Linda Newton, principal at Newton & Newton LLC, a Providence domestic limited-liability company, is a committee member of The Rhode Island Foundation’s Black Philanthropy Initiative which the foundation launched as a permanent endowment in 2005 to more effectively and visibly impact critical issues facing the Black community.
BPI recently awarded its inaugural grants, totaling nearly $25,000, to the National Coalition of 100 Black Women-Rhode Island and Youth in Action for Project Success.
PBN: Why did the foundation consider this initiative an important permanent program?
NEWTON: Judge Walter Stone, a former Foundation director, first brought the concept of a black-philanthropy fund to the foundation. The power of a permanently endowed fund, which he had heard about at a Yale University reunion, was striking and gave him a vision of what could be achieved by and for the Black community here in Rhode Island. The Foundation embraced the concept and, with the help of a small group of dedicated leaders in the Black community, created an endowed fund for the Black community in 2005 – one of the only such funds in the country.
PBN: What is the foundation looking for in awarding grants through this program?
NEWTON: The Rhode Island Foundation wants to make investments in our communities that generate positive and sustainable change. Based on the findings of a 2007 needs assessment, which confirmed that Blacks in Rhode Island face disproportionate challenges in many indicators of quality of life and prosperity, the BPI steering committee set the initial funding priorities as the Black family with a focus on job training, housing, and financial literacy. The committee feels strongly that by funding these priorities, we will help to support positive and systemic change for the black family and the black community.
PBN: How is the foundation working to increase appropriate partnerships or funding for the program?
NEWTON: The inaugural grantees – Youth in Action and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women-Rhode Island – will be our first partners. As the grant program matures, we expect the foundation will further develop and strengthen relationships with agencies that serve the Black community. We also hope to work with the foundation to continue to promote BPI with an annual appeal or other annual fundraising effort.
PBN: The program was founded in 2005. Have you progressed with it as you had hoped?
NEWTON: We have done very well. We officially launched the fundraising for BPI in 2009 during an exceptionally difficult economic climate. With matching funds from the Foundation we raised more than $325,000 to create a permanent endowment. The fund is now well established and will continue to grow in perpetuity. In addition, we have awarded our first grants, which we expect will start to have an impact later this year. While we had hoped to raise more, we are confident that BPI will continue to grow and we feel gratified that it has already started to make grants.
PBN: What is the program’s ultimate goal?
NEWTON: We believe that the initiative can shine a light on the specific needs of the Black community and ultimately make a difference that will substantively improve the status of blacks in Rhode Island. We still have a great deal of work to do and we welcome the financial and volunteer support of anyone interested in this effort.
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