December, 2010

  • ‘Tech Talent 4 Good’ brings students and nonprofits together

    Wouldn’t it be amazing to combine a passion for technology with a unique opportunity to do something worthwhile for a charitable organization? This week we are celebrating the launch of the “Tech Talent 4 Good”  initiative in Europe that aims to accomplish just that.

    For many years at Microsoft, we have been deeply committed to ensuring the magic of software is accessible to the nonprofit community.  Nonprofit organizations strive to serve communities and fill social and economic gaps particularly in tough economic times, when resources are increasingly tight.  The transformational power of technology for such organizations is profound and is something I have witnessed firsthand again and again. Last year as part of this commitment our company donated over $80m in software and cash to 6,600 non-profits in Europe.

    Access alone however, is not enough. IT services, support and know-how are a fundamental part of unleashing the power of technology for nonprofits. This is why we are piloting a new initiative to engage IT students in Europe to help nonprofits and charitable organizations to get the greatest benefits from technology.

    In partnership with AIESEC International, the  world's largest student‐run organization, the Microsoft Community Affairs Unlimited Potential program is very excited to introduce the “Tech Talent 4 Good” internship program. Through a competitive selection process, we are offering 10 internships to European IT students or recent graduates for a 2 month period (July-August 2011) with 10 nonprofit, charitable organizations around Europe.

    We are looking to engage the energy and passion of IT graduates fresh out of college through an opportunity to do something good. This is the chance for students to apply their technology skills and creativity working in a nonprofit environment and above all to learn about the critical role of technology in optimizing day to day operations to serve the most vulnerable in society.

    You can learn more about the application process here. As part of the process candidates will be asked to consider reality based scenarios for non-profit organizations and provide recommendations. This internship program is open to IT students or recent IT graduates in Europe during this initial pilot year. 

    Sylvie Laffarge, Director Community Affairs Europe at Microsoft.

    Sylvie J. Laffarge is Director of Community Affairs and oversees Microsoft’s community and philanthropic investments and outreach in Europe. This includes leading Microsoft’s flagship community investment programs including the Unlimited Potential, Community Technology Skills Program, software donations and employee volunteering.

  • Remote Access Proves Critical to New Zealand NGO after Earthquake

    By Erica Lorraine Scheidt, Director of Marketing Communications at TechSoup Global

    Through my work with TechSoup Global, all kinds of amazing stories cross my desk, but a letter we received from the Cystic Fibrosis Association of New Zealand after their recent earthquake piqued my interest. A year earlier, when they had received donations from Microsoft through TechSoup New Zealand, they had no idea that the software would prove critical to their ability to serve their members after the 7.2 earthquake struck Christchurch on September 3, 2010.

    Before the earthquake, Julie Clemmett, administrator for the Cystic Fibrosis Association of New Zealand, said this about her software donation: “Last year when our computer system was limping along, trying to avoid an imminent fatality, Microsoft and TechSoup came to our rescue with software allowing us to upgrade to a server-based system.

    What a change! The timely upgrade has allowed our staff more efficient access whilst in the office and also enabled our staff on the road and in remote offices to be able to access the information directly. Before implementing Microsoft Small Business Server, our remote employees would call and have information relayed over the phone.”

    Remote access proved crucial to the Cystic Fibrosis Association of New Zealand’s business continuity after the earthquake impaired movement around the city. Clemmett continues:

    “I’m working from home today because of the earthquake and that’s only possible because of Small Business Server and Office Professional Plus that we received from Microsoft and TechSoup. It’s a huge boon for our organization, allowing the CEO and fieldworkers access to our data when we’re away from the office.”

    NGOs often play a crucial role during and after a natural disaster or crisis. Building their IT capacity, as in the case of the Cystic Fibrosis Association of New Zealand, allows them to continue delivering services even after disaster strikes.

    Cystic Fibrosis is New Zealand’s most common life-threatening inherited disease, and the Cystic Fibrosis Association of New Zealand is the only national organization dedicated to all aspects of the condition. The flexibility offered by a stable, secure and scalable technology infrastructure greatly supports the Cystic Fibrosis Association’s mission, no matter what the circumstances.

    Erica Lorraine Scheidt is the Director of Marketing Communications at TechSoup Global. TechSoup Global a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization that was founded in 1987 on the belief that technology is a powerful enabler for social change.

  • Technology to help giving

    Like our colleagues in other countries the work we do in local communities is very important to us and as we move closer to Christmas it's great to be able to tell you about something that Microsoft UK is doing to help the vulnerable and underprivileged children in our communities this festive season.

    For ten years now we have run our 'Giving Tree' campaign in the Microsoft Thames Valley Park offices, situated in South East England. In recent years we've also expanded our Giving Tree campaign to other offices across the United Kingdom.

    Each 'Giving Tree' is decorated with Giving Tags, each of which contains a wish from a child with a disadvantaged background. Local charities know these children – some of them are in care, have lost their home, or are in Women's Refuges with little more possessions than the clothes they came in. Our employees pick tags from the Giving Tree and buy the gift which is then sent to the child to brighten their Christmas.

    This year, we made the decision to open an 'online branch' of the Giving Tree, giving employees who don't work in one of our main UK offices or workers based at home the opportunity to browse the Giving Tree via the Microsoft intranet.

    We took the idea to two of our fantastic technical interns from Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS). They built the new online Giving Tree on Microsoft technology using our Microsoft SharePoint Server technology with a user interface written in Microsoft Silverlight. Now an employee simply needs to visit our Giving Tree intranet site and 'drag' the virtual tags from the tree. Our MCS interns also developed functionality that provide access for users with limited dexterity or those using screen readers.

