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 http://bit.ly/fVnqMi.

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.