United Way of Cascade County launched its annual fundraising campaign Sunday, setting a goal of raising $1,222,000 this year, which would set a new record and grow the campaign by 2.7 percent above last year’s $1.19 million total.
With the money raised in last year’s campaign, United Way supports 28 local nonprofit programs and invests in community impact work to improve education and increase on-time graduation, help more families become financially stable and independent and improve health in Cascade County.
United Way President Gary Owen said that through grants to nonprofits, United Way will help 32,266 people in the coming year, but everyone in Cascade County is touched by United Way’s community impact work.
“Because of generous community support, United Way is able to bring together community resources to tackle some of our community’s biggest challenges. That includes issues like homelessness, academic achievement, child abuse and financial instability,” Owen said. 
Many nonprofits seeking grants this year saw increased need for food, rental assistance and other services, while at the same time had greater expenses.
Last year, United Way was nearly $500,000 shy of covering the worthy requests from area nonprofits.
United Way campaign chair Curtis Finnicum is one of 40 volunteers who reviewed grant applications from local nonprofits and determined funding. 
“During the grant process, I’ve had the opportunity to hear both about the needs in our community and the great work that so many are doing in our community,” Finnicum said. “United Way really connects all of the dots and makes sure people who need help are helped.”
“Giving is not just about making a donation. It is about making a difference. We hope the community will again rise to meet the need."
Area employers are also stepping up to be United Way pacesetters. Their strong support accounted for 63 percent or nearly $660,000 of the campaign total last year. 
The 29 pacesetters are: Anderson ZurMuehlen, Benefis Health System, Bison Ford, Cascade County, Centene Corporation, City Motor Company, City of Great Falls, DA Davidson, Embark Credit Union, Energy West, FedEx, First Interstate Bank, General Mills, Great Falls Clinic, Great Falls College - MSU, Great Falls Public Schools, Hoven Equipment, Hub International, Montana Credit Union, NorthWestern Energy, Pacific Steel & Recycling, Scheels, Stockman Bank, Target, UPS, US Bank, Wal-Mart and Wells Fargo. 
United Way Board Chairwoman Mindy Kiser said businesses invest in United Way because they are able to help so many people and nonprofits through one organization and because of work United Way does behind the scenes to bring people together to address the root causes of problems ranging from child abuse to poverty to school readiness. 
“United Way builds partnerships throughout our community to bring together the right people at the right time to tackle some of our biggest challenges,” Kiser said. “In these unprecedented times, United Way helps so many, but we can’t do it alone. Our success will be because of the hand-raisers and doers who help to build a stronger, caring community.”
United Way uses funds raised in its annual campaign to address Cascade County’s human service needs. Out of every dollar donated, 98 cents stays in Cascade County. 
Any local nonprofit can apply for funds. United Way volunteers determine funding by looking at the community’s needs and the programs’ effectiveness. 
In addition to the workplace campaign, people may give by sending contributions directly to United Way at PO Box 1343, Great Falls, MT 59403, or click here to donate online.