June, 2012

  • Employee Philanthropist Spotlight: Erin Zuehlsdorff

    Last year Microsoft employees across the United States raised $100.5 million for nonprofit organizations around the world. While the total value is great, what’s more impressive is the stories of the 35,500 people inside Microsoft who made it happen. Over the coming months we’re hoping to share some of their stories, shine a light on why they give back, and showcase some of the nonprofits they are supporting. Our first spotlight is shining on Erin Zuehlsdorff. Erin has been working at Microsoft for just under two years but she has already made her mark.

    Erin has helped build a sustainable support model for Microsoft employees to volunteer for Global Give Back Circle (GGBC), an organization that enables disadvantaged girls in Kenya to complete their educational journey, gain skills for employment, and become agents of change themselves. Erin is a mentor for the program; however, the impact of her volunteerism extends much wider through recruiting other Microsoft employees to join the cause.


    Erin Zuehlsdorff, Microsoft University Staffing Consultant, has recruited several Microsoft employees to volunteer as mentors for Global Give Back Circle.

    It’s a natural ambition for Erin as she supports university recruiting for Microsoft Human Resources, acting as a staffing consultant at a variety of universities in the Midwest and Northwest. She also spearheads Microsoft’s high school internship program, which aims to spark an interest in computer science in young people and provide them exposure to real-life projects so they’ll be empowered and inspired to study CS in college.

    “I could not have dreamed up a better job for me,” she said. I really believe in Microsoft’s core values, especially those related to giving back.”

    Discovering Global Give Back Circle

    Erin first became involved with GGBC shortly after she joined Microsoft in September 2010. She interviewed Vivian Onano after she was recommended by a Microsoft employee when visiting to speak at a Microsoft breakfast series talk on education. Vivian is part of the GGBC and one of the first girls from the program to attend college in the U.S. at Carthage College in Madison, Wisc.

    “Her passion for giving and learning was so strong that I was inspired to learn more,” said Erin.

    She was then introduced to the founder of GGBC, Linda Lockhart, and was inspired to begin informally mentoring Vivian. The two used Skype and texting to communicate every couple of weeks. Erin, 24, often encouraged Vivian, 21, from a peer’s perspective as they’re not far apart in age. In Kenya, it is often up to two years before a young woman who has completed high school is able to join university, so encouragement from mentors like Erin during that period and beyond is crucial. Through GGBC, girls from all parts of Kenya are guided to apply to universities and for education loan packages, while working with mentors from all over the world.

    Gaining IT skills is also a critical part of the program. In 2008, Microsoft Women of WECA (West, East, and Central Africa) collaborated with GGBC to implement Microsoft IT Labs in Kenya. Since then, girls in the program have turned their gap period into a gateway through a nine-month Microsoft IT course in which they learn marketable skills such as programming, web design, accounting, and using the productivity tools in Microsoft Office. In the lab, the girls learn about university options, scholarship opportunities, and career planning. They research what GGBC calls “give-back commitments” to invest back into their own communities, all while communicating with their mentors to gain skills and confidence to pursue their dreams.

    Mentoring strikes a match

    After learning about the incredible impact GGBC was having on young Kenyan women, Erin was determined to do more for the organization.

    “I shared the story with other women at Microsoft and we learned that we could match our volunteer hours through Microsoft’s volunteer match program,” said Erin.

    Through Microsoft Volunteer Manager, Erin and other employees began to record their volunteer hours and request a matching contribution from Microsoft. At a match of $17 per hour, they realized that employees mentoring for GGBC could have a serious impact on the success of the organization, not just through their time, but financially as well.

    “Typically, women in Kenya are told from a young age that there are very limited options for their future, if any,” said Erin. “Being able to empower someone and say ‘I believe in you’ means so much to them. You may be the only voice telling her that she can do anything and that her potential is limitless.”

    Erin currently volunteers around six hours per month through her mentoring of Celestine Chepeng’ who is currently attending Todosia School in Kenya while continuing to informally mentor Vivian. She also coordinates and attracts new volunteers and serves as an advisory board member for a recent Clinton Global Initiative commitment by GGBC and three of its members, “Hey Sister, Get Clued Up,” a website dedicated to informing young women of a myriad of important topics such as HIV testing and IT skills. The Global Give Back Circle has yearly trips for mentors to visit Kenya and Erin plans to go next year to meet her mentee for the first time, give a career prep workshop, and see the IT labs in person.

    “Mentoring is a great way for women with a packed scheduled to give back in a meaningful way,” she said. “It’s such a small amount to give for so much reward. Just a small piece of your heart – two letters a month – can have a significant impact on her self-esteem and future.”

    Building a larger base of Microsoft mentors

    Erin plans to attract additional employees to become mentors with October’s upcoming giving campaign.

    “Whether you are passionate about women’s education or a cleaner environment, I would encourage all employees to consider making a formal commitment to give back in an area they are passionate about,” Erin said. “Nothing can be more rewarding.”

