With a focus on achieving the goals of its LIVE UNITED 2025 plan to build racial equity and opportunities for all Rhode Islanders, United Way of Rhode Island announced an investment of $10 million in the work of community organizations over three years. These latest grants, awarded from United Way’s Community Impact Fund, benefitted 45 local nonprofits, following what were intentional changes to the organization’s grantmaking program.
In 2021, United Way made the commitment to invest $100 million over five years to build racial equity and opportunities for all Rhode Islanders. With this round of funding, the organization’s contributions through programs, grants, and philanthropy now total more than $71.25 million toward that goal in just three years. Additionally in 2023, United Way will offer more opportunities for funding with a focus on summer learning, opportunity grants, equity initiatives, and family stabilization, among others.
United Way’s overhaul of its grant program was designed to better serve organizations whose work is rooted in actively advancing justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. Among the changes are three years of funding rather than two, awarding only unrestricted grants, instituting nontraditional reporting, and addressing the funding inequities faced by nonprofits led by Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) leaders. On average, these organizations have less than half of the staff and budget as non-BIPOC-led nonprofits.
Aligning with United Way’s strategic priorities, the focus areas of the awarded grants include out-of-school time and experiential learning opportunities for students in underserved communities, housing, job training and economic empowerment, and community-based advocacy to advance social justice and racial equity.
Among the grantee organizations, two — Inspiring Minds and Mt. Hope Learning Center — were funded at the recommendation of United Way’s Women United group.
Organizations were invited to apply for up to $75,000 in annual funding for the three-year period of 2023 to 2026. Proposals went through a multiphase review process, in which a committee of 29 took a holistic approach to reviewing each application. Proposals were scored on alignment with United Way’s mission; organizational readiness to invest; population served and geographical reach; justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion plans; and proposed activities. There were 238 grant applications received, totaling $17.8 million in funding requests.