations across the nonprofit sector – including those working in the arts, or to serve children & families, or to provide affordable housing, or to protect the environment. The program will also support organizations that are focused on other areas of need. 

What we don't fund

Responsive Grants are awarded for charitable purposes primarily to nonprofit organizations or public entities. The Foundation does not fund individuals or capital projects. We rarely commit to multi-year grant awards.

The Rhode Island Foundation believes that our community can best be served by charitable organizations that both reflect and serve the diversity of our community. We do not award grants to applicants or for programs that have a policy that discriminates against any person or group in any way that is either unlawful or inconsistent with the mission or values of the Foundation.


We review your application according to the following criteria:

  1. Organizational Strength
    - Clear mission and vision
    - Sound financial health
    - Capacity to learn from its work
    - Strong board and staff leadership
    - Evidence of organization’s connection with community
  2. Potential for Community Impact
    - Problem/Opportunity well defined and is responsive to community need in Rhode Island
    - Evidence that organization is well positioned for the proposed work given experience, partnerships, technical/content expertise and its community connection
    - Sustainability
  3. Sound Implementation Plan
    - Feasible and aligned project budget 
    - Adequate capacity
    - Evaluation plan
  4. Other
    - Alignment with available funds


Is this program replacing another grant program?
Responsive Grants is a new program. If you’ve previously applied to our Strategy Grants program, this may be the place for you. We are open to funding organizations that are not doing work that is directly aligned with our Strategic Initiatives. That said, those organizations should be working to meet existing community need, or to test new ideas and support proven programs in an effort to address critical community challenges.

Will the Foundation still fund the arts, children & families, housing, and the environment?
Yes. Responsive Grants are designed to continue support in those important sectors and to open the doors of the Foundation even wider – so that more charitable organizations in Rhode Island have access to needed funding.

But will the grants be smaller if you’re funding a wider array of organizations?
We don’t expect so. The pool of flexible funding that we’ve committed to the Responsive Grants program is larger than any pool we’ve committed in the past through a sector-based funding strategy. Responsive Grants will start at $10,000.

Who should we contact? 
The Responsive Grants review team will work together to vet applications as they come in. If you’ve worked in the past with a specific grants program officer please know that those individuals are now part of a collective team of professionals who manage the Responsive Grants program. Also, we have created a single entry point for the program, here at the Foundation. To get the process started please contact us at 401-427-4041 or .

Do I need to talk to a Grants Program Officer before applying or will I need to have a pre-application meeting?

When are applications accepted?
Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis, organizations may apply at any point during the calendar year but are only eligible to receive one Responsive Grant per year.

What if I’m not sure whether to apply for a Strategic Initiative Grant or a Responsive Grant?
The best thing to do is to talk to one of our team members. We can help you assess the funding opportunities that are available, and find the best fit for your work. To discuss in more detail please contact us at 401-427-4041 or .

What are the application deadlines?
There is no deadline, Responsive Grants applications will be accepted on a rolling basis. Organizations may apply at any point during the calendar year but are only eligible to receive one Responsive Grant per year.

I submitted a proposal. How and when should I hear back about whether or not it was funded?
Generally, we make funding decisions within six weeks. You may hear from a grant officer sooner with questions or requests for further information. Please note, grant decisions regarding applications submitted after November 15 may be made at the start of the following calendar year.

What is the likelihood that my proposal will be accepted?
While we have no way of knowing the  exact likelihood, we expect this to be a competitive program.

Will my organization be able to apply for second year of funding, if we are awarded a Responsive Grant? If so, how - and when?
Organizations can apply for subsequent funding in the next calendar year. Organizations can only receive one Responsive grant award per calendar year. We will want to learn more about your work from the first grant before awarding subsequent funding.

I am having technical difficulties with the application. What should I do?
Contact us at 401-427-4041 or with any technical difficulties, and we will make sure to get you the assistance you need.

I’m not sure if my organization’s project is eligible. How can I find out if I should apply for a Responsive Grant?
Eligibility and selection criteria is available on the website.

Who can apply for a Responsive Grant?
501c3 organizations serving communities in Rhode Island who meet the eligibility criteria.

Do we have to be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit?
Yes, the Foundation awards Responsive Grants only to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. If you have not yet received this designation from the IRS you may be able to use a fiscal sponsor. However, you are responsible for having that relationship in place before submitting your application.

How many applications can we submit for this program?
One per calendar year for this program. You may apply for other grants programs that the Foundation offers too, please note that there is unique criteria for each program.

What are the evaluation criteria the Foundation will use to review applications?
The Foundation will be evaluating your proposal according to four criteria: organizational strength, community impact, sound implementation plan, and alignment with funding.

Can I submit a request for multiple years of support?
No. Responsive Grants will be provided for one year of support at a time.

My organization would like to undertake a collaborative program with another nonprofit organization, is that eligible?
Yes. We encourage collaboration. One organization should submit the application as the lead organization on behalf of the collaborative partners.

Can my organization apply for overhead and/or administrative costs?
We wish to understand the real costs of the project, so administrative costs should be factored into the proposal budget.

Important application information

Applications will not be considered from organizations with overdue grant reports.

If your project involves lobbying, please indicate the anticipated amounts to be spent on direct and/or grassroots lobbying. For more information, please read lobbying expenditures.
We recognize there are meaningful efforts and entities without a 501(c)(3) IRS designation that align with our funding priorities. In these cases, we will consider grant applications from groups utilizing a fiscal sponsor with the 501(c)(3) IRS designation. As part of our review of applications using fiscal sponsorship we will:
Assess the financial and organizational health of the sponsor as the potential (legally recognized) grantee.
Review a signed agreement developed by the two groups outlining the terms and conditions of the sponsorship. Please include this agreement as part of your application.
For more information and recommended best practices regarding fiscal sponsorship relationships, you may wish to review this resource from Gregory L. Colvin, Esq.

Application process

The Foundation reviews Responsive Grant applications on a rolling basis throughout the year. In general, the timeframe from submission of your application to funding decision will be six to ten weeks.

To apply for a Responsive Grant, please follow this process:

  1. Prepare your application. The application package consists of basic information about your organization, a narrative with details about the project and expected outcomes, and a budget.
    Sample application (PDF)
    Log in to start a new application *
  2. Submit the application, along with the attachments requested, including a program budget. The attachments provide us with the opportunity to get to know your organization and proposal better.

* If you already have started this online application, please log in to your account page to edit the application that is in progress.


LocationOne Union Station
Providence, RI 02903


(401) 274-4564

E-News Sign Up