Rhode Island Foundation Awards Almost $500,000 in Place-Based Grants

The Rhode Island Foundation awarded almost a half million dollars in place-based grants this summer, through its Community Grants program and Newport County Fund.

The Community Grants program provided $225,000 in grants to support work that ranges from creating performance spaces and urban farms to restoring playgrounds and historic parks.  The Foundation received nearly 130 proposals; 30 received funding.

“Our grants will create places to gather, build relationships and inspire new collaborations that will strengthen community connections all over Rhode Island, said Neil D. Steinberg, president and CEO of the Foundation.  Description of funded projects

The Foundation also awarded more than $270,000 to dozens of nonprofit organizations serving Newport County residents, through its Newport County Fund (NCF).  The grants will underwrite a host of activities ranging from job readiness training and after-school activities to preventing relationship violence and stocking food pantries.

“From enriching arts and educational opportunities for young people to underwriting critical health and environmental programs, we are proud to work with partners that are improving lives here,” said Neil D. Steinberg, the Foundation’s president and CEO. “We are grateful to the donors who make our support possible and the local men and women who keep us closely connected to the community.”

Established in 2002, the NCF has awarded more than $3.8 million in grants for programs and services for residents of Jamestown, Little Compton, Middletown, Newport, Portsmouth and Tiverton.  The NCF offered grants of up $10,000 in seven key funding areas: arts and culture, basic human needs, children and families, economic security, the environment, healthy lives and housing. In making the funding decisions, the Foundation worked with an advisory committee comprised of Newport County residents.  Description of funded programs

Strengthening the Youth Sector: Lessons for Funders, Leaders, and Boards Webinar

Strengthening the Youth Sector: Lessons for Funders, Leaders, and Boards  Webinar

Thursday, June 22nd, 12:00-1:00 PM ET

Funders Committee for Civic Participation (FCCP), a sister organization in the Forum, will be hosting a webinar based on the Youth Engagement Fund’s new report, Strengthening the Youth Sector: Lessons for Funders, Leaders, and Boards. This report was produced with input from over 40 executive directors, staff and board members leading youth-oriented civic engagement organizations to help us better understand how we can better support the development and retention of excellent leaders in this sector of work.


More Value to Short-Term Investment or Smaller, Long-Term, Endowment Based Giving?

Atlantic Philanthropies has banked its investment decisions on the philosophy that since a foundation’s grants generate a social return, those returns compound at a higher rate than its financial assets would, so more immediate grants will generate more social value than preserving the capital and making more grants later.  This is the premise behind limited life foundations.  Value, Time, and Time-Limited Philanthropy, highlights discussions among philanthropic leaders, advisors, and scholars about the social value a philanthropic initiative can be estimated to generate — taking into account direct outlay, social value, ripple effects, and durability — and whether, considering social utility, rates of return, and the compounding or erosion of value over time, the premise holds true for three Atlantic Philanthropies-funded initiatives.  Initial study is showing that Atlantic’s short-term investments are paying off, in part because other foundations have taken a slower, more sustained approach, so there may be an important role for both approaches to funding to address systemic issues.


Changes to GCRI May Calendar, Upcoming Regional Conferences and GCRI Member Discounts

May’s GCRI schedule has been changed, so please make a note of the new dates and times.

Tuesday, May 9 at 9am — Employee Engagement Catalyst Group Conference Call

Thursday, May 25, 1:00-2:30pm — Financial and Social Returns:  Maximizing Impact Through Mission-Related Investments

The roundtable on Low Income Supports originally scheduled for May 18 has been postponed.

Contact Nancy at nancy.wolanski@uwri.org with any questions about upcoming events.


There are a number of upcoming conferences and events in the region — many of them offer discounts to GCRI members, so be sure to take advantage of them!

Youth Organizing Funder Roundtable
Aspen Forum for Community Solutions
Boston, May 22
The Aspen Forum has invited GCRI members to a Funder Roundtable on “Radical Possibilities:  The Power of Youth in the Fight for Social Justice.”  The session will take place from 2:30-6:00pm at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, and is co-sponsored by the Ford Foundation, Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees, Funders Collaborative for Youth Organizing and the Hyams Foundation.  The purpose of the roundtable is to share models of youth-led organizing and examples of authentic youth-adult partnerships in the work for social change.  The session will showcase the possibilities and power of youth voice, leadership and organizing, and the role of philanthropy in supporting these efforts.  For more information, contact Christina Kostuk, christina.kostuk@aspeninstitute.org or 202-736-5809.

