Microsoft's month of giving
Company raises more than $2 million at its Mountain View campus alone
When most people hear "Microsoft" and "philanthropy" in the same sentence, they think of Bill Gates. However, Microsoft works hard to make it easy for all employees to get involved in improving the world through the company's Employee Giving Campaign, a program that builds awareness about and provides tools for philanthropy.
To get employees excited about giving, Microsoft features an entire month of giving-related events each October. At the Mountain View campus, the events kick off with a pancake breakfast, where Microsoft's head honchos work the griddles, serving up pancakes and informative facts such as "it takes only $2.74 to provide a meal for a family."
This year, there was also "Cookies for a Cause" day, when employees purchased $5 cookies for charity and participated in an auction to illustrate that even small contributions can add up to a large sum. The money collected — over $9,000 — went straight to the Community Services Agency in Mountain View.
On other days, charitable organizations come to campus to make lunchtime presentations. This year's presenters included the United Way, which provided information through a Jeopardy-style audience participation event; The Village Children's Fund, a group started by several current and former Microsoft employees to build schools in remote villages in China; and Asha for Education, which strives to catalyze socioeconomic change in India and is frequently near the top of the list of organizations that Microsoft's employees donate to.
The penultimate event of the giving campaign is a "thank you" happy hour and trivia contest, to celebrate the employees' giving and remind everyone of the things they've learned about effective philanthropy (including leveraging their donations through Microsoft's matching program, which provides a dollar-for-dollar match of donations up to $12,000 per employee per year). The final event occurs on Halloween, when employees' families come to the campus for a party.
"Giving is often a family decision, and we want to thank employees' families, too," says Lisa Marie Carlson, community affairs manager of Microsoft's Silicon Valley campus.
To make it easy for employees to give throughout the year, Microsoft enables them to sign up online to have charitable contributions deducted directly from their paychecks on either a one-time or a per-paycheck basis.
"For the cost of a latte a day, employees can become leadership givers — people who contribute $1,000 per year or more," says Lisa Marie.
Employees who have more time to give than money can leverage their volunteer hours into funds for their favorite causes through the time matching program: Employees who volunteer 10 hours or more annually for any 501(c)(3) can log their hours online, and Microsoft will provide matching donations, in the form of $17 per hour, directly to the organization.
The results are impressive. Last year, the corporation as a whole raised over $70 million in the giving campaign, with over $2 million coming from the Silicon Valley campus. More than 66 percent of employees participated, with 36 percent becoming leadership givers. This year, the Silicon Valley campus is on track to set a new record since it has already raised $2.26 million with two months left in the year.
What's on tap for the future? Lisa Marie is already busy organizing a toy drive and "volunteer days" for December and a volunteer opportunities fair for the spring. She also provides regular notices in the company's newsletter about local volunteer opportunities and reminds employees that they can search Microsoft's online Volunteer Connection System for community service opportunities that best match their interests, skills and schedule.
"We want to enable Microsoft employees to pursue their passions in philanthropy as well as in business."
Jennifer Pence lives in Mountain View. She is founder of the Windmill Giving Circle and founder and owner of Academic Springboard, a tutoring group. She can be reached at email@example.com.