401Gives Day event raises $3.5M, sets new records for fundraising

A SPECIAL WATERFIRE event took place April 1 as part of the 2023 401Gives Day initiative. The weekend-long statewide nonprofit support event raised a record $3.5 million for more than 540 organizations. / COURTESY AUDUBON SOCIETY OF RHODE ISLAND
A SPECIAL WATERFIRE event took place April 1 as part of the 2023 401Gives Day initiative. The weekend-long statewide nonprofit support event raised a record $3.5 million for more than 540 organizations. / COURTESY AUDUBON SOCIETY OF RHODE ISLAND

PROVIDENCE – The state’s largest nonprofit fundraising initiative over the weekend set a new standard for raising money for local organizations. Now, it has an early eye to make next year’s event even bigger.

401Gives Day, which was held from March 31 through late Monday – the first time the event was planned as a weekend-long affair – set new records across the board, including raising a record $3.5 million. Additionally, 15,216 individual donors contributed to 546 total nonprofits, all of which were new highs for 401Gives Day.

The number of donors year to year went up 17%, according to United Way of Rhode Island CEO and President Cortney Nicolato, and the total money raised increased by 11% from 2022. Last year, the initiative raised $3.1 million and this past weekend’s event marked four straight years of exceeding the previous years’ fundraising total.

In total, 401Gives Day has raised $10.2 million in its four years, including $6.6 million the last two years. Nicolato told Providence Business News on Tuesday that she regularly thinks about 401Gives Day’s main purpose, which is having a “culture of awareness…and contribution to the nonprofit sector.” She also sees how far it has come since it launched in 2020 right at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the day raised at the time a stunning $1.5 million and had about 7,500 donors.

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“We’ve built this awareness,” Nicolato said. “People are excited about it. The fact that there is now nearly $3.5 million in the nonprofit community that wasn’t there back on Friday is exactly why we do this. For me, it’s heartwarming. It brings me joy to see the intention of the event is real and Rhode Islanders stepped up.”

According to the 401Gives Day leaderboard, 85 organizations raised at least $10,000 over the weekend, with eight of them raising in excess of $50,000. Three organizations – Foster Forward in East Providence, Smithfield-based Audubon Society of Rhode Island and Dare to Dream Ranch Inc. in Foster – broke the $100,000 barrier for fundraising.

Foster Forward, which assists local youths aging out of foster care to find housing, raised the most of all organizations participating in 401Gives Day at $220,734 – exceeding last year’s mark of $209,506. The organization also received $100,000 in matching gifts from the Waterson Terminal Services and the Baruch and Rebecca Goldstein Memorial Fund.

The Audubon Society, which supports wildlife conservation across the state, exceeded its $120,000 goal by raising $137,496 over the weekend. It received various matching gifts, including from Caldwell Reality and the Barbara Walsh and Earl Simson: Habitat For Birds Matching Fund, ranging from $5,000 to $25,000.

Dare to Dream, which supports military veterans and their families coping from trauma, raised $100,334 during this year’s initiative.

Children’s Friend & Service received $90,788 from the community over the weekend, while the United Way got $85,262 in donations during 401Gives Day.

Other organizations rounding out the top 10 are:

  • School One: $69,897
  • Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center: $69,013
  • Young Voices: $52,687
  • The Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education: $46,339
  • The Rhode Island Center for Justice: $40,805

The Rhode Island Foundation also provided $75,000 in total matching gifts throughout the weekend, and the Papitto Opportunity Connection gave $20,000 in total gifts as part of its “Monday Match Mania” offer for 401Gives Day.

Nicolato said the bulk of the money raised over the weekend, about $1.8 million, came on March 31, the first day of the event. But other smaller organizations, she said, utilized the weekend to raise money for their respective causes.

Nicolato noted that some organizations who were at the Providence Flea Market, such as Farm Fresh Rhode Island and What Cheer Flower Farm, both selling their wares and held raffles in promoting 401Gives Day. Also, several organizations walked around the WaterFire event downtown with QR codes seeking donations from the public, she said.

“They took things they were planning on doing already or creating new opportunities on the marketing side,” Nicolato said. “They were taking advantage of every opportunity in front of folks to get support.”

Next year, April 1 will fall on a Monday and it is early to tell how next year’s 401Gives Day initiative will play out. Nicolato said her team in time will get feedback from organizations and perform analysis as part of their planning for the 2024 event.

However, next year will mark 401Gives Day’s fifth anniversary and Nicolato plans to “make it big with lots of celebration.”

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.

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