Our mission

Our Mission

uniting our community and resources to build racial equity and opportunities

WELCOME

2021 marks the beginning of our new strategic plan — LIVE UNITED 2025.

LIVE UNITED 2025 gives us a new mission and specific, measurable goals.

Our mission is uniting our community and resources to build racial equity and opportunities for all Rhode Islanders.

Racism, health, justice, and economics

2020 spotlighted the failure for us, and everyone involved, of the war on poverty. After 50 years, this effort has been ineffective in creating opportunity and prosperity for all members of our community.

The pandemic showed that where you live and the color of your skin is a powerful determinant of your likelihood to live or die from COVID-19. And, murders of our neighbors like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor remind us that Black Rhode Islanders are eight times as likely to be in jail as whites.

That’s why we felt it was so important that our plan explicitly address systemic inequity – i.e., policies that promote unequal opportunity and treatment of people of color. We know it’s the right thing to do morally. It’s also the smart thing to do economically.

GenesisCenter_IMG_4591

Going deep, rather than wide

The plan will require United Way of Rhode Island to go “deep, rather than wide,” with investments and partners, to target the root causes that have thwarted Rhode Island’s ability to thrive. While we serve all Rhode Islanders in need, this plan will tackle Rhode Island’s great challenge, reversing the racial inequities that have plagued Rhode Island’s Black and brown communities for generations.

In order to “Live United,” we must dismantle systemic, institutional, and historical barriers based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and other identities. We commit to leveraging all of our assets (i.e., advocacy, convening, fundraising, strategic investments, awareness building) to create a more equitable Rhode Island.

LIVE UNITED 2025 strategic plan

The LIVE UNITED 2025 strategic plan will guide United Way of Rhode Island’s next five years from 2020 until 2025, just in time for our centennial celebration. You can download our full strategic plan below. Alternatively, you can read about what we’re doing right now in each of its four focus areas:

  • LIFT UNITED: Building economic security. (Learn more)
  • ACHIEVE UNITED: Advancing childhood learning. (Learn more)
  • INVEST UNITED: Expanding philanthropy. (Learn more)
  • ADVOCATE UNITED: Driving policy and participation. (Learn more)
Live United 2025 cover
DSCF2138

Truly a united effort; please join us

The LIVE UNITED 2025 strategic plan is rooted in data and guided by feedback from thousands of Rhode Islanders over the past few years. We are abundantly grateful to the thousands of individuals who contributed to the transformative plan that will guide our important work together and to those who support us.

I hope you’ll join us in this journey to make sure Rhode Island is a place where every individual in each community has equal opportunity for justice and prosperity.

Cortney Nicolato
President and CEO

HISTORY

From our inception in 1926, United Way of Rhode Island has effectively moved people from crisis to stability while working to shore up the systems that provide support across the community.

And, when called to action in the face of a global pandemic, we proved that we were built over the last 95 years as the best organization in the state to effectively harness resources from government, corporations, nonprofits and individuals to address the many major crises affecting all of us.

1926

Providence Community Fund formed to combine the fundraising efforts of various agencies and distribute fund according to where the community assessed the greatest need.

1926

Under Henry Sharpe’s leadership first president and campaign chair, raised more than $480,000 in a remarkably successful one-week campaign in October.

1935

Cranston joins forces with us to conduct a single community fund campaign.

1937

Royal Little, founder of Textron, established a trust fund administered by the Rhode Island Foundation that to this day pays the organization’s fundraising and administrative costs.

1938

The Hurricane of 1938 devastates the state, stretching the ability of the fund’s agencies to meet community needs. It also floods our headquarters on Weybosett Street, damaging or destroying most records.

1941

Community funds or chests in Blackstone, Burrillville, Central Falls, Cranston, Cumberland, Lincoln, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, Warwick and Woonsocket joined forces with us as United Campaigns of Community Chests to create a stronger sense of statewide unity in philanthropic work.

1942

United Campaigns of Community Chests becomes Rhode Island United War Fund and raises $2.1 million meet the burdens World War II placed on families, especially those with loved ones in the military.

1943

Compulsory withholding of income and social security taxes created the payroll deduction option as a method of donating to workplace campaigns. This remains the favored method of pledging for United Way to this day.

1946

War over, the War Fund was reestablished as Rhode Island Community Chests.

1955

Rhode Island Community Chests became United Fund and began to focus more on accountability of donor investment.

1960s and ’70s

“Great Society” social programs led to duplication of efforts between long-established private agencies and newer government entities.

1973

United Fund becomes United Way of Southeastern New England to recognize donors from and services provided in neighboring Massachusetts and Connecticut.

1990s

Developed Critical Issue Funds in the 1990s to encourage more experimental and collaborative solutions to key issues, like Making It Work and Community Schools-RI.

2002

Renamed United Way of Rhode Island, adopted a new mission: To mobilize the caring power of the community to improve the lives of people in need.

