In response to pandemic, RI Foundation awarded record $87 million to nonprofits in 2020

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — More than 2,200 nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island received millions of dollars in financial assistance from the Rhode Island Foundation last year.

The Foundation announced Wednesday it awarded a record $87 million in grants in 2020, more than $21 million of which went to help local organizations specifically in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

More than $68 million was raised through funds from a variety of donors, the third best year in the Foundation’s 105-year history, according to President and CEO Neil Steinberg.

“The contributions were anywhere [from] literally a dollar … up to millions of dollars, and the whole range in between,” Steinberg said. “And we had thousands of donors, many more than we’ve had in the past, just people who wanted to help in whatever way they could.”

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“There’s incredible need on the other side,” he added. “Record food insecurity and housing challenges, and mental health challenges, domestic violence, opioid abuse increases. Just, very wide range when people are out of work the way they have been here and impacted by the health pandemic.”

At the end of 2020, Steinberg says total assets stood at $1.2 billion and the Foundation’s total investment return for the year was just over 12%.

“While everybody didn’t benefit from the roaring stock market, our endowment did, and that will benefit people equitably in the community,” Steinberg explained.

“We do this with humility and with gratitude, because we are the state’s community foundation,” he continued. “We don’t do it alone. We do it with generous Rhode Islanders, we do it with the organizations doing the work.”

Last year, traditional grant-making that nonprofits rely on continued alongside grant-making efforts specific to COVID-19. The Foundation also launched a three-year, multi-million-dollar plan to expand its ongoing commitment to promoting racial equity and inclusion.

“We’ve had inequities and racial injustice for many years,” Steinberg said. “COVID highlighted it, but just revealed what we already knew.”

“This will be aimed at closing achievement gaps in education, working long-term to do that, working to close those and eliminate those health disparities and economic security,” Steinberg added.

The Foundation’s Civic Leadership Fund also benefited in 2020. The annual fund, which raised more than $610,000 last year, “enables the Foundation to go beyond traditional grant-making to meet emerging opportunities and challenges, and engage Rhode Islanders in civic and civil dialogue.”

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