Today is the start of a very special month at Microsoft. It’s a time when our people invest their energy, passion and creativity in raising funds for nonprofit and community organizations.

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While employees give their time and money throughout the year, October is the time that individuals and groups come together to raise money and resources for their favorite cause or community group. Every full time Microsoft employee in the United States can take advantage of corporate matching of up to $12,000 for the donations they make to nonprofit and community organizations. They also have the opportunity to volunteer their time and have those hours matched with a per hour payment to the chosen organization.

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The 5K run which takes place on our Redmond campus is one of the largest giving events with over 1,700 runners last year.

2010 was the largest year of employee giving in the company’s history. Over $96 million was raised during the year (with corporate matching) benefitting more than 16,000 nonprofit organizations – and $53 million was raised in October alone.

That sets a tough target for this year but everyone is committed to making it the best year ever.

During the next four weeks there will be hundreds of employee-driven fundraising events from the popular 5K run to auctions, poker tournaments, employee-created photo books, music albums and much more.

As you’d expect, technology plays a role in making the Giving campaign successful. From our internal Give site which provides all the information and tools people need to get involved, to our online Auction site where you can bid for an astonishing array of items through the month and a new online and mobile volunteering application which matches people with organizations.

We’ll keep you updated on some of the more notable events, fundraising ideas and news from this month’s campaign. You can follow updates here on the blog or on Twitter where we’ll be using the hashtag #msftgiving