Rhode Island Foundation

OVERVIEW: The only community foundation in Rhode Island supports statewide nonprofits in education, health, and economic security. Numerous grant opportunities are open to applications from local groups.

FUNDING AREAS: Education, health, economic security

IP TAKE:  This is the funder to know for all nonprofits in Rhode Island. It has a lot of power on the local philanthropy scene and resources that go well beyond grantmaking.

PROFILE: The Rhode Island Foundation (RIF) is based in Providence, Rhode Island, and was founded in 1916, making it one of the oldest community foundations in the country. This is the only community foundation in Rhode Island and is the largest funder of Rhode Island nonprofits.

Funding interests here are educational success, healthy lives, and economic security. This translates into grants for quality educational environments, better health care at lower costs for Rhode Islanders, and household financial stability. The Fund for Rhode Island is an RIF common fund for the good of local communities. The Civic Leadership Fund goes beyond RIF’s traditional grantmaking to tackle current important issues by commissioning research, advocating for policy change, and using public affairs programs to create conversations.

RIF also maintains the Initiative for Nonprofit Excellence, which has provided training, funds, and technical assistance to over 1,100 groups since 2008. The Carter Fellowship for Entrepreneurial Innovation was established by a gift from Letitia and John Carter to invest in Rhode Island entrepreneurs. RIF participates in impact investing for local, place-based projects that fit within its three topics of interest. Nonprofits, as well as for-profit companies and government entities, can submit a preliminary application form online to provide some basic details about their projects.

Grantseekers can apply for a strategic initiative grant in the field of education. Carter Spark grants encourage teacher innovation, and other funds support specific topics, such as individual school districts and art education. You can also apply for a health grant and get involved with the Fund for a Healthy Rhode Island, the Righa Foundation Fund, and medical research funds. Foundation-initiated economic security programs include Buy Local RI to support local businesses, Make It Happen RI to spur public/private innovation, and Rhode Island: It’s All in Our Backyard, which is a campaign to uncover hidden gems in the state.

The foundation shares grant opportunities on its website, including strategic initiative grants over $10,000, responsive grants for urgent and emerging needs, grants for specific topics, and grants for specific communities. In a recent year, the foundation awarded $43 million in grants to over 1,700 nonprofits. Current financial data can be viewed here.

General questions can be directed to staff at info@rifoundation.org or (401) 274-4564. The address is One Union Station, Providence, Rhode Island 02903. Keep up with foundation news on the website and follow its blog to learn about new grant money made available for LGBTQ groups, get to know specific donors behind RIF funds, and get a better sense of the groups that secure RIF’s support.


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