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The United Way of Buffalo & Erie County has raised the bar for this year's fundraising campaign, announcing that it will seek $13.7 million in donations. That's about $130,000 more than the United Way raised in its 2011 campaign.
Recent history shows why there's reason to believe that the agency can reach its optimistic goal. In 2011, the United Way topped its goal for the first time in nine years. The 2010 campaign marked the first time in nearly a decade that the agency experienced an increase in contributions over the previous year.
Organizers are grateful for the people who have contributed in the past and are working to remind them about the difference their dollars have made in the lives of others. They want to retain those generous donors and encourage others to join in making our community better by supporting improved education, income, health and wellness.
A progress report reveals increased program allocations for the first time in six years and the collaboration with a number of partners - Buffalo Public Schools, Catholic Charities, Say Yes and Buffalo Promise Neighborhoods - in order to expand from 12 to 24 schools participating in the successful Closing the Gap community schools initiative.
And that's just the tip of the charitable iceberg. The United Way also supports partnerships with volunteer organizations, sponsors a free tax preparation network that yielded $13.5 million in returns and $5.8 million in earned income tax credits. The United Way supports a total of 83 programs at 53 nonprofit human service agencies.
Innovative thinking and creativity along with business savvy has been the organization's mantra.
Executive Director Michael Weiner is proud of recent accomplishments, including the positive effect of the bold move the board took last year in eliminating the 13 percent administrative fee on donor-designated gifts.
Staff has conducted 68 new campaigns, raising an additional $130,000; corporate and foundation contributions increased by 4 percent and the agency generated $174,000 in its retail checkout scanning program, an increase of more than $40,000.
The United Way has instituted what it calls "operational excellence," and that effort has helped it end a third consecutive year with a surplus - $29,000 last year - and a reduction of operating expenses for the third consecutive year of more than $250,000.
This professional approach, combined with a heartfelt dedication to its mission, has worked, but there is much more to be accomplished.
The United Way aspires toward a 2015 campaign goal of $14.7 million, but organizers pledge to continue to be realistic. We're still living in difficult economic times that make giving all the more important, and also more difficult.
The entire region benefits from a healthy, well-educated and economically stable community, and getting to that point requires those who have something, even if it's only a few dollars, to give. Please consider donating to the United Way.