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October 29, 2006

Microsoft's Annual Giving Campaign

Microsoft's Annual Giving campaign concluded last Friday. At the Company Meeting they announced that Microsoft had given $2.5 billion in charitable contributions since 1983. It sounds like that number includes everything, so it's employee giving, plus matching, plus computer labs and whatnot that we've donated. Still that's a lot. I've also heard we are the #1 company in per-capita employee giving.

I don't think much about the giving campaign either way; I've always had a small chunk taken out of my paycheck and given out to various charities I'm involved with. If you don't have any specific charity you want to donate to, Microsoft encourages you to choose the United Way. Bill Gates's mother was heavily involved with the United Way of King County, and wound up chairing the board of United Way International. I always thought Microsoft's commitment to charitable giving was something to be proud of, and more evidence that Bill Gates was brought up right.

This year, there has been more emphasis than usual on encouraging employees to give. I actually didn't really notice it at first; our hallways and Inboxes are full of various entreaties, and it didn't jump out at me that more of them than usual were about Annual Giving. But the comments on a Mini-Microsoft article have turned into a bitchfest about pleas for Annual Giving. Which made me realize that yes, there had been more nudging this year. If I were cynical I would say that managers are actually being evaluated on the percentage of people in their groups who contribute.

I used to wonder why charitable organizations (Princeton University being the one I was exposed to) cared more about percentage participation than dollar totals. Isn't it better to have 10% give $10 than to have 75% give $1? But at Princeton, anyway, it was explained that people with deep pockets (older alumni, specifically) do notice the percentage numbers for the younger classes, and if they feel the younger classes are committed to giving, they will open up their checkbooks for some serious lucre. I don't see an exact analogous way that Microsoft could pump up its participation numbers, except perhaps as a recruiting device to charity-minded recruits, but still I think there is value in a high percentage.

I would like to see Microsoft change one thing. As I recall, when I started Microsoft had annual matching limits, something like $1000 to educational institutions and $1000 to other charities. Then they rolled those all together into a single $10,000 yearly limit, which then became $12,000. But I really think Microsoft should boost that way up. Would it be so terrible to make it $100,000? I mean, how many employees would really take advantage of that? Yes, it would be the Mini-annoying partners, so it might be perceived as the rich getting richer, but really it's the rich giving more of their money away for a good cause. Microsoft has the cash; might as well spend it in a way that helps with recruiting and does good at the same time.

Posted by AdamBa at October 29, 2006 09:45 PM

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