Meet our New CEO! (If you haven’t already)

Feb 28, 2022

If you think our new CEO looks familiar, you’re not alone. A longtime donor and volunteer as well as a current staff member, Kristi Birkeland has been advocating for United Way of Whatcom County in some shape or form for over 17 years.

You may have met Kristi way back in 2009, when she was part of the United Way campaign fundraising team (her hair was still brown then). Or maybe you served on one of the 7 Community Impact Panels she volunteered on over the years as part of our funds allocation process. If that’s not it, perhaps you got to know Kristi from her role as Community Engagement Manager, when she led our workplace campaign efforts, or more recently in her role as Development and Communications Manager. It’s also possible you’ve seen her face at our events, on our social pages, or in our educational videos.

The point is, Kristi has been part of the United Way fabric for quite a while, and we are excited to announce that she is stepping in to lead our small but mighty team as President and CEO.

Like many people, Kristi first learned about United Way while working at a local business that actively participates in United Way workplace giving. “At the time, this organization was very proud of achieving 100% participation in their employee campaign,” recalls Kristi. “I knew nothing about United Way at the time, but as the newest person on staff, there was no way I was going to be the one to break the streak by not giving!”

Kristi began donating $5 from each paycheck, and quickly found that she liked the feeling it gave her. Soon after, she began coordinating the fundraising effort at her workplace. The more she learned about United Way, the more she wanted to be involved, and the more involved she got, the more she fell in love with the nonprofit community and the amazing work happening here in Whatcom County.

“I’m thrilled to be able to step into this leadership role at an organization that truly has my heart,” says Kristi. “Every day I get to see the incredible giving spirit of local businesses and individuals who want to be part of something bigger than themselves, and hearing the life-changing stories that happen as a result is truly inspiring. The agencies we support aren’t just providing vital services in our community, they’re working together to make sure our most vulnerable populations have access to the tools and opportunities they need to become financially secure. This work is critically important, especially in light of the pandemic, and I’m honored to be part of it.”

We are very excited to have Kristi as our incoming CEO. If you haven’t met her yet, don’t worry! It’s only a matter of time.

Here are a few fun facts to get you started:

  • Loves mountain biking
  • Makes people do icebreakers at meetings
  • Can’t resist a cute kid or pet photo
  • Hasn’t seen that show you’re talking about
  • Plays a mean air guitar
  • Once walked 60 miles for a good cause
  • Prefers giving to United Way

And a fun Then and Now photo:

kristi then and now

Want to connect with Kristi? You can email her here.

Bonus if you include a cute kid or pet photo.

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