2017 Collective Impact Convening
Collective Impact Forum

Boston, May 23-25
As a local partner, GCRI members are eligible to receive $100 discount on registration.  The Collective Impact Forum is a partnership between FSG and the Aspen Institute, and the convening will attract more than 400 funders, backbone leaders, and other collective impact partners. GCRI members who are currently involved in cross-sector partnerships — or interested in learning more about best practices in collective impact — can use promo code RI100 at the end of registration, which will take $100 off the individual three-day funder registration rate of $1095. Note: if you plan to bring more than one person from your organization, you do * not * need to use this promo code because there is a price break already built in for bringing multiple representatives from the same organization.”

Grantmaking Fundamentals Workshop 2017
Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers
Baltimore, June 6
A full-day professional development workshop for grantmakers taught by regional experienced practitioners! Topics include:  Your grantmaking within the local and national philanthropic landscape; Developing grant guidelines and communicating with the public; Reviewing proposals and conducting due diligence; Legal and ethical guidelines for grantmaking excellence; Maximizing grant impact; Strategies for continued learning and improvement.  GCRI members are eligible for the ABAG member price, using discount code: 2017RANETWORK.

2017 Conference on Scaling Impact
Social Impact Exchange
New York, NY, June 14-15
The 2017 Conference on Scaling Impact is for foundation officers, philanthropists, corporate executives, trustees, and wealth managers and philanthropy advisors interested in learning about innovative methods to support high-impact nonprofits in education, youth development, poverty alleviation, health and impact investing.  The conference includes presentations from foundation CEOs and nonprofit leaders, as well as knowledge sessions and peer networking opportunities. Members of the Forum are eligible to attend at the discounted rate of $895 (regular price is $1,695).  To receive the discount, visit the registration site and indicate in the drop down menu that you are invited by the Forum. Space is limited so we encourage you to register soon.

Community Foundation Boot Camp
Associated Grantmakers
Boston, August 29-30
The two-day Community Foundation Boot Camp program offers a comprehensive overview of the structure and operations of a community foundation.  The program is an ideal in-depth introduction to community foundations for new community foundation staff, community foundation board members or more experienced community foundation staff looking for a good refresher.  Training is provided by Indiana Philanthropy Alliance.  GCRI members are eligible to participate at the AGM member price of $450/person.

Health Intersection Resources

“If you want to lower my blood pressure, pay my rent.”

LISC:  HEZ Work a Model for Upending Health Inequality

Depending on whether you are born in a prosperous or a poor American neighborhood, your life expectancy can vary by as much as 25 years.  In a blog post for Build Healthy Places, Julia Ryan, LISC’s director of health and safety programs explains how Rhode Island’s Health Equity Zones (HEZ) are working to close the longevity gap.  As lead agency for two of those zones, LISC is helping to tackle the deep-rooted problems underlying that gap with a multi-strategy action plan.

Asset Funders Network:  Health and Wealth Connections

As GCRI panelists discussed at the January roundtable on Social Determinants of Health, pursuing positive health outcomes requires understanding the intersection of health and a variety of social and economic challenges.  Asset Funders Network recently released Health and Wealth Connections, a resource for funders concerned about the connection between health and financial security.

Far beyond health care access and affordability, wealth and numerous social factors related to where people live, work, and play impacts a person’s health. Data indicates assets, income, and health are inexorably linked. Good health is associated with higher wealth and income, better employment and education.

Authors Jason Q. Purnell, PhD, MPH & Anjum Hajat, PhD, MPH, explored with participants how health and wealth are connected and discussed how health impacts are more significant for low-income, vulnerable populations particularly people of color. The authors shared compelling evidence for investment in strategies and policies that consider both the physical well-being and economic stability of individuals, families, and communities.   View Brief and the webinar 

Children’s Healthwatch:  “Intersection of Health and Housing” and Caring for the Children of Immigrants

Children’s HealthWatch, has made available the recording of its webinar, The Intersection of Health and Housing, as well as related resources.  Webinar and resources here.

According to Children’s Healthwatch, pediatricians across the country are also seeing the harmful effects of anxiety about immigration-related Executive Orders and rhetoric on the health of their young patients.  In a recent blog post Children’s HealthWatch Principal Investigator, Dr. Diana Cutts, discusses the impact that policies have on her patients and expresses fear for the future of those children both directly and indirectly affected by harmful policies.

Grantmakers in the Arts:  Medicine and the Arts

Grantmakers in the Arts released a literature review on the growing field of arts in medicine. The review outlines the various ways in which artists and healthcare institutions work together to support patient and community heath, the infrastructure that exists to support this work, and how funders can support further development of the field.

