May, 2011

  • Connecting nonprofits to the Microsoft employee giving campaign

    Kevin Espirito, Senior Manager, Employee Engagement Programs

    The culture of giving at Microsoft is deeply rooted in our culture with our employee giving programs beginning in 1983 and growing each subsequent year. Last year our U.S. based employees raised over $96 million for nonprofits, however many non-profits don’t know how to take advantage of our employee giving programs.

    We regularly get questions about how an organization can get on “the-list.” Of course there is no list. Our employees dictate which organization their matching funds go to. The programs are open to any 501c3 or educational institution based in the United States. Although political and religious organizations don’t qualify for our matching programs, there are exceptions such as if a religious organization has a secular program.

    Last fall, in an effort to help provide nonprofits with more transparency to our employee giving programs, we launched our first giving program information session. The sessions are designed to educate both non-profits and our employees on how they can fully leverage Microsoft’s giving programs to benefit their causes. After seeing a standing room only venue at our first session last September, we knew that these sessions were popular but more importantly they were needed. Based on that experience we have launched a quarterly program of sessions where nonprofits and employees can come and find out more about the Microsoft employee giving program and yesterday we held our third such session in the Microsoft store in Bellevue, Washington.

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    Attendees at the Bellevue event.

    Cole Hoover Director of Programs at Lumana attended the event: "For me the event was a great chance to get to talk to people whose job it is to make the intimidating prospect of building relationships within Microsoft seem a little bit more accessible and human. It also provided me with a ton of information that I do not think my Microsoft donors and volunteers were aware of. I am excited to share with them what I have learned and use the tips from the informational session to craft a better strategy for this October. Last year we felt that it would be hopeless to try to navigate Microsoft to find supporters for our cause but this year after attending the session we are excited to get started."

    I have the pleasure of seeing employees creating change inside and outside of Microsoft every day. To be able to see these sessions come to life with engaged nonprofits who are learning even more about Kinecting, sorry connecting, to our employees is inspiring. Here at Microsoft, our employees’ innovation never stops, even when it comes to giving. We’re planning to continue hosting these sessions through the year to serve as a bridge between our employees and non-profits serving our communities.

    Kevin Espirito

  • Stories from the front lines: Elevate America veterans


    Memorial Day in the United States is a time when we honor and remember the men and women who have bravely served in the U.S. armed forces.  We thought it would be appropriate to share a few stories about how some U.S. veterans and their families are making the transition from military to civilian life. (Pictured Right: Kris Luckinbill, a US Army veteran now studying for a Network Degree at Bellevue College)

    Cheryl Goodwin - The spouse of a National Guard reservist who left her job when her husband was called to active duty. She is building her skills to find new employment after being out of the workforce.

    Gidelina Pineda  - A six year veteran of the Army, who after an honorable discharge, found herself homeless with a small child to care for. Veterans Inc and their specialized program for female veterans has changed their lives.

    Kevin Price – An eight year Army veteran, who, as a single father needed to build his skills utilizing Microsoft technology to stay competitive in a newly acquired civilian job andbe well positioned for his future. 

    Kirk Wharwood After 20 years of service, Kirk needed to supplement his deep knowledge and skill in data communications management with employer and industry recognized certification.

    Kris Luckinbill – A U.S. Army veteran who was deployed to Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Currently enrolled at Bellevue college, plans to complete his Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer certificate and bachelor’s degree to help enhance the skills he developed during his military service, for a successful civilian career.

    All of these veterans have one thing in common.  They are all participating in the Microsoft Elevate America veterans initiative.  The program was created to provide U.S. veterans with the skills and resources they need to successfully find civilian employment.  To support these efforts we are providing $2 million in cash plus up to $6 million in software and training curriculum to organizations working directly with veterans in local communities across the country.

    We’ve been fortunate to partner with the six outstanding organizations listed below, each representing a unique program and service model, but all very focused on serving veterans and their spouses across the country. The resources being made available include career counseling, technology skills training, job training resources, job placement and additional support services such as childcare, transportation, and housing. Together, we hope that we can meet the needs of the thousands of veterans and their spouses

    In addition to Elevate America, Microsoft is also focusing on supporting veterans through our own hiring practices. We’ve created a program, called Military2Microsoft, which assists U.S. veterans and those serving in the National Guard and Reserve to transition and find job opportunities within Microsoft. The Military2Microsoft program incorporates a variety of resources online to help make the job search experience easier for military talent.

    We believe that through initiatives like these, there is a great opportunity for the public and private sector to come together and ease the transition process for veterans and to provide more skilled workers for U.S. employers.

    If you would like to help support veterans and their spouses making their transition from the military to the civilian workforce, please feel free to contact any of our partners, listed above, or any of our advisory committee, below, to ask how you can help. And tell them Microsoft sent you.

    Elevate America veterans initiative advisory committee members:

    The American Legion, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Paralyzed Veterans of America, United Service Organizations (USO), and the Wounded Warrior Project

  • Appreciating our teachers

    A great playwright once observed that education is not about filling a bucket but about lighting a fire - a great teacher is the spark that lights that fire.