2004

Convened community summits encompassing 800 individuals to identify key problems faced by the community, then defined programs and funding priorities in three impact areas: solutions for children, youth and families; helping people in crisis; and building adult and neighborhood independence.

January 2005

Under new CEO Tony Maione, awarded first-ever competitive grants. More than $9 million was awarded to 66 organizations for 77 programs. Twenty-six had never received funding before from United Way’s general fund.

2006-2012

Awarded two rounds of three-year grants totaling $25.8 million to scores of social service organizations in Rhode Island, generating measurable results to create a better community and to be relevant to donors. Combined grantmaking with advocacy and public policy work.

2008

New headquarters at 50 Valley Street comes alive with community organizations and people in need of service from United Way 211 in Rhode Island.

2018

CEO Tony Maione passes the baton to Cortney Nicolato in time to convene community members in a new strategic planning process.

2021

Launch LIVE UNITED 2025 strategic plan with new mission: Uniting our community and resources to build racial equity and opportunities for all Rhode Islanders. Establish specific, measurable goals for 2025.

Featured image for Providence Journal Opinion Logo

Invest in after-school and summer learning

The Providence Journal

"As Rhode Island’s policymakers allocate [American Rescue Plan Act] funding for education recovery and school districts determine how to spend those funds, it’s crucial that they partner with and fund after-school and summer learning programs," share Roshni Darnal, director of community investments at United Way of Rhode Island, and Maryclaire Knight.

Read on site

Justin Thomas has made large strides toward building a new life in Rhode Island during and after his time in prison, but he remains saddled with court-related debt that will weigh on him for many years. He is among many people who may benefit from a new program that can reduce fines and fees, but not restitution. David DelPoio/The Providence Journal

RI opens path to break cycle of court fees

The Providence Journal

"Long after Rhode Islanders serve their time in prison, many are saddled with thousands of dollars in court fees and fines, even as they struggle to rebuild fractured lives... On Thursday, Nov. 18, a first-of-its kind event will take place to help people navigate their way back into society."

READ ON SITE

Two Youthbuild Preparatory Academy students sealing a wooden floor. Youthbuild is one of many organizations that make up Rhode Island's nonprofit sector. YOUTHBUILD PREPARATORY ACADEMY

R.I. can no longer overlook nonprofit sector

The Boston Globe

"The pandemic has highlighted the essential, irreplaceable roles played by Rhode Island's nonprofit sector. And our state investments and attention to the sector needs to reflect that."

READ ON SITE

United Way Welcomes New Board Members

“United Way of Rhode Island has appointed a total of 10 community leaders across its board of directors and its Community Advisory Board, while also naming a new board chair. Assuming leadership of the board of directors is Dolph Johnson, EVP, Chief Global Human Resources Officer for Hasbro, Inc.”

Starkweather & Shepley: Annual Celebration Honoree

“Here at United Way of Rhode Island… we take great pride in our role as a convener, bringing community stakeholders together to address our state’s most important issues. And we are tremendously fortunate to have partners that support not only our work, but also our vision for a Rhode Island that is the best it can be.”

Homes RI: Annual Celebration Honoree

“It’s no secret that Rhode Island is in the midst of a housing crisis — one that began prior to COVID-19 and that’s since reached epic proportions over the past 18 months. As it’s estimated the Ocean State is short some 20,000+ units of affordable housing… one group in particular is leading the charge toward flipping the script.”

UPCOMING EVENTS

Embracing Equitable Practices in OSTL

Join the Rhode Island Afterschool Network for our fall 2021 professional development conference, Embracing Equitable Practices in OSTL, on Friday, Dec. 3, and Saturday, Dec. 4. You'll learn strategies from experts in our field and receive tools to help mitigate the impact of racism and inequities on our youth. This is a virtual event.

REGISTER

Learn with Leaders ft. Steven O’Donnell

Join United Way of Rhode Island's Young Leaders Circle for Learn with Leaders featuring Steven O'Donnell on Wednesday, Dec. 8, from 6 – 7 p.m. You'll hear how Steve has risen through the ranks in public safety and now paves the way so underserved youth in Rhode Island can reach their full potential. This is a free, virtual event.

REGISTER

Community Learning Partners

Join United Way of Rhode Island's Women United for our next Community Learning Partners event on Thursday, Dec. 9, from noon – 1 p.m. You'll hear from Camp RYSE, Meeting Street, and Mt. Hope Learning Center — three Women United grantee partners doing exceptional work to support childhood learning. This is a free, virtual event.

REGISTER

YLC Holiday Event and Stocking Drive

Join United Way of Rhode Island's Young Leaders Circle (YLC) in spreading holiday cheer as we collect stuffed stockings for underserved youth in Rhode Island. Bring a stocking filled with gloves, gift cards, and other goodies to the Narragansett Beer Taproom in Providence on Thursday, Dec. 16, from 6 – 7 p.m. and receive a complimentary beer ticket for up to three beers.

REGISTER