    Pictured: The team behind the online Giving Tree (Left to right: James Glading, Technical Consultant, MCS; Michael Tsikkos, Technical Consultant, MCS; Adam Jackson, Community Affairs Coordinator, Microsoft UK)

    We anticipated that around 30% of our Giving Tree tags would be taken this year using the online application. However happily this was rather an underestimation, in fact around 70% of our Giving Tree tags have had to be put online to cope with demand. One week into our campaign we've already distributed more tags than over the whole campaign last year, and we're running out fast.  Of course more tags mean more happy children this Christmas.

    Find out more about our Thames Valley Park Tree and one of the organizations we're supporting this Christmas at

    You can find out more about Microsoft’s Citizenship efforts in the UK here.

    Adam Jackson, Community Affairs Coordinator, Microsoft UK.

    Adam is on a year-long internship with Microsoft UK.  He looks after Employee Engagement, Work Experience and Environment communications. He is studying Human Resource Management and in his spare time enjoys travel and volunteering.

  • NGO Spotlight: La Comunidad Hispana, Kennett Square, PA

    When tough economic times hit, it’s often those on the lowest rungs of the income ladder who suffer the most. They’re the ones whose jobs are eliminated first; who suffer the most from cutbacks. And all too often, they’re La Comunidad Hispana’s clients.

    Last year, La Comunidad Hispana proudly moved into its own permanent home after 36 years. Until the move, all the organization’s IT needs had been met by its parent organization. Now in its own facility, it needed to rebuild its IT infrastructure from the ground up. Staff worried that the organization’s mission — empowering immigrants and low-income residents of Southern Chester County, Pennsylvania, to stay healthy, build strong families and lead productive and fulfilling lives — would receive less attention during this time-consuming move and IT migration.

    What would that mean for people like Maria and her three children who had no health-care coverage?

    Or for Juan, whose passport was destroyed by a police officer who assumed it was forged?

    Or for Maria and Jose, whose nine-month-old daughter needed surgery for a congenital condition and who had no car?

    Or for Pedro, who was being disrespected at his job because of his poor language skills?

    They were thrilled to discover the Microsoft software donations program. Operated by TechSoup it provided a straightforward way for them to request donations of the software they needed to outfit their new office. Following a donation of Windows Remote Desktop Services, Microsoft Office, Windows Server, and Small Business Server, executive director Margarita Queralt Mirkil wrote to: “As you know so well, access to IT resources is vital to a nonprofit organization’s success. Everything we do — to serve our clients and advocate on their behalf — depends on having up-to-date computer software. And for a small organization, it’s a daunting expense. The amazing contribution we received from Microsoft allows us to redirect the equivalent of a large grant where it’s needed most — to meeting our clients’ needs.”

    With that, La Comunidad Hispana’s focus was turned back toward its mission of restoring hope and providing support to those who needed it most.

    Like Maria: La Comunidad provided treatment for her severe kidney disease and arranged medical assistance for her and her three children.

    And Juan: La Comunidad secured him new passport documents by working directly with the Mexican consulate.

    And Maria, Jose, and their daughter: La Comunidad not only arranged a referral to A.I. DuPont Children’s Hospital for the surgery, but one of their family care specialists also drove Maria and Jose to and from the hospital for pre-surgical tests, their daughter’s hospital stay, and post-surgical follow-up visits. In just over a month after the surgery, this beautiful girl blossomed and began speaking.

    And Pedro: An ESL teacher at La Comunidad encouraged him to leave his job and helped him find work at a large horse farm where he improved his language skills and eventually became the farm’s manager.

    La Comunidad Hispana believes that with access to high-quality, culturally welcoming services, immigrants and low-income residents of Southern Chester County are able to contribute more fully to the social vibrancy and economic prosperity of the region.

    At Microsoft, we’re excited to support an organization like La Comunidad Hispana. For more information about how other great nonprofit organizations are benefitting from technology, visit the Microsoft Local Impact Map.

    For more information about the resources Microsoft provides for nonprofit organizations please visit our site.

  • How PowerPoint is helping to protect motorcyclists in London

    Typically, helmets, riding suits, gloves and goggles that are the best way to keep motorcyclists safe on the road.

    It’s time to add PowerPoint to the list.

    Motorcycle-related accident statistics are sobering. Motorcycles represent 4% of the United Kingdom’s road trips, yet make up a staggering estimated 40% of traffic casualties.

    In West London, the all-volunteer charity Middlesex Advanced Motorcyclists (MAM) helps train bikers in advanced riding and road awareness techniques to keep them out of harm’s way.

    Software donated by Microsoft through its global nonprofit donations program, which is operated by TechSoup Global and in the UK by the Charity Technology Exchange (CTX), has quickly become an invaluable tool in the charity’s training armory.

    “PowerPoint is very good for what we need,” says Paul Brown of MAM. “We use it to produce presentations for the courses, including instructional videos. There are a lot of theory-based sessions, and now we can present information from the police riders’ manual more effectively.”

    PowerPoint has made a noticeable difference in how the charity educates motorcyclists. Paul further explains, “We run courses that raise the riders’ skill levels and aim to make them more aware of their surroundings on the road. In this way, we aim to reduce casualties and save lives.”

    In addition to classroom training using PowerPoint, practical training is carried out using Observed Rides. The Associate rides out with an experienced Observer, usually on a one-to-one basis. An Observed Ride is two to three hours riding between 50 to 80 miles. More information here.

    Photo Credit: Middlesex Advanced Motorcyclists

    Bonus link: Becky Wiegand at TechSoup has published her five favorite PowerPoint features.

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