    Our teachers play a pivotal role in preparing children for life. Whether your child wants to become an artist, an astronaut, a carpenter or a computer engineer, the passion, understanding and encouragement of a great teacher will make a positive contribution to your child’s development.

    To highlight that important contribution, and with teacher appreciation month underway in the United States, we want to recognize the incredible work done by millions of teachers by encouraging everyone inside and outside of Microsoft to send a #thanksteach message in person, by phone, Twitter or Facebook to a teacher who has had an impact on you, your children or your community.

    To get you started we’ve recorded some personal #thanksteach stories from people here at Microsoft.

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    Why not take a moment to think about what teacher helped you or your family and send them a #thanksteach?

    To find out what people are saying follow #ThanksTeach on Twitter or post your own note on the Partners in Learning Facebook page. Partners in Learning (PIL) is a Microsoft initiative that currently supports more than 8 million educators, reaching more than 190 million students in 114 countries.

  • At PATH, Delivering Information Technology in Challenging Locations

    By Erik Arnold, Chief Information Office, PATH

    I’ve just returned from PATH’s offices in Hanoi and Phnom Penh, where a group from our information services team reviewed the state of our global health nonprofit’s technical infrastructure there. We also talked with our Vietnam and Cambodia Country Program staff about partnering on projects that include a software development component. I came home to Seattle knowing that this is truly an exciting time to be applying technology solutions in the developing world.


    A little more than two years ago, I decided to leave the private sector and joined PATH as chief information officer. I jumped at the opportunity to join a rapidly growing organization that creates sustainable, culturally relevant solutions that enable communities worldwide to break longstanding cycles of poor health—especially at a time when applying information and communications technologies is an increasingly important part of these solutions.
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    PATH works in more than 20 countries, including Vietnam. Photo: PATH/Nguyen Ba Quang.

     

    While these opportunities are exciting—and a big reason that I joined the team here—our immediate priority at PATH has been addressing the challenge of running information technology for a mid-sized global organization that has outgrown its back-office systems.

    PATH has grown dramatically during the past ten years, and our growth has been particularly strong in our projects in the field. This year, close to 50 percent of our staff are local workers operating out of our field offices in 23 countries. During this period of growth, PATH’s IT architecture, both hardware and software, expanded opportunistically, with a focus on minimizing implementation costs. Our offices used different systems, configurations, and solutions. So, while PATH has all the IT challenges of a global organization, we also have the additional complexity of ensuring information technology works consistently in some of the most rugged locations in the world. Forget internet bandwidth and latency, I’m happy when our offices get consistent electricity.

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    PATH’s work in Vietnam includes building the skills of pharmacy staff.

    While my goal as CIO is to enable our staff to have the tools and information to perform their work in the best way possible, particularly in the field, we struggle to provide up-to-date systems and timely data that take advantage of advances in information technology.

    Why? Like any nongovernmental organization, or NGO, PATH has limited resources for administrative activities. A core value at PATH—and rightly so— is ensuring that we maximize the amount of our funding that goes directly to the activities that advance our program missions. In order for our programs to excel, we have to carefully steward our resources and optimize their efficient use not only to extend our potential impact, but also to build a strong, sustainable entity. As a result, I have a fraction of the budget I had in the private sector for modernization of infrastructure, business applications, and reporting.

    I couldn’t be happier.

    Frankly, it would be irresponsible for PATH to build a large, complex IT organization. It’s not our mission to build thousands of lines of pretty code or to construct and maintain a tier 4 datacenter. Rather, I’m motivated to adopt hosted enterprise solutions, cloud-based infrastructure, and push as much as possible out of my datacenter. I need to focus software development on integration architecture with good data warehouse and business intelligence to facilitate transparency and stewardship of our donor funds. Our network infrastructure, file servers, email, and back office systems all need to be relevant globally, appropriately scaled, operationally efficient, and standards-driven to be easily and consistently supported by a small team.

    The cloud is the obvious answer. Moving systems to hosted architecture has entered the mainstream, but for a large NGO like PATH it’s really the only option. I need to control costs and improve reliability. For PATH, the cloud offers an unprecedented level of technology availability. Given the size and complexity of our organization, I can modernize our back office relatively quickly with subscription costs for off-premise hosted solutions, rather than absorbing recurring capital outlay, software development, sustainment costs, and ongoing salary overhead to maintain on-premise solutions. With cloud solutions like Office 365, I can buy archiving, SLAs, and disaster recovery for Exchange at levels that would be cost prohibitive were I to do it with an internal team.

    PATH is hungry for reliable systems, faster access to files and data, and consistency across sites. We also see that cloud-based and mobile solutions will be an effective way to deliver solutions to our projects. Our focus in our early years was on minimizing implementation costs. Now, the executive team believes that by making the right initial investment, we can lower the cost of ownership and provide better solutions.

