Rhode Island Foundation CEO and President Neil D. Steinberg recently announced that he plans to retire next May. During his tenure, the nonprofit funder’s total assets grew from $433.2 million at the end of 2008 to $1.4 billion at the end of 2021, according to Providence Business News data. Steinberg spoke with PBN about his time with the foundation and what his plans are after retirement.
PBN: Was this decision to retire weighing on your mind for a while?
STEINBERG: I’d always told the board that I would give a one-year notice to allow time for a search that wasn’t rushed and to allow time for a transition. In order to do that, and be on the other end of the year, you have to back it up a year. I started to look and say, “Gee, I will have almost been here 15 years. I’ll be almost 70.” It was a natural order of taking stock and potential transition for the organization and for me.
PBN: Why now did you decide to retire?
STEINBERG: The organization is on very good footing. For me, it’s a good time to take a step back to maybe explore some other things and spend more time with my family. I love Rhode Island. I’m committed to the community. I’ll work as diligently as possible between now and May 1. It doesn’t change anything as it pertains to what we’re doing. But I’ll remain committed to Rhode Island and the community even after I leave [the foundation].
PBN: So, will you remain active with the nonprofit sector?
STEINBERG: I’m leaving it open. I have a corporate background of about 25 years. It could be [serving] on some boards. It could be some new projects. It could be helping with other people. At this point, my assumption is that it will be focused on the community. What can I do, whether it’s for nonprofit or for-profit, or with other organizations and leadership in the state? This provides me the time to explore those alternatives.
PBN: What were some of the things you’ve done to help build the organization, including more than tripling its assets over 15 years?
STEINBERG: Two things. One was significantly increasing fundraising and a good stock market. Those two things compound, so we raised more money than we ever have over those years. We also had some very good investment years. We raised the profile and awareness of the foundation. With that, comes additional support. When you write about the initiatives that we do, people want to be a part of that.
PBN: What is the one thing you’re most proud of?
STEINBERG: First, it’s building a great team here at the foundation. We need the best people to deliver what we deliver for the state. I link the two together, the focus on education and health care. Striving to have the best education for every child and striving to have a very healthy population.
While doing that, reducing achievement gaps and reducing health disparities. That gets to the equity and inclusion part. We need to make sure that everybody in Rhode Island gets the benefit of the best education and best health care. We will continue our long-term planning efforts with key constituents on both education and health.
So, it’s working with the [education] commissioner [Angélica Infante-Green]; it’s working with all the key stakeholders to stay the course on getting the best education. Same thing on health; how do we have the healthiest population? How do we get to the social determinants? That’s [addressing] housing, food insecurity, and we can do that by both leading on policy and we can do that with our funding.
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