United Way’s 401 Gives Day Eclipses $2M

United Way’s 401 Gives Day Eclipses $2M

Published 04/02/2021

The following article, written by James Bessette, was published by Providence Business News on April 2, 2021. 

While not mentioned in the article, Thrive Behavioral Health raised over $4,000 in United Way of Rhode Island’s second annual 401 Gives Day.

PROVIDENCE – United Way of Rhode Island’s second annual 401 Gives Day exceeded the organization’s own expectations Thursday, and all the while gave the nonprofit community a much-needed boost during what is still a challenging period.

The 24-hour-long online fundraiser, which ended at 6 a.m. Friday, raised more than $2.1 million for 420 local nonprofits. More than 11,400 individual donors contributed to the organizations throughout the day. The amount raised Thursday surpassed United Way’s initial goal of raising $1.5 million for the day.

Leading up to Thursday – and even throughout Thursday – several nonprofits took to social media and noted that they were part of 401 Gives Day and seeking financial assistance from the community.

Needless to say, the community responded. More than 100 organizations raised at least $5,000; 54 organizations raised at least $10,000 for their respective work and 15 nonprofits raised at least $20,000 Thursday.

East Providence-based Foster Forward, which assists local you in transitioning out of foster care into safe housing, raised the most money during 401 Gives Day, receiving $173,721 from the community, according to the 401 Gives Day leaderboard.

Foster Forward Executive Director Lisa Guillette said Friday the organization initially set a $25,000 fundraising goal for Thursday. But, Eugene La Pietra, a former Rhode Islander foster youth who later became a civil rights activist in Los Angeles, reached out to Foster Forward and offered to match dollar for dollar up, Guillette said. La Pietra subsequently matched $75,000 in donations during 401 Gives Day.

“It was such a validation of the hard work that we’re doing,” Guillette said. “It so greatly exceeded our expectations.”

Guillette said Foster Forward will use the raised funds to help youths transitioning out of foster care through various means, including outfitting a young person’s first apartment with kitchen supplies, helping them purchase gas and public transportation tickets, workforce development, purchasing groceries and offering “barrier assistance,” such as security, paying off back bills or fees and fines.

Dare to Dream Ranch Inc. in Foster raised $79,866 and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Newport raised $76,011.

Other top-raising organizations were:

“I saw this momentum from the nonprofit community and what they were doing to individually promote this work was powerful,” United Way CEO and President Cortney Nicolato told Providence Business News Friday. “For the smaller organizations, [raising $5,000] is crazy life-changing. That is a ton of money for many of our smaller nonprofits. That is the power of this day.”

The funds also came into the organizations at a rapid pace. Nicolato said the Rhode Island Foundation’s $50,000 donation match was met in less than two minutes. The day had raised more than $1 million before 10 a.m., less than four hours after the initiative launched Thursday.

By early afternoon, the day surpassed last year’s total of $1.3 million and it surpassed this year’s $1.5 million goal before 2:30 p.m. Thursday. Then, just after 8:30 p.m. Thursday night, the $2 million mark was surpassed.

Nicolato also said the day was used to open new doors for the nonprofit community in receiving new donors to contribute to their work. Additionally, Nicolato said that the end result from this year’s 401 Gives Day proved that a movement has been built.

“This isn’t just about a day; it’s about a movement,” she said. “Recognizing the incredible amount of work they do each day. Our goal is to continue to build that movement and continue to give nonprofit organizations the tools to be successful in the day.”

Nicolato also said the 2022 401 Gives Day will raise more money than this year “no question about it,” because the movement was built “to last.”

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at Bessette@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.