Blue Cross Invests $1.5 Million to Support Expanded 2-1-1

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island Commits $1.5 Million to Expand Impact of 211, Improve Social Determinants of Health 

As part of an effort to improve the health of all Rhode Islanders, United Way of Rhode Island has upgraded the capabilities of its 211 service with a focus on linking health and social care providers around individuals with complex needs. In support of this work to expand the statewide role and impact of 211, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI) has committed $1.5 million in funding.

A major enhancement to 211 is the addition of a specialized technology platform called Unite Us that interconnects a network of health and social care providers. Now, when someone calls 211 for help or lets a healthcare provider know they are in need of food, housing, or other assistance, their information is entered into the platform and an electronic referral is made for the services they need. The referrals are tracked within the system and 211 staff ensure that individuals’ needs are being responded to in a timely fashion.

Currently, when healthcare organizations refer patients to community-based organizations to address social care needs, there is rarely a mechanism for the healthcare organization to know the outcome of the referral. This prevents effective follow-up and outcome measurement.

With social factors being such a significant driver of a person’s overall health, knowing the outcome of these referrals is foundational to providers’ ability to effectively meet their patients’ unique needs and manage whole-person health.

Powered by the Unite Us platform and 211 staff, health providers across the network can securely refer and track every person’s total health journey with their community partners. At the same time, it allows providers to report on all tangible outcomes across a range of services in a centralized, cohesive, and collaborative ecosystem. 211 plays the role of the coordination center in the network, ensuring clients are connected to the best program to address their needs, providers are closing the loop on clients’ needs, and that all providers are meeting network standards and performance measures.

Community Leaders Call for More Investment and Focus on Rhode Island’s Nonprofit Sector

Several community leaders — Mario Bueno of Progreso Latino, Anthony Hubbard of YouthBuild Preparatory Academy, Cortney Nicolato of United Way, and Daniel Schliefer of New Urban Arts — published a commentary piece in the Boston Globe on the importance of investing in the capacity and sustainability of the nonprofit sector.

Rhode Island can no longer overlook, and underfund, its nonprofit sector

Over the last 19 months, Rhode Island’s nonprofit organizations have been the heart, hands and feet of Rhode Island’s relief and recovery efforts.  They provided food and shelter to Rhode Islanders in need. Helped underserved communities access testing and vaccines.  Supported children and families with the challenges of distance learning.  Provided physical and behavioral health care.  Helped isolated seniors connect with loved ones and services.  Provided support and training for small businesses and social entrepreneurs.  Trained workers for new jobs.  Uplifted somber days with beautiful music and art.

In some ways, the last year-and-a-half has been a story of unprecedented commitment and heroism. Faced with the confluence of health, economic, and racial justice crises, Rhode Island nonprofits rose to the challenge of skyrocketing need. At great personal and organizational cost, they overcame public health restrictions, inadequate staffing, physical and emotional exhaustion, and fundraising limitations to deliver services in innovative ways. They were a lifeline to thousands of Rhode Islanders during their darkest moments.

In other ways, the commitment and heroism displayed by our state’s nonprofits during the pandemic is completely normal. It is what happens when organizations are driven by mission and collective social benefit.

Every single day, pandemic or not, quiet, essential work is done across Rhode Island by nonprofit organizations.  Skilled, dedicated, compassionate staff work with limited resources to care for our neighbors, empower our children, and build flourishing communities.  Community-based organizations provide the expertise, energy, and innovation to make the state’s vision for strong, equitable, prosperous cities and towns a reality. Every. Single. Day.

And every day, whether in times of crisis or plenty, the state depends on these same nonprofits to make Rhode Island lives and communities better.  Yet, at nearly every turn, this vital sector is under-resourced, stretched thin, and often taken for granted.

Like the steel beams that undergird our bridges, the crucial work of our state’s nonprofits is so integral to the health and well-being of our communities that it can easily be overlooked.  But like our physical infrastructure, our “civic infrastructure” of unheralded nonprofits, collaborative networks, and community-based initiatives cannot continue to carry the weight of our state’s critical needs without comprehensive, long-term investment.

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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.

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.


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.

2016 Health Equity Summit on December 8

Funders are invited to attend the 2016 Health Equity Summit sponsored by the Rhode Island Department of Health and the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University on December 8 at the RI Convention Center.

Health equity is the concept that everyone should have the opportunity to attain optimal health status. Unfortunately, this is not a reality in Rhode Island today. Many people experience avoidable and unfair health inequities based on where they were born and what neighborhoods they live in. These factors are known as the social determinants of health.  And many of these factors intersect with other areas of life — education, housing, food, etc., so funders focused on intersecting areas are encouraged to attend as well.

The Rhode Island Department of Health, with its community partners, will be presenting on policies and initiatives to address the following issues:

• Housing Stability (Please note this session is now closed, we’re at capacity!)
• Community Policing Partnerships
• Equitable Solutions in the Face of Climate Change
• Education Innovations
• Food Insecurity and Access
• Built Environment Approaches to Equity
• Behavioral Health
• Community Cohesion
• Partnerships to Sustain Equity
• Health Systems Innovations


GCRI Member Organization Events

Please join your colleagues for the following events sponsored by GCRI member organizations.  If you have organizational events that you’d like to share with GCRI colleagues, please forward them to

Sponsored by LISC RI
Tuesday, June 14, 2016 – 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm
Veterans Memorial Garden Amphitheater, adjacent to Pawtucket City Hall

The collaborative HEZ work plan, for both cities, strives to create neighborhoods where all residents have full and equitable access to safe streets, parks, recreational areas, affordable housing, and healthy food.  Join First Gentleman Andy Moffit, Office of the Governor; Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director, Rhode Island Department of Health; Mayor James Diossa, City of Central Falls; and Mayor Donald Grebien, City of Pawtucket.  Questions?  Please contact Deanna Bruno at LISC:  (401) 519-5696 or  Please RSVP by June 10.

Sponsored by the Rhode Island Foundation
June 30, 1:30pm-2:45pm
On Thursday, June 30, Isaiah Castilla of Bolder Advocacy, an initiative of the Alliance for Justice to promote active engagement in democratic processes and institutions by giving nonprofits and foundations the confidence to advocate effectively, will be in town for a training with nonprofits on federal and state advocacy rules. (Learn more about that session.) We’re pleased to invite our funder colleagues to a private session with Isaiah that afternoon.  Not sure how to make the case for funding advocacy? Uncertain whether you can fund grantees that lobby? Wondering whether your public or private foundation can speak out on a particular issue? This training, for both public and private foundations, answers these questions and more!  Please RSVP by June 27.  REGISTER HERE