401Gives is a statewide, online fundraising event in which RI nonprofits can sign up to receive donations from generous participants. The event is relaunching on April 1, 2022 (4/01), and describes itself as RI’s largest day of giving. Jennifer Remmes, director of resource operations at United Way describes 401Gives as “a modern day telethon … it is a safe and simple way for people to give to either one or many nonprofits that are in RI and learn about their mission.” The event lasts 24 hours and begins at 6am.
Powered by United Way, 401Gives was born when the now-CEO of the event was informed that RI Give Day, an earlier iteration of the event, was a good grassroots effort but not as organized as it could have been. This changed when United Way decided to step in. Partnering with online platform GiveGab, this is the third year that the event is taking place and the United Way team expects to raise over $4 million. “$4.01 million to be exact, because we love our area code,” Remmes adds.
There are 527 local nonprofits signed up, which is up 25% from last year. Remmes explains that the nonprofits have really adopted 401Gives after realizing the impact that it has. In extreme cases, some nonprofits have raised half of their entire annual budget through 401Gives.
The presenting sponsor for this year’s event is Papitto Opportunity Connection, supported by others such as Blue Cross Blue Shield. There is some added fun to the day with possible prizes and money matching, which can be found online at 401gives.org. The event has been a blessing for many fundraising organizations, especially with the inability to host events due to COVID-19.
Peer-to-peer fundraising is another great way to support the participating organizations. Community members can set up a Facebook or GoFundMe on a nonprofit’s page through 401Gives. Remmes and her colleagues have found this to be highly successful: Nonprofits with peer-to-peer fundraisers have raised 3.9% more than others, in previous years.
There is a small registration fee for nonprofits – $50, or an early-bird special of $35 – which prevents some from signing up. However, Remmes explains that once they recognize all that they can get out of the event, it isn’t always the biggest problem. “The greatest stumbling block is capacity,” she says. She explains that it can be hard for busy or volunteer-only nonprofits to add this on top of normal fundraising or programming. Still, there are a great number of nonprofits that need support. “We had about 15,000 donors last year which is great, but when you consider that there are one million people in RI, we can do better.” Remmes says. “Part of our strategic plan is to make RI more philanthropic.”
Shockingly, RI is the fifth least charitable state in the country, yet 16% of the workforce are employed by nonprofits, according to Remmes. “People don’t realize that their daycare might be a nonprofit or after school program, or even the theater they go to,” she says.
There is a ticker to show the money increasing all day long. It can even get a little addicting! Everyone is invited to participate, whether they are a business owner, politician or other community member looking to lend their support. There is only a $5 minimum to make a gift and Remmes says that it can be a lot of fun. “It’s just a great consolidated way to see a good majority of the nonprofits that are out there helping the state give back.”