Collaborative Funding for Children’s Health: San Joaquin Valley Health Fund

In order to address pressing issues facing children living in poverty, regional funders in the San Joaquin Valley of California embraced a collective impact model to address children’s health issues.  Using a learning community model, nonprofit partners receive modest grants to strengthen their capacity to engage in collective advocacy while building relationships, receiving technical assistance, and sharing best practices. As a result, the fifty-eight nonprofits currently working with the Fund have agreed to support a regional policy platform that employs a social-determinants-of-health approach focused on access to health coverage, early childhood investment, affordable housing, environmental health, and employment. Report

Funding Crisis for Public Health and Safety:  State by State Public Health Funding and Key Health Facts 2017

Reminder:  Don’t forget that Grantmakers in Health will be having their annual, national conference in Boston June 21-23.  Be sure to connect with colleagues from across the country without paying for airfare!  More information

LISC Highlights: HEZ, Financial Opportunity Centers, Early Learning Work

HEZ Work a Model for Upending Health Inequality

Depending on whether you are born in a prosperous or a poor American neighborhood, your life expectancy can vary by as much as 25 years.  In a blog post for Build Healthy Places, Julia Ryan, LISC’s director of health and safety programs explains how Rhode Island’s Health Equity Zones (HEZ) are working to close the longevity gap.  As lead agency for two of those zones, LISC is helping to tackle the deep-rooted problems underlying that gap with a multi-strategy action plan.

LISC Financial Opportunity Center Success Story Featured on NPR

A recent NPR “Hidden Brain” podcast featured Brandi Drew, a client at a Financial Opportunity Center® in Detroit. In this podcast, Drew describes how financial coaching helped her escape the “scarcity trap.”  View the story here.  A five year, federal grant from the Social Innovation Fund (SIF) that was matched by local private and corporate grants, made it possible for Rhode Island LISC to invest over $2.3 million into four Financial Opportunity Centers® located at Amos House, Genesis Center, Providence Housing Authority and Community Care Alliance.  The Social Innovation Fund has not been included in the new federal spending proposal to fund the government through September 30.

 Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Report Released

In 2015 and 2016, by providing small grants and technical support, the LISC Rhode Island Child Care and Early Learning Facilities Fund (RICCELFF) enabled 83 early learning centers across Rhode Island to dramatically improve the learning environments in their facilities. The grants, which totaled $2.3 million, were made possible by the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge, a U.S. Department of Education program designed to support high-quality early learning programs as well as increase the number of low-income and disadvantaged children who are enrolled in them. Read the report here.

“2016 By the Numbers” Video

LISC recently released a video highlighting the resources that it invested in Rhode Island in 2016.  LISC provided over 2,000 hours of technical assistance to over 150 groups, awarded over $3.5 million in grants and invested over $21 million in real state statewide.  LISC’s strategies include increasing family income & wealth, stimulating economic development, improving access to quality education and supporting healthy environments and lifestyles.  Watch the video to learn more about their impact!

GEO Fellowship Program for Change Leaders in Philanthropy

Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) is soliciting applications for its Change Leaders in Philanthropy Fellowship — GEO’s 10-month peer cohort program designed specifically for executives — helps participants work together to identify promising practices and recommendations for creating organizational conditions that support nonprofit success.

Eligible participants in the Change Leaders in Philanthropy Fellowship are executives who:

  • Work at grantmaking organizations that are GEO members
  • Report directly to the CEO, and
  • Are responsible for leading and/or supporting change in their organizations.

GEO will be hosting informational webinars on April 18 and April 20 to provide an overview of the fellowship’s structure and goals, as well as an opportunity for interested individuals to hear and learn directly from program facilitators and current cohort participants. Apply for the Change Leaders in Philanthropy Fellowship 

If you have questions about the fellowship, please contact Heather Peeler at peeler@geofunders.org or 202.355.9537 or Stephanie Chan at chan@geofunders.org or 202.355.9535.

Funder Guidelines for Taking a Public Stand

In the current political environment, many organizations have been asked by different constituents to speak up on policies, legislation and societal trends.  Many funders have developed a great deal of social capital and public trust from their work on social issues, and their voices can lend weight and import to policy discussions.  At the same time, they need to navigate legal parameters and weigh the cost benefit analysis to their vocal engagement on particular issues.

This article from Community Wealth Partners advises funders to think about three key questions in deciding whether to use their standing and influence on particular issues:

  • Will it advance your mission or cause?  Could the issue affect your desired outcomes?  Can you influence an audience that has power over the issue?
  • Are you the right messenger?  What is your role as a foundation?  Are you a credible source on this topic? Will speaking out support your stakeholders in a way they want to be supported?
  • Are you sharing the right message?  Do you have a clear purpose or call to action?  Are you communicating in a way that will resonate with your audience?

Read the full article

In addition, corporate leaders may find the article in Harvard Business Review on “What CEO’s Should Know About Speaking Up on Political Issues,” to be a source of valuable counsel as well.

