Jon Fine, CEO, United Way of King County

In 1983, Microsoft introduced the first version of Microsoft Word, a product that would go on to revolutionize word processing and software interface. The same year, came the Microsoft Mouse, a device we all take for granted now, that changed the way we interacted with our PC’s forever. Also in 1983, with fewer than 500 employees, Microsoft ran its first giving campaign for United Way of King County.

With the foresight, the generosity and the smarts that would make Microsoft the company it is today, the employees of Microsoft injected giving back to the community into the DNA of the company.

It’s a tradition that carries on today, made stronger than ever by you, the employees of Microsoft. This year you helped 3,568 people in King County gain or maintain a permanent home who otherwise would be homeless without your support. In a time when we have all been touched in someway by the economic downturn, Microsoft helped deliver 24,000 meals to homebound people in our local community here in King County.

The gifts you’ve made to United Way of King County have helped 11,461 families find quality childcare, 5018 kids enter kindergarten prepared to learn and 6,577 new moms and dads learn parenting skills. But you did more than that…

Keeping with the Microsoft way, you’ve shown that there’s more than one way to accomplish a goal. Not only have your financial gifts positioned United Way of King County as the number one fundraising United Way in the country, but you have also donated your time, and your expertise back to the community. The $96 million you raised during your 2010 Giving Campaign will make a tremendous impact on the nonprofits and communities around that world that will benefit.

Before and after the Microsoft Day of Caring Project at Child Haven

When United Way of King County kicked off the 2010-2011 campaign at the Day of Caring in September, more than 5,000 of you streamed out into the community. You read to kids, painted community living homes, cleaned up child care centers and together we provided the equivalent of $1.3 million dollars of labor to area nonprofits.

Perhaps the most valuable thing you at Microsoft bring to the community is your passion for innovation, and for approaching the toughest challenges in a smart and efficient way. It’s a mentality that has come to characterize our region and it ties back directly to you and your spirit of generosity. So when something we’re doing gets a positive endorsement from you, the employees of Microsoft, it makes an impact that resonates throughout the community.

Let me give you an example. In many struggling families, parents lack the basic skills to teach their children. As a result, about 75 percent of the state’s lowest income children are not ready to enter kindergarten. This year we announced the expansion of the Parent Child Home Program, a program that sends a home visitor into a family’s home twice a week for two years to help with schoolwork. These kids then gain the skills that prepare them to succeed in school and the parents learn how to be their child’s first and best teacher. Research shows that kids who participate in the Parent Child Home Program achieve high school graduation rates at the same level as their middle and upper income counterparts. (Check out a video about the program here.)

Microsoft understands that a well educated work force is critical to successful business and a healthy community. On the very day we launched the Parent Child Home Program, Microsoft announced a gift of $1 million to support the effort. This endorsement, from a company and its employees who get it, who recognize a smart investment, has leveraged gifts from other companies and employees including several Microsoft alumni. So far we have raised $7.9 million dollars and thanks to you we are bringing the Parent Child Home Program to every child in King County who wants it and can benefit from it.

We’ve been incredibly lucky to have Microsoft General Counsel and SVP Brad Smith along with his wife Kathy Surace-Smith co-chair this year’s United Way of King County Campaign. They have tirelessly shared United Way’s message throughout King County in what is shaping up to be a potentially record breaking fundraising year. I would like to share one of their key strategies for the year.

Brad and Kathy are encouraging younger, small, and middle sized companies, many in the tech industry, to start giving campaigns. The message is simple. ‘Microsoft didn’t wait until we had an IPO, or until we became the tremendously successful company we’ve become to give back to the community. We knew that our success depended on the health of the community and the people that live in it.’

Here we are 28 years after the release of that Microsoft Mouse and that message still resonates. The Kinect has changed the way people are gaming, Windows 7 phones are popping up everywhere, and the Microsoft Giving campaign is more successful and important than ever. Thank you all for your longstanding commitment to solving our community’s toughest challenges. It is an honor to partner with each and every one of you who work at Microsoft.

Jon Fine is the CEO at United Way of King County