United Way fundraisers are aiming high this year with hopes to raise $4.7 million in their annual campaign -- despite falling about $300,000 short of the same goal in 2011.
But United Way officials said at a campaign kickoff event Wednesday in Kennewick that they're optimistic the Tri-City community will dig deep to help support the nonprofits and programs United Way funds.
"We're very realistic," said Gayle Stack, board vice chairwoman for United Way of Benton & Franklin Counties. "We're making an extra effort to target businesses communitywide -- there's not just a Hanford focus."
United Way raised just under $4.4 million in its 2011 campaign and distributed more than $3.1 million to area nonprofits.
Money raised by United Way goes primarily toward programs meeting the priorities set by Community Solutions, a regional health and human services plan targeting better outcomes in education, health, safety and self-sufficiency.
Nonprofits can apply to United Way for two-year grants every other year, and money from the annual fall fundraising campaign is distributed to nonprofits the following spring.
Of the money raised in 2011, about $1.4 million went to agencies awarded money from Community Solutions.
A total of about $1.7 million was designated by donors to go to specific nonprofits -- some included in Community Solutions and some not.
United Way also provided about $650,000 in community services, according to the 2011 report handed out at the kickoff Wednesday.
Just under $600,000 per year is spent on United Way administration.
Stack said one way United Way hopes to meet its fundraising goal is by using the Young Leaders Society to engage younger people in the community with the campaign.
"That demographic is essentially untapped," Stack told the Herald.
Matt Riesenweber, a co-founder of the society, said it was started about seven years ago to reach out to people between about 20 and 40 who weren't really volunteering or contributing to United Way.
Today the group, which has its own board, has about 400 members and raised $160,000 last year toward United Way's campaign.
"It's come a long way since we started it," Riesenweber said.
He thinks the key to the society's success is in offering its members a chance to give their time as well as money.
"They want to be more engaged in the process," he said of the society's members.
-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543;firstname.lastname@example.org