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.

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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)
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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.

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Program aims to reverse learning loss

WPRI

For 30 hours a week for six weeks, the Summer Learning Initiative gives students the opportunity to learn in fun and out-of-the-box ways... "There’s ways to be able to explore and be creative without feeling like they are falling farther and farther behind, which I think a lot of youth are feeling right now because of the pandemic," [Marlene] Guay said.

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Summer energy bill assistance is available

The Westerly Sun

The Rhode Island Good Neighbor Energy Fund is open to all eligible Rhode Island households experiencing financial difficulty and [needing] assistance with energy expenses, even in the summer. The fund is sponsored by Rhode Island Energy, Block Island Utility District, Ocean State Power, Pascoag Utility District, Petro Home Services and RISEC LP and administered by United Way of Rhode Island.

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Forbes Nonprofit Council members share strategies for nonprofit leaders interested in getting large corporations to give.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS.

10 Ways Nonprofits Can Influence Giving

Forbes Nonprofit Council

As nonprofits seek out donations, leveraging... win-win opportunities can be an effective way to further the social goals of the nonprofit and potential donors. Below, a panel of experts from Forbes Nonprofit Council, including Cortney Nicolato, United Way of Rhode Island's president and CEO, each share one... strategy nonprofit leaders can leverage to influence major corporations to support community-serving efforts.

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United Way Launches Nonprofit Leadership Development Series

United Way of Rhode Island is launching a new leadership development series for staff of local nonprofits with annual budgets of $5 million and under and is currently accepting applications from interested participants. The no-cost program is the Deputy Director Learning Circle, and it was developed specifically to strengthen the competencies of nonprofit staff who aspire to become executive directors.

United Way Issues VITA Program RFP

In support of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program that returns millions of dollars to the pockets of eligible Rhode Islanders, United Way of Rhode Island is making a total of $500,000 in funding available over a two-year grant cycle.

Olneyville Programs Awarded $182,708

Through its Olneyville Community Fund, United Way of Rhode Island has awarded $182,708 in grants to programs whose work is strengthening the Providence neighborhood it calls home… Investments focus on creating opportunities for all by improving access to services for residents, enhancing educational offerings for children through adults, and increasing nonprofit capacity to meet community need. Eleven organizations received funding.

UPCOMING EVENTS

United Way of Rhode Island’s 96th Annual Celebration

Join United Way of Rhode Island for our 96th Annual Celebration on Wednesday, October 12 from 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. at Farm Fresh Rhode Island in Providence. Together, we'll celebrate the positive impact we've made this year, thanks to you — our donors, partners, and volunteers — and honor the heroes among us. This event is free and open to all. Registration is required.

REGISTER