    Microsoft employees looking to get involved and to be a mentor for a girl in Kenya through Global Give Back Circle should visit www.globalgivebackcircle.org to learn more about the structure and impact of mentoring and to sign up, or if you are just considering and want to learn more email erstanci@microsoft.com or ggbcmentors@microsoft.com.

    “The giving campaign makes me proud to be a part of this company,” said Erin. “I’m incredibly blessed and it’s encouraging to know that the company wants you to bless others. It shows me that Microsoft values what I value, which is making the world a better place. That makes me a more loyal customer and employee.”

  • New tool puts nonprofit storytelling on the map

    Lori Harnick, General Manager, Citizenship & Public Affairs at Microsoft explains why Microsoft is launching the Local Impact Map for nonprofits, a new tool that provides a compelling way to share stories and impact.

    More than ever before, there is a growing need among nonprofits to effectively communicate stories of their impact on society. After all, how can nonprofits gain the support they need through volunteerism and donations without building awareness of what they can accomplish? In fact, the power and necessity of storytelling for nonprofits was a big topic at the recent Social Innovation Summit in May, which our own Akhtar Badshah attended.

    It’s why today, we’re launching the Microsoft Local Impact Map for nonprofits and for commercial organizations who wish to showcase their Corporate Social Responsibility programs. Originally developed to help showcase the impact of our Citizenship programs in more than 100 countries around the world, we’re now offering the application to nonprofits at no cost, with a monthly charge of just $15 to host the map online via Microsoft Azure. Using the built-in content management system, nonprofits can now create their own customized maps to showcase their work in local communities around the globe incorporating text, pictures and videos. The map also includes a host of social media capabilities so stories can be easily shared and promoted.


    The Aidmatrix Foundation utilizes their Local Impact Map to highlight impactful stories of their humanitarian relief partners around the globe.

    Extending Our Commitment to Nonprofits

    Nonprofits play an incredibly important role in every community around the world. At Microsoft we’ve always recognized the importance of that work and believed that by making the latest technology accessible we can help them accomplish even more. It’s the commitment behind our software donations program, which in 2011 provided more than $844 million worth of software to more than 40,000 nonprofits around the world. The release of the Local Impact Map is another component of that commitment.

    Ahead of today’s general release we’ve been working with a number of organizations to create their own maps including the Aidmatrix and TechSoup Global.

    TechSoup, an organization that helps other nonprofits obtain and use technology to heighten their impact, has populated the map with their global touch points. The organization’s impact map has numerous stories, including how they’ve supported U.S.-based All The Children Are Children and London-based Childreach International. Technology from TechSoup helps both organizations meet the needs of children around the world, helping them to provide access to quality education and healthcare.

    Commercial CSR Storytelling

    In addition to nonprofits, we’re also making the Local Impact Map available to for-profit companies such as UnitedHealthcare, who are looking for a compelling way to share the impact of their CSR programs. As with nonprofits the Map application will be made available free of change with a $15 per month hosting fee.

    We think this is a great addition to the technology we are providing to the global nonprofit community, and it provides a great means of enabling nonprofits to gain support for their work and commitment. Our hope is that the Local Impact Map will allow nonprofits and our colleagues in the social innovation industry to seamlessly communicate their stories in a visually compelling way.

    More information:



    Fun fact: The Microsoft Local Impact Map was a Webby Awards Honoree in 2012 for the Corporate Social Responsibility category.

    Of the 10,000 entries submitted to the 16th Annual Webby Awards, fewer than 15 percent were distinguished as an Official Honoree.

  • Cross Post: Empowering and creating opportunities for youth in Latin America and the Caribbean

    This week, Microsoft participated in events to discuss the challenges facing youth globally and how we can all work together to empower youth in Latin America and the Caribbean, specifically women and girls, and create opportunities for them to combat unemployment.

    Laura Ipsen, Corporate Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector, Microsoft, represented Microsoft at two events on opposite sides of the globe, specifically focused on empowering women and girls, an issue that is critical for both countries and global companies like Microsoft. She participated in a panel discussion led by Irina Bokova, Director-General UNESCO, to mark the first anniversary of the launch of “Better Life, Better Future”, UNESCO’s Global Partnership for Girls’ and Women’s Education at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. Microsoft aims to align once again with UNESCO to prioritize gender on the education agenda and to apply ICTs to augment teachers’ education and training. The panel discussion can be viewed here.

    And on Wednesday at Microsoft’s Government Leaders Forum for Latin America and the Caribbean, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and senior women government leaders from the region discussed “Women and their Impact in Latin America”. Ispen moderated a panel discussion featuring Dorothea Werneck, State Secretary of Economic Development, Minas Gerais, Brazil; Carolina Schmidt, Minister of the National Directorate of the Service for the Women of Chile; and Lorena Martínez Rodríguez, Mayor of Aguas Calientes, México.

    Central to the discussion is the mounting evidence that empowering women means a more efficient use of a nation’s human talent endowment, while reducing gender inequality enhances productivity and economic growth. You can read a blog post on her experiences on the Microsoft on the Issues blog here.

