United Way’s ‘ROC the Day’ raises record breaking $1 million, on Giving Tuesday

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The United Way of Greater Rochester’s “ROC the Day” event raised over $1 million for local nonprofits — a record breaking number in the event’s 10 year history.


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — If you look anywhere on social media today, you’re sure to see some form of “Giving Tuesday” on your feed. That national day was created to help nonprofits, but it turns out, another program came first.

“ROC the Day” was created by The United Way 10 years ago. Their mission was to tap into Rochester’s giving community, and help nonprofits.

This year, “ROC the Day” raised $1,054,043 for local nonprofits, — $287,764 more than last year — a record breaking number in the event’s 10 year history. More than 10,000 individual donations were given to the over 500 participating organizations.

Jaime Saunders, the CEO of The United Way said that nonprofits are just “people are trying to rub two nickels together and make amazing things happen.” We caught up with her on this hectic day to get “The Big Picture.”

So how did it get started? What was the goal when The United Way started this 10 years ago?

The National Day of Giving started about 8 years ago, so it wasn’t even a thing yes. So right after the Thanksgiving holiday, we had Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and really it started to be about how can we give back as well?

And that’s what the giving Tuesday is all about. So here we are with ROC the Day, we raised collectively over $7 million in 10 years, and here we are this year and a year, like no other. So this is really important this year in particular.

So how does ROC the Day tie in to the national day?

ROC the Day was first, and now it’s all part of this national effort, and anytime we have a national movement of giving back and taking care of others, it’s a win.

So we here at ROC the Day, we support a nine County region. Donors can log in, and there’s over 500 local beloved, non-for-profits, many with challenge grants, meaning that your dollar is doubled or in some cases tripled.

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All of that stays right here and United Way does this as a service. So there’s no fee except for credit card transactions, but it really stays here, stays local and really goes far.

So how does that money get distributed to all of these different nonprofits in that nine-county area?

It happens right away. You get to pick the non-for-profit you want to support.

At United Way we focus on basic needs and emergency response. And COVID, we also have our amazing arts and cultural institutions, our animal and pet charities, probably some nonprofit radio stations too.

It really is any of our nonprofits that really make for a vibrant community are online. Individuals can pick those organizations.

You could pick the crisis fund. We need that support right now in terms of COVID crisis response. That’s what the United way and the community foundation, and we are providing supports for not-for-profits and our frontline workers.

I see the “featured cause” on the site. How often does that update and how is that a part of this?

Yeah, it changes all the time. So probably when you refresh your page or in a few minutes, it will keep highlighting any of those 500 plus not-for-profits. And we also get, have challenged grants.

There’s bonuses happening every hour on the hour, our United Way staff have been onsite at United way safely distanced. Since midnight staffing phones, answering questions, taking donations, as well as helping to support the website. So there’s lots of ways to get engaged and to support the community.

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And every year there is need. There’s no question.

This year in particular, many not for profits, their fundraisers were canceled. They are seeing increased demand for services, and we’re going to continue to see that climb in the new year. So this is really the year for Rochester to step up. And we have every confidence that we will.

If there’s any phrase that can be ascribed to 2020 it’s “Wow, what a year.” So that said, as of 12:08 PM, you’ve raised over $278,000. How does that feel?

That is amazing to me. I got to tell you Rochester’s stepping up big. So if my math is right, we are trending way ahead, more than 70% ahead of where we were exactly at noon this time, last year.

I think a sense of people want to come together, want to unite around a good cause, and this is the year to do it. We need to help support our neighbors. We need to recover, get through and beyond COVID. And again, this is the year, so we’re just incredibly grateful.

Fantastic. Anyone who is happening to read this and think to themselves, well, how can I donate?


They can pick a charity or pick a topic area, passion area that they have, if it’s children or animals or hearts or crisis response, they can go right there. And again, most of our organizations have challenged grants with doubles your dollar right there on the site.

We will be running all the way till midnight. So 24 hours of giving. And again, Rochester, you’re just always, always impressed. It’s a giving community. And we’re just so grateful that everybody is stepping up to the challenge.

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