Rhode Island Foundation Updates Hundreds of Community and Business Leaders at its 2022 Annual Meeting
Highlights include presenting annual awards, reviewing 2021 and looking ahead to 2022 and beyond
Rhode Island Foundation President and CEO Neil D. Steinberg asked hundreds of business and community leaders to "to show up, listen up, speak up, stand up, step up, and rise up to tackle the challenges and opportunities ahead" during the organization's annual meeting at the R.I. Convention Center.
“Our programs, funds, initiatives and leadership activities reach every person throughout Rhode Island. We strive to live our mission every day: to be a proactive philanthropic and community leader dedicated to meeting the needs of all Rhode Islanders, and to make inclusion and diversity and equitable opportunities paramount for all Rhode Islanders. We embrace and celebrate our wonderful cultural diversity,” said Steinberg.
As the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofits in the state, the Foundation works in partnership with donors and nonprofits to meet the needs of the people of Rhode Island. It focuses on three strategic initiatives: economic security, educational success and healthy lives, and makes grants in the arts, the environment, basic human needs and housing among other sectors.
Steinberg noted that the Foundation raised $98 million while awarding $76 million in grants to more than 2,300 nonprofit organizations in 2021. The combined total is the highest in the Foundation’s 106-year history. Total assets stood at $1.4 billion at year’s end.
“Your community foundation is built to last into the future, to honor donor legacy and to meet the ever-increasing funding and leadership needs in the community,” he said.
Steinberg noted the Foundation’s continued work on several key initiatives, including the Long-term Education Planning Committee and the Long-term Health Planning Committee.
“The goals are to ultimately provide every student in Rhode Island with a world class education and close the achievement gaps, and to make Rhode Island the healthiest state in the country and eliminate health disparities,” he said.
The Foundation continues to work with generous donors to make diversity, equity and inclusion a cornerstone of its work, establishing a $3.2 million fund to recruit and retain teachers of color in Providence schools, partnering with Commerce RI to assess the state’s BIPOC small business ecosystem and launching the Equity Leadership Initiative to create a pipeline of leaders of color across Rhode Island.
“We reinforced and increased our long-time commitment to provide more inclusive, diverse and equitable opportunities for Rhode Islanders,” he said.
Steinberg reminded the audience that the state has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address critical issues such as unsatisfactory educational outcomes, crisis-level mental health and substance use challenges, and the lack of affordable housing.
“Together with the Economic Progress Institute and the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council and a knowledgeable and representative Steering committee, and with a great deal of broad community input, we publicly issued a report to the Governor and legislative leaders -- Make It Happen: Investing for Rhode Island’s Future -- with recommendations for the use of $1.1 billion in unrestricted, federal American Rescue Plan Act funds,” he noted.
“We do not want to be here in five years asking whatever happened to that $1.1 billion. I’m not sure if these funds are not enough or too much. They are not enough to meet all areas of need, and they are too much if we cannot get them out the door and invested for maximum impact for all. We need to invest wisely, not widely,” said Steinberg.
In addition, the Foundation presented its four most prestigious awards.
Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott received the Public Service Award. She is a former director of the state Department of Health, served on the Foundation’s Long-term Health Planning Committee, and had leadership roles in advancing the Health Equity Zone model in Rhode Island, and the state’s COVID-19 response and 2020 Census outreach efforts.
Jane Hayward received the Community Leadership Award, which recognizes an individual or nonprofit for demonstrating innovation, impact, commitment and leadership in one of the Foundation’s priority areas. She is a former secretary of the state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services and a former president and CEO of the R.I. Health Center Association.
Elizabeth Manchester received the Harold B. Soloveitzik Professional Leadership Award, which recognizes a member of the professional adviser community who has demonstrated an enduring commitment to philanthropy. A partner at Partridge, Snow & Hahn, she chairs the firm's Charitable & Nonprofit Organizations Practice Group and the Foundation’s Professional Advisory Council.
Papitto Opportunity Connection received the Carter Inspiring Partner Award, which honors donors who have inspired the Foundation with a thoughtful approach and commitment to philanthropy. The organization serves as a role model for its focus on advancing diversity, equity and inclusion.
The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Working with generous and visionary donors, the Foundation raised $98 million and awarded $76 million in grants to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities in 2021. Through leadership, fundraising and grant-making activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential. For more information, visit