United Way Ottawa is changing the way it asks for donations, hoping to reverse a trend that's seeing more people donate to charities of their choice rather than the United Way's priorities.

Their donation forms allow you to give money towards United Way programs or have your donation passed along to a specific charity.

United Way's data show people are increasingly choosing to give to individual charities, which makes it harder for them to track what happens with the money.

"We cannot measure what happens to all the other money but we can measure what happens to the United Way money," said campaign co-chair Goldy Hyder.

"(We want) to be able to give donors a balance sheet. Here's what we collected, here's what we did, here are the lives we've touched and changed."

The result is a United Way Ottawa goal of $21 million, which is $9 million less than last year, but this year's target only includes donations to United Way programs.

"This is an opportunity for the United Way to talk about the money it raises directly support local partners, local programs, here in Ottawa," said Hyder.

Just over half of 2012-13 donations to United Way itself

United Way data show the United Way had a say in how 52 per cent of money raised was spent in 2013, compared to 64 per cent in 2008.

At the same time, the proportion of money going to individual charities has risen, but the United Way does not have control over how organizations spend those donations.

Brian Tardif of Citizen Advocacy said he's been critical of the United Way's priorities in the past because their priorities can exclude some people in need.

However, he said they're right to make the fundraising campaign target about money they can control, and not about the total amount raised, which can sometimes include money designated to charities in other cities.

"Trying to build the pot that the United Way is funding for around designated priority goals is going to have a greater impact on our ability as a community to respond to those goals," he said.

United Way Ottawa's priority goals for this campaign include helping children start school ready to learn, helping seniors remain in their homes and helping homeless people get off the streets permanently.

They hope to raise their target amount by March 31.

Donation % since 2008
08 09 10 11 12 13
United Way 64 63 63 58 52 52
Individual charities 36 37 37 42 42 48