Jennifer Remmes, Manager of Digital Resource Development at United Way of Rhode Island, shared her team’s experience planning for a state-wide event and what it was like to work with GiveGab for their inaugural 401Gives.
On the evening of April 1, 2020, the 401Gives Giving Day team watched in great anticipation as the stats bar on the home page of their website continued to tick closer to their fundraising goal of 1 Million dollars. This was their first-ever Giving Day supporting 366 nonprofits statewide, and every dollar raised went to nonprofits in great need during the COVID-19 crisis.
United Way of Rhode Island had closed their doors while stay-at-home orders were in place during the pandemic. But while their team watched the Giving Day progress from individual laptops at home, they still felt united in the celebration of philanthropy for their community. They even connected face-to-face by joining a Zoom call whenever they were about to reach a milestone so the whole team could watch the stats bar cross a threshold live or select prize winners together!
The 401Gives team focused a lot of attention on prizes to incentivize nonprofits to engage their audiences throughout the day. In response to COVID-19, they changed their prize strategy by adjusting most competitive prizes to be random selection. This was an equitable way for nonprofits of any size to be included in the drawings. Prizes ranged from $1,000 to $1,250 and any organization that had received 10 unique donations by the time of the prize drawing, was entered into the random selection.
Prizes are a great way to engage businesses in the community. Representatives of the businesses that sponsored the prizes for 401Gives created videos of themselves announcing the winners throughout the day on social media. Next year, when the day can expand beyond being 100% virtual, their plan is to go all out and surprise the winning nonprofits at their offices with large checks!
In addition to prizes, United Way of Rhode Island secured $55k in matching funds for a “match-hour.” Anytime someone made a donation during the match-hour, their gift was matched by this fund, doubling the impact! The $55k was depleted in the first 27 minutes of the match-hour, which started at 6am and generated almost $80k in online donations in the first 30 minutes as donors made gifts hoping to get funds matched for their favorite nonprofits. Coordinating a match-hour was an effective way to engage large donors and businesses who wanted to support the Giving Day, and give all participating organizations an equitable way to win more funds. $5k of the total matching funds even came in unsolicited at the last minute in the spirit of lifting up nonprofits during a time of crisis. Rhode Island’s community at large was ready to show up (virtually) and support their nonprofit community when they needed it most!
“Nonprofits were seeking the guidance from United Way of Rhode Island as a philanthropic leader in their community when their board and staff were divided on if they should move forward with their regular fundraising initiatives during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jennifer Remmes, Manager of Digital Resource Development at United Way of Rhode Island. “The organizations that kept up with their regular marketing, email newsletters, and social media, did really well!”
To further support participating nonprofits with their marketing efforts, a unique collaboration was set up with a local Newport, RI community college, Salve Regina University. Students in Salve’s Marketing and Fundraising for Nonprofits class worked with some of the nonprofits participating in 401Gives on their marketing strategies and implementation. This was an awesome opportunity for students to work with nonprofits and for the nonprofits who needed the extra marketing help. United Way of Rhode Island hopes to expand this opportunity to other local universities and colleges in the future.
The 401Gives team stayed creative throughout their months of planning, pivoting during the time of crisis, and event execution, while the GiveGab team supported them with a streamlined process.
GiveGab’s project manager, Laryssa Hebert, said “It was a great experience working with the 401Gives team! They are a forward-thinking group that just works with such momentum and energy. We feel so fortunate that GiveGab’s Giving Day platform was the innovative solution that matched their mindset for how to launch this new initiative for Rhode Island.”
GiveGab’s Giving Day platform offers the flexibility for hosting organizations to make it the right fit for their community and overall strategy. For example, a Giving Day doesn’t have to be strictly 24-hours. 401Gives took place on April 1, 2020, but the team had donations open up a week early. This provided peer-to-peer fundraisings to gain momentum leading up to the big day. Likewise, donations were left open on April 2nd so anyone who arrived late to the game could still give!
The week leading up to April 1st accounted for 8% of overall donations. Leaving donations up on April 2nd accounted for 10% of overall donations.
United Way of Rhode Island planned for their first Giving Day almost a year in advance and their efforts paid off in a million-dollar way.
“I can’t thank the GiveGab team enough! This was an amazing experience and our team felt well attended to throughout the whole process hosting our very first Giving Day. GiveGab provided us a clear outline with expectations during our onboarding process, so we were able to stay on track and get creative every step of the way,” said Jennifer Remmes.