Spotlight Rhode Island: A Community Foundation That's Backing LGBTQ Causes

Rhode Island Rainbow flag. photo: Creative Photo Corner/shutterstock

Rhode Island Rainbow flag. photo: Creative Photo Corner/shutterstock

As we continue to expand our coverage of the New England region beyond just Boston, one of the prominent community foundations that we’ve started watching more closely is the Rhode Island Foundation (RIF). The state’s tiny size aside, this is a funder that really stands out since it’s been around since 1916 and is the largest funder of nonprofits in Rhode Island. RIF also stands out for being a strong LGBTQ funder on the nation’s community foundation scene.

A new grant opportunity has come to our attention that’s pretty interesting. Equity Action is a LGBTQ-focused RIF grantmaking program that distributes around $50,000 each year. This might not sound like a lot, but it’s the way in which the grants are awarded that maximize their local impact.

One strategy of Equity Action is distributing small grants of up to $2,500. These are great opportunities for Rhode Island groups to get their foot in the door with RIF because requests can be submitted at any time and are reviewed on a rolling basis. Nonprofits can also receive one of these small grants per year for one-time activities and short-term projects. 

The other way that Equity Action grants are distributed is through project and capacity-building support. Community funders like RIF have really been paying a lot of attention to capacity-building matters lately and straying from program-support-only strategies much more than in the past. RIF awards project and capacity-building grants to LGBTQ organizations in amounts between $2,5000 and $10,000. This is a great opportunity for Rhode Island LGBTQ groups to get some support for their board development, strategic planning, fundraising, and business development needs.

So, what types of LGBTQ causes is RIF most interested in right now?

Equity Action will fund initiatives that address policy issues and boost advocacy for issues that affect local LGBTQ communities at the local and state level. The funder is also looking to support groups that provide community education about LGBTQ issues and that work towards building partnerships to increase operational effectiveness of LGBTQ programs.  

Overall, RIF’s funding priorities are educational success, healthy lives, and economic security. But in addition to these strategic initiative grants, RIF is also a steady supporter of responsive grants for urgent needs, grants for basic human needs, and organizational development grants for a wide variety of local groups. In a recent year, the foundation awarded $43 million in grants to over 1,700 nonprofits.

You can learn more about Equity Action grant opportunities with RIF here. And to learn more about this funder’s history, priorities, and overall approach to funding, be sure to check out IP’s new profile of the Rhode Island Foundation.

Related: Are Community Foundations Stepping Up Support for LGBT Issues? It Looks That Way