Deal Flow

An insurance policy to protect $3.8 billion

Rhode Island Foundation is administering a series of outreach grants to increase participation in the 2020 Census

Image courtesy of the Rhode Island Foundation

The Rhode Island Foundation is administering a series of $25,000 grants to increase participation in the 2020 Census.

By Richard Asinof
Posted 11/4/19
Worries about a potential undercount on the 2020 Census has prompted the Rhode Island Foundation to invest in funding outreach efforts to hard-to-count residents in the state, as a way to protect the flow of some $3.8 billion in federal funding dependent on Census data.
What are the long-term demographic trends that Rhode Island needs to address, such as an increasing “old old” population, a declining birth rate, and an increase in concentrated poverty? How will Rhode Island’s increasing diversity of its population, particularly with children, translate into a changing political agenda? How can the initial Rhode Island Life Index be improved in its next iteration to over-sample minority populations? How will future climate change challenges be addressed, such as the growing clean water insecurity? How will the effort the increase the Census count affect the potential of losing a Congressional seat?
The political dimensions of the 2020 Census, which will be played out as part of the 2020 Presidential election and the pending impeachment of President Donald Trump, illuminate not just the partisan divide but the philosophical chasm that exists about the future of the U.S.
We have entered what Shoshanna Zuboff has called the Age of Surveillance Capitalism, in which the ability to predict and manipulate human behavior through artificial intelligence platforms threatens our democratic experiment. We are confronting those who believe in the divine right of presidents and corporations.
How the U.S. redefines itself in the 2020 election may be determined in large part about how the news gets reported.


PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island Foundation has decided to put its philanthropic resources behind grassroots efforts to ensure that every Rhode Islander is counted as part of the 2020 Census.

The effort seeks to protect some $3.8 billion in federal funds flowing into Rhode Island each year for education, health care and housing, based upon Census data.

On Thursday evening, Nov. 7, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., the Rhode Island Foundation will be conducting an information session at the Nonviolence Institute at 265 Oxford St., explaining to local libraries, schools, nonprofits and community groups how to secure up to $25,000 in outreach grants to increase participation in the 2020 Census. The outreach effort seeks to target hard-to-count populations, such as low-income households, households with young children, and households of color.

Altogether, the Rhode Island Foundation is committed to investing a total of $425,000 to the outreach efforts, under the umbrella of the Rhode Island Census 2020 Fund. There will be two rounds of funding, with application deadlines of Monday, Nov. 25, 2019, and Friday, Jan. 31, 2020.

Donors to the Census 2020 Fund include: philanthropist Bhikhaji Maneckji, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island, the Nellie Mae Foundation, the Service Employees International Union 1199 New England, the Rhode Island Foundation and United Way of Rhode Island, according to a recent news release.

The Rhode Island Foundation is tasked with administering the initiative being underwritten by the Census 2020 Fund, working in partnership with the Rhode Island Complete Count Committee, created in late 2018 by executive order of Gov. Gina Raimondo.

A sense of urgency about the 2020 Census

ConvergenceRI reached out to the Rhode Island Foundation to ask how this effort differed from past involvement with the Census in 2000 and 2010.

Promoting Census participation was not a priority for the Foundation in 2000 or 2010, explained Jessica David, executive vice president of strategy and community investments at the Rhode Island Foundation. “That has changed,” she said. “This time around, there is an urgency to ensuring that every Rhode Islander is counted. Our population is growing slower than most other states. That makes counting a higher percentage of residents crucial if we are to keep pace.”

In addition, David continued, “There are significant concerns about 2020 participation due to the debate around the citizenship question and this being the first digital Census. These factors have made it more important than ever to energize an effective get-out-the-count effort.”

ConvergenceRI asked: Were there specific strategies and messaging, based on research, that would be deployed? Would any of the resources be used to conduct research to support the outreach efforts?

“Research would be a tough sell, given the limited funds available and breadth of communities we’re trying to reach,” David responded. “There is a significant amount of research around messaging and outreach that has been done nationally, which we’ve been able to draw on, in addition to the experience and expertise of members of the Complete Count Committee.”

David reiterated the goal of the outreach effort. “ The goal is to protect the $3.8 billion a year that Rhode Island receives in federal funding for education, health care, housing and more based on Census data. The priority is hard-to-count populations and hard-to-count Census tracts.”

Lots on the plate at the Rhode Island Foundation
In addition to the work on outreach on the 2020 Census, the Rhode Island Foundation has convened two groups to develop long-term plans for the future of education and health care delivery in the state. No exact date has been set for the release of the plans, according the Rhode Island Foundation.

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