10 Nonprofit Leaders “Boot Up” Innovation with United Way

For ten local nonprofit leaders, boot camp marks the start of the Nonprofit Innovation Lab — a program that begins on January 13, lasts 23-weeks, and ends with a Shark Tank-like presentation in June where the five remaining finalists compete for three prizes, totaling $90,000.

Hosted by United Way of Rhode Island and the Social Enterprise Greenhouse, the Nonprofit Innovation Lab is designed to spark fresh solutions for existing social problems. Participants were chosen from two dozen applicants during an elevator pitch event in December.

“We’re very impressed with the innovation and quality of their proposals, there are some incredible [ideas] coming out of our state’s nonprofit community,” said Cortney Nicolato, President and CEO of United Way of Rhode Island. “We’re eager to help them hone their ideas to strengthen Rhode Island.”

Nonprofit Innovation Lab components:

  • Boot Camp: For the first 6 weeks, participants receive intensive expert instruction, which includes two, four-hour sessions each week.
  • Milestone Accelerator: During the next 16 weeks, participants work with advisors from the hosting agencies’ networks in preparation for the final event.
  • Innovation Pitch Event: In June, the remaining five participants present their plans, competing for $90,000 in a presentation similar to NBC’S hit television show Shark Tank.

Nonprofit Innovation Lab participants

  • Mario Bueno, Progreso Latino
  • Mike Chea, Dorcas International Institute of R.I.
  • Kate Corwin, Smith Hill CDC
  • Janice Falconer, Impact R.I.
  • Raul Figueroa, Fuerza Laboral
  • Dana Ginestet, College Crusade of R.I.
  • Laura Jaworski, House of Hope CDC
  • Jonathan Kabak, Oliver Hazard Perry R.I.
  • Rhonda Price, Man Up, Inc.
  • Joshua Riazi, Genesis Center

Rhode Island Foundation Impact Investing Initiative, Entrepreneurial Innovation Fellowship

Rhode Island Foundation Impact Investing Initiative, Entrepreneurial Innovation Fellowship

Impact Investing

The Rhode Island Foundation has embarked on an impact investing initiative to invest 5% of the endowment in ventures that have measurable social impact as well as financial return.  Projects will be local and place-based, and will yield a direct impact for Rhode Island, primarily in strategic initiative areas: educational successhealthy lives, and economic security.  

The Providence Journal recently highlighted the ways that the Foundation’s initiative:  Learn more in the Journal.

Entrepreneurial Innovation

The Rhode Island Foundation is also seeking applications for the Carter Fellowship for Entrepreneurial Innovation, made possible through the vision and generosity of philanthropists Letitia and the late John Carter, designed to stimulate solutions to Rhode Island challenges.  Fellows will receive up to $200,000 over four years to test and implement innovative ideas that could dramatically improve an area of life in Rhode Island. Up to three Fellows are selected annually.

More information


Impact Investing Session Follow up

For those interested in additional resources on Mission Related Investments (MRI), here are some resources:

Support Organizations

Global Impact Investing Network  

Initiative for Responsible Investment  

Mission Investors Exchange

US SIF – The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment

Articles and Publications

Bay Area Impact Investing Initiative: “What is Place-Based Impact Investing?”

Center for Effective Philanthropy:  “Investing and Social Impact:  Practices of Private Foundations”

Chronicle of Philanthropy:  “Mission Critical:  Nonprofits and foundations making impact investments believe their dollars are vital to solving tough problems

Council of Development Finance Agencies:  “Urban Revitalization and Impact Investing”

Goldman Sachs: “Right Tools, Right Time:  The Rise of Impact Investing”

Grantmakers in the Arts: “How to Invest in the Arts Without Buying a Picasso”

Invest with Values

The McKnight Foundation:  Statement of Investment Policy

Mission Investors Exchange: Equity Advancing Equity”

National Center for Family Philanthropy: “Getting started with impact investing:  Overcoming resistance from family and board members”

Philanthropy News Digest: “Study calls on impact investors to close educational attainment gaps”

Pacific Community Ventures: What’s New in Impact Investing

Stanford Social Innovation Review:  “Mission Possible:  How Foundations Are Shaping the Future of Impact Investing” – series of mission investment articles

Surdna Foundation: ”Mapping the Journey to Impact Investing”

United Nations: Principles for Responsible Investment

Two New “Marketplaces” for Impact Investments

Impact Us 

Capital Aggregation

  • Minnesota Council of Foundations (GCRI’s sister organization) has established an impact investing collaborative with The McKnight Foundation, Bush Foundation and the Otto Bremer Trust as lead institutions.
  • Washington Area Grantmakers  (GCRI’s sister organization) has a housing investment program.

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.