Lessons from Multi-Sector Partnerships in the Health Sector

Report Details Important Lessons for Partnerships in All Issue Areas

ReThink Health, an initiative of Fannie E. Rippel Foundation, recently released a report on multi-sector partnerships to improve health, equity and economic well being.  Based on a nationwide survey of multi sector partnerships, the report details lessons learned from the work plans, finances and organizational development of these groups.

Some excerpted highlights that reinforce the message of GCRI’s Collective Impact panelists:

Challenges Based on Partnership Lifecycle

While most partnerships faced challenges related to collaborative infrastructure, sustainable financing, and data-sharing, other challenges were more prominent at certain phases, as are several distinctive momentum builders.

Earlier partnerships may face barriers in terms of “lack of authority and fragile infrastructure are special barriers in the Earlier phase, as partnerships establish their standing to lead change on chosen priorities. Groups in this phase tend to generate momentum by engaging multi-sector stakeholders and by building a region-wide vision around shared values.”

In the middle phases, partners may encounter “difficulties measuring progress and contending with political resistance…Their longer track record may raise expectations and they may have yet to negotiate all the vested interests that tend to reinforce the status quo. Experimenting and learning from easy wins gains special prominence as a practical way to drive progress.”

In more mature partnerships, their previous successes may actually be a challenge:  “Partnerships may have exhausted strategies that center primarily around win-win solutions or achievements that are perceived as low hanging fruit. They generate momentum more often by exercising influence upward and outward, as well as by taking a longer view of future scenarios.”

The report made several recommendations for successful partnership development:

All partnerships may benefit by having a wider view of the health ecosystem in their region, and by contributing toward a strategy for the region as a whole that will assure all of the vital conditions and services that people need through an organizational structure that best fits the local landscape. In addition, partnerships at each developmental phase may accelerate progress in different ways.

Earlier: Partnerships in the Earlier phase can set themselves up for success when they: (1) Articulate a region-wide vision based on shared values (both moral and economic); (2) Establish authority and expand engagement far as possible; and (3) Strengthen infrastructure through staff capacity, operational capability (e.g. backbone functions), and long-term financial planning.

Middle: Progress in the Middle phase may turn on building enough trust and transparency for more ambitious action as well as more difficult negotiations ahead. Groups may want to:  (1) Develop a compelling picture of the value they are poised to deliver; (2) Engage policymakers to create conditions that better enable regional action; and (3) Adopt a mindset for sustainable financing focused on creating new funding flows, especially ones that move beyond an excessive reliance on short-term grants, which often constrain the very ambitions and abilities that groups in the Middle phase need to succeed.

Later: To propel progress in the Later phase, we recommend that partnerships: (1) Surface vested interests and negotiate tough topics that otherwise threaten to reinforce the status quo; (2) Employ a learning practice that delivers evidence of results and is also tied to continuous learning, adaptation, and renewal; (3) Align with state and federal policy, such as changes in payment or regulatory systems; and (4) Establish new forms of distributed leadership, with a focus on broad-based coordination to avoid placing too much power in the hands of a few key players.

Considerations for Funders, Policymakers, and Other Allies

For funders, policymakers, and other allies who support multi-sector partnerships, we suggest the following activities:

• Learn about and consider developmental phases when crafting initiatives;

• Support long-term planning—extending over decades—so that strategies will persist through inevitable leadership transitions and adapt to change in wider contexts;

• Position grant funding as a bridge to more dependable financial structures.

• Fund core infrastructure and backbone organization, which can be decisive factors in the success of any multi-sector partnership.

Full report

Potential Elimination of Arts and Humanities Funding

Potential Elimination of Arts and Humanities Funding

President Donald Trump’s proposed federal budget would eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, in addition to numerous other cuts.  In response, GCRI member Rhode Island Council for the Humanities joined with Rhode Island State Council for the Arts to host a series of Cultural Conversations for the state’s cultural organizations and those concerned about the cuts to dialogue with Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation.

Julie Fry, president and CEO of California Humanities, responded to the proposed budget cuts with an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, detailing the value of the arts and humanities bring, far beyond their relatively small budgetary cost.  “Their budgets are very small, and together with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (also on the chopping block), they make up only 0.02 percent of the annual federal budget. However, their impact is exponentially large and has garnered bipartisan support across the country for their role in job creation and attracting businesses into communities,” she says.  Read more

For those interested in more information about cultural contributions to issues like economic development, be sure to check out the presentation slides from Wendy Bury’s presentation to the GCRI Roundtable on Collective Impact and Cross-Sector Partnerships this month.  Wendy is the Executive Director of the Southeastern Connecticut Cultural Coalition.

Rhode Island Council for the Humanities Impact Map

Fact vs. Fiction in Government Arts Funding

NEA Arts Funding Report

Study Showing How Arts and Culture Improve Health, Safety and Well Being