Microsoft marketing chief to lead fundraising campaign for Seattle-area United Way branch

Leigh Toner and Chris Capossela will lead United Way King County’s fundraising campaign. (Microsoft Photo)

Microsoft Chief Marketing Officer Chris Capossela and his wife Leigh Toner will lead the United Way King County’s fundraising campaign this year to raise money to help alleviate homelessness issues and bolster education programs.

Capossela joins a distinguished list of Microsoft executives to lead the fundraising drive for United Way in the Seattle area. Jeff Raikes, the former head of Microsoft Office and ex-Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation CEO, and Tricia Raikes, a former marketing director at Microsoft, did it in 2006-2007. Current Microsoft President Brad Smith and his wife, attorney Kathy Surace-Smith, took the reins for the 2010-2011 campaign.

“I’m honored to carry on a proud company tradition of supporting one of the region’s most important nonprofits,” Capossela said. “As a company, Microsoft stands with people experiencing homelessness and other forms of displacement, including refugees. United Way of King County’s efforts are very much in line with our work in those areas. But beyond that, I think there’s tremendous opportunity to introduce United Way to a new generation of Microsoft employees — as well as to tech employees across the region.”

Capossela said more than 1,300 Microsoft workers are involved in United Way’s Emerging Leaders program, which connects young professionals in the area.

Earlier this year, Microsoft pledged $500 million to address affordable housing and homelessness issues in the Seattle region. Part of that plan includes $5 million for a United Way program called Home Base, which helps people struggling to pay rent avoid eviction and homelessness.

Capossela and Toner set a fundraising goal of $41 million for this year’s campaign, topping the $36 million raised last year. Both are passionate about education, with Toner serving on the Board of Trustees at Seattle Girls’ School.

“We strongly believe in UWKC’s commitment to build a community where families are financially stable, all students receive quality education, and homelessness is effectively eliminated,” Toner said. “The work UWKC is doing to help students graduate is especially moving. We know poverty makes staying in school very challenging, especially at community colleges where more than half of the students are low-income.”