Microsoft and Philanthropy

It's the end of the year and time for reflection on the recent months -- it's also the holidays, where we can see the best (charity and kindness) and worst (mugging someone's X-BOX 360 and pushy people at stores) virtues surface.

So as most people know, Bill and Melinda (and also Bono) were selected as Time's Persons of the Year.  This has been covered in a lot of blog posts and news stories so I won't get into how cool that is.  Bill's foundation (visit the site here) is worth reading up on.  A conversation spawned the other day at the WIM (a casual get together for the Windows group) about charities -- and the consensus is that people want to help, but feel aggravated at the following:
  • Uncertainty as to how much of the donated money is really going to the charity.  (Just look at the administrative problems of the Red Cross as an example.)
  • Aggravation that we'll be put on every marketing/charity list known to man.  I'm sure not every charity does this, but all it takes is a few bad apples to ruin it for everyone.
  • Borderline-rude Salvation Army bell-ringers at some locations.  Here, too, it may be a small percentage, but they're parked in front of every store and sometimes have a bit of attitude or try to make you feel guilty for not dropping change in the container on your way in and on your way out -- at every store you visit.  (OK -- that's a tad exaggerated.)
Here's where working at Microsoft is really cool.  Not only are charitable donations well organized and easy to do, Microsoft also matches employee's contributions.  Can't ask for more than this -- but, they will also match an employee's time (at a good hourly rate).   The result is that each dollar goes further, it's managed in a no-nonsense way, and it's marketing-list safe.  Whenever I see Bill in the news or an article on the charities Microsoft contributes to, it makes me proud to work here.  Evil empire jokes and all, it's an impressive effort, and I hope it's maintained when Bill and Steve are no longer with the company.

Now, if Bill really wants to get peak employee enrollment, here's an idea:  Give employees an X-BOX 360 for donations of $1,000 or more.  I guarantee results :)
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