By Alex Kowalski
PBN Staff Writer
PROVIDENCE — The Rhode Island Foundation ended the year with a record $678 million in asset, an increase on its 2011 year-end asset total of $604 million, thanks in part to a 13.1 percent return on its investments, according to its recently released annual report.
The foundation collected $38.5 million in gifts and donations in 2012, drawn from 1,286 fund accounts held by individuals and organizations — a 46 percent decrease from 2011, yet still its third most successful year.
From its investment returns as well as new contributions, the foundation was able to distribute $30.5 million in grants on the year, its most ever. In addition, its investments were augmented by an additional $36 million from other sources, something the foundation attributed to its “reputation as a trusted grantmaker known for responsible decisions.”
One-thousand, three hundred and thirty-three organizations benefited from the foundation’s grantmaking, the highest total receiving help in the nonprofit’s 97-year history.
Of the $30.4 million total grants disbursed, $12.5 million were directed by the foundation’s staff and directors to Rhode Island-exclusive recipients. The highest grant award per sector (a total $7.5 million) went to human services, which includes grants to organizations such as Children’s Friend, Rhode Island Kids Count and the Women’s Resource Center.
Donor-directed grants, totaling $17.9 million, were distributed to groups within and outside of Rhode Island. The majority of these grants, nearly $16 million, went to local causes. Seven percent of the foundation’s grants, approximately $2.1 million, went to out-of-state donor-associated groups, some based in Arizona and Florida.
According to the report, the foundation’s investment returns remain among the top quartile for foundations and endowments of less than $1 billion in value, including a 10-year average annual return of 8.4 percent, compared with the top quartile for similar organizations of 8.1 percent.
“2012 was a transformative year for The Rhode Island Foundation,” President and CEO Neil D. Steinberg said in remarks within the report. “We expanded our reach beyond the traditional community foundation scope of grantmaking and building philanthropic capital to partner with, support and work to inspire the community in new ways.”
The year saw the first grants made to Rhode Island Innovation Fellows, two of whom received a commitment of $300,000 over three years to “develop, test and implement innovative ideas with the potential to dramatically improve any area of life in Rhode Island.” The foundation recently made its 2013 awards to two new innovation fellows.
Steinberg and the organization spearheaded the Make It Happen RI initiative, which brought together private-sector leaders to generate ideas for how to activate the state’s economy, resulting in a commitment of $1 million by the foundation to fund projects. So far, a dozen have been funded.
Related to the impetus for Make It Happen, the foundation established the Civic Leadership Fund to help finance activities, such as the Make It Happen event, raising $173,604 during the year for it.