    In retrospect, it’s ironic that the most difficult conversations about moving to the cloud occurred within the IT team. Traditional organizations use reductions in workforce as a direct way to achieve a return on investment upon shifting to hosted solutions. For PATH, however, it’s less about reducing workforce than it is about reallocating the scarce time of our staff. I have a very small network engineering team, and their time is already stretched. Hosting Exchange on BPOS/Office 365, for example, will free up resources to allow the team to focus on Microsoft’s SCCM and SCOM for systems monitoring, proactive maintenance, and production control. Hosted Exchange is about capping future staff growth and freeing up the team to work on other critical areas. It took a few conversations to get the team to agree, but today they’re motivated and eager to follow the strategy. We’re working with Microsoft to leverage the company’s commitment to supporting nonprofits while ensuring the sustainability of these solutions.

    Two years into my tenure, PATH is exploring innovative ideas and making investments in our long-term strategy of helping all of our staff be efficient and effective. As an NGO, we are less risk-averse than the private sector toward adoption of hosted solutions—not only because we have to be cost conscious, but also because the solutions are relevant globally. As the paradigm of software delivery shifts, Microsoft’s Community Affairs group is an advocate for the nonprofit community. It’s an exciting time to be a part of this technological transformation.

    Erik Arnold, Chief Information Officer, PATH

    Erik has more than 14 years experience in information technology leadership, project management, and systems integration and is responsible for PATH’s global information systems—including library services, records management, software development, and the global network and computer services teams. Prior to PATH, he spent a number of years working on designing and implementing large digital asset–management systems, with a robust cataloging interface and rich controlled vocabulary. He also has extensive experience with ERP implementations utilizing complex data integration platforms and reporting. He has experience with financial audits, forecasting, budgeting, contracts, HRIS, intranet design, data warehousing, and web-based dashboards. Erik holds a MA from Brown University.

  • U.S. Bank wins United Way’s 2011 Spirit of America Award

    Earlier today United Way presented U.S. Bank with the 2011 Spirit of America award recognizing the company and its employees’ commitment to improving the financial stability of individuals, families and local communities.

    Microsoft, along with Bank of America, Procter & Gamble and Dominion Resources received Summit awards for volunteerism and measurable community impact.

    Kevin Espirito 5.6.11

    Brian Gallagher, President and CEO of United Way, presents Microsoft’s Kevin Espirito (on right) with the company’s Summit award earlier today.

    Microsoft was awarded two Summit awards, one for the company’s generosity, and for innovative technology and software programs focused on improving education.

    “Microsoft is maximizing all its resources, from financial to software to employee expertise, to improve education and help young people and communities,” said Brian Gallagher, president and CEO of United Way Worldwide. “Their innovation, creativity and commitment set them apart as a leader and exemplary corporate citizen that is taking measurable steps to create a brighter future for all of us.”

    The awards recognized how the company and its employees also creatively leveraged technology and expertise to improve education by:

    • Providing TownHall software and assistance to create an online forum for community conversations around education, raising awareness around United Way’s goal to cut the dropout rate in half.
    • Helping fund the creation of InterroBang, an interactive online game for students that teaches problem solving by giving kids missions to complete in the real world. Microsoft volunteers plus nearly 500 students and parents helped launch the game by creating videos, songs, stories and dances using Microsoft technology at the 2010 United Way Thanksgiving Halftime Show in Detroit.
    • Helping United Way of King County drive an expansion that will ultimately triple the scale of its Parent-Child Home Program, which prepares low-income 3- and 4-year olds for later success in school. Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith co-chaired United Way of King County’s $111 million annual fundraising campaign, of which $8.6 million will be used to expand the program.
    • Creating and supporting countless STEM and tech-focused programs, including the Microsoft Math Partnership, professional development for teachers; EduConnect, where employees teach math and tech in schools; Imagine Cup, a creative technology competition for students; Students in Business training; and DreamSpark, free student downloads of software.
    • Volunteering more than 72,490 hours toward education projects and 363,000 hours overall. Since 2006, Microsoft has doubled the number of employees volunteering plus provided $23 million in matching grants, with a $17/hour donation for employees volunteering 10 or more hours.

    “At Microsoft, we have a long and proud partnership with United Way that goes back to our first formal community efforts in 1983,” commented Pamela Passman, Corporate Vice President, Global Corporate Affairs. “They are an important part of our commitment to helping create opportunities and solve local challenges in communities across the country and our partnership continues to grow. In 2010, Microsoft and its employees donated more than $14.3 million in cash, software, and in-kind contributions to United Way organizations worldwide, including $3 million in direct employee contributions, plus over 5,000 employees volunteered during the year. We look forward to continuing this valued partnership to help those in need across the United States.”

    In addition to campaign donations, Microsoft employees got creative when it came to fundraising, with a companywide charitable auction plus creating and selling a book of original photography to benefit United Way. The tech giant also provided more than $1.7 million in software to the Mary M. Gates Learning Center at United Way Worldwide; the center was named after Bill Gates’ mother, a long-time United Way supporter and board member and is being used for global education and training.

    You can find out more about the United Way’s Spirit of America awards here.

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