Silicon Valley may be best known as the national epicenter of technology, innovation and venture capital, but the region is also gaining recognition as an important generator of philanthropy.
Although Microsoft is headquartered in Redmond, WA, Microsoft Silicon Valley (MSV) office ranks in the top three Valley donors for cash philanthropy. MSV consistently out-contributes numerous multi-billion dollar Silicon Valley-based Goliaths.
According to MSV Employee Programs Manager, Lisa Marie Carlson, "Microsoft is committed to giving back to the community. It is in our DNA and runs from the values of Bill Gates all the way to our newest hires."
But an atypical feature of Microsoft Giving is that it puts the employees in the driver's seat. According to Carlson, "Microsoft goes out of its way to make it easy to give back. And we help you to donate to whatever it is that you are passionate about."
This allows MSV to make a strong local impact and for it employees to shape their own MSV-centric culture of philanthropy.
For example, Senior Software Development Engineer Matt Patterson is passionate about training assistance dogs for Canine Companions for Independence(CCI). These animals go on to aid adults and children with physical and other types of disabilities.
Patterson notes, "I socialize the puppies for up to about a year and a half and make sure that they can interact with people in a positive way. To do this, I have to be able to take them everywhere with me. Microsoft has been amazingly accommodating."
But making this volunteer work feasible for Patterson is just the tip of the iceberg. He notes, "Microsoft matches my donation of time at $17 per hour, which adds up quickly. That way, I can also give significant cash donations back to CCI."
Sid Espinosa, Director of Citizenship at MSV states, "We have a strong commitment to empower employees to get out in the community and to perform service work on their own terms."
Espinosa continues, "While other companies that match time donations top out at $300-500 per year, we give up to an unprecedented $12,000 per employee per year. And many of our employees use the full amount. Microsoft wants to make the point that 'if you care, we care.' It's really an incredible commitment."
Carlson says, "And we really encourage volunteerism in addition to cash donations. We even make it possible to volunteer without ever leaving the office. For example, we recently assembled supply kits for a local children's shelter right here in the conference rooms on campus."
MSV employees can also do remote tutoring over the internet and numerous organizations visit campus to speak about their volunteer opportunities.
Espinosa says that now "MSV is aiming to make a greater push in the area of youth empowerment."
He concludes, "We also look forward to engaging our employees to become leaders on non-profit boards and we are always looking for ways to help them to accomplish more in our community and beyond."