    Also at the Government Leaders Forum, the company drew attention to the growing challenge of unemployment for youth in Latin America and Caribbean. Thursday’s keynote, delivered by Brad Smith, general counsel and executive vice president of Legal and Corporate Affairs, spoke to the issue and detailed Microsoft’s commitment to creating opportunities for youth in the region through various initiatives, programs and partnerships.

    One new program, which will have a substantial impact in the region, is Nuevos Empleos y Opportunidades, or NEO. Microsoft has committed $5 million to the program, which will provide job training to one million youth, and aims to place at least 50 percent of graduates in jobs. NEO is a growing initiative that partners with both the private and public sector – an important aspect of the program that aims to not only train youth but to encourage and educate governments and companies on the importance of investing in this generation.

    Learn more about NEO and a number of other programs creating opportunity for youth in Latin America and the Caribbean here.

  • Microsoft D.C. office teams up with local non-profit Horton’s Kids

    By Matt Gelman, Senior Director for Congressional Affairs, Microsoft

    Microsoft joined the D.C. community on Wednesday to celebrate the work of Horton’s Kids, a Washington, D.C. non-profit dedicated to providing comprehensive services to 300 children and 100 families in the Ward 8 neighborhood. The event featured elected officials including Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, congressional and administration staff, Microsoft colleagues, and more than 200 community members and supporters of Horton’s Kids. All gathered to honor the work of Horton’s Kids and watch the Food Network’s “Restaurant: Impossible” episode, featuring First Lady Michelle Obama. In the episode, the First Lady challenges Chef Robert Irvine to renovate a community center for Horton’s Kids.

    I’ve been involved with Horton’s Kids since I met the founder Karin Walser more than 20 years ago when we both worked on Capitol Hill. Karin opened my eyes to the needs of the children in this community and her vision for an organization to provide basic services that most people take for granted, including nutritious meals, after-school tutoring, and access to learning tools. Yet we know that youth in communities across America face an “opportunity divide” – a gap between those who have the access, skills and opportunities to succeed in a 21st century economy, and those who do not.

    As a board member for Horton’s Kids for the past eight years, I am really proud of Microsoft’s Citizenship mission to create opportunities for youth through technology, training, and experiences that empower them to not only imagine their full potential, but realize it. Microsoft is focused on trying to help bridge the opportunity divide, particularly for young people who have amazing potential, yet are more vulnerable to economic hardships and need the right support.

    As part of our support for the Horton’s Kids renovation, Microsoft donated equipment and software for a state-of-the-art computer lab to support the children served by their Community Resource Center. Microsoft staff also installed the technology in the center, which included 14 new computers, 16 computer monitors, and 29 portable Acer Tablets all uploaded with the most current software to assist in the mobile tutoring program. The new computers will not only help the children become more adept at using technology but will also help neighborhood parents – who are able to take advantage of the community center – create resumes, search for jobs online, and communicate with potential employers via email. Microsoft also donated a server and software, as well as two Xbox 360 gaming consoles with flat screens equipped with the popular Kinect technology, which allows the children to exercise in a safe, fun, and controller-free environment.



    Students enjoy the new Horton’s Kids computer lab. The computer equipment was donated by Microsoft and installed by volunteers from Microsoft’s Washington, D.C. office.

    This new computer lab is important because it will help support Horton’s Kids efforts to provide tutoring and learning skills such as reading, writing and arithmetic. It will also be used as a more advanced training center onsite and “mobile” through the community for both kids in the program and their families.

    Microsoft is proud to help support Horton’s Kids, which is improving the lives of children in our community. The work of this organization and their mission to serve as a “second family” is an inspiration to me and my colleagues at Microsoft. We hope this new technology lab will help many more D.C. kids be prepared for – and realize – their dreams.

    A great example of one of these kids is Anthony Simon, who gave the keynote speech at the event and is one of the many success stories from the Horton’s Kids program.

    High school junior and Horton’s Kid participant Anthony Simmons speaks at the event celebrating the work of Horton’s Kids at the Microsoft Innovation and Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

    I hope you will take a minute to read Anthony’s remarks about what the program has meant to him and his family. He is why I am so proud to be involved with Horton’s Kids.

  • Fast Five Features for NGOs: Powerful presentations start here

    Microsoft PowerPoint 2010 gives you more ways to create and share dynamic presentations. New audio and visual capabilities help tell a crisp, cinematic story that’s as easy to create as it is powerful to watch.

    Here is this week’s Fast Five Features for NGOs for creating powerful multi-media presentations using PowerPoint 2010:

    Bring more energy and visual impact to your presentations.

    With PowerPoint 2010, you can apply sophisticated photo effects without needing additional photo-editing software. Transform your images into compelling, vibrant visuals by using new and improved picture editing features such as:

    · color saturation and temperature,

    · brightness and contrast,

    · advanced cropping tool,

    · blur,

    · paintbrush,

    · and watercolor.

    PowerPoint 2010 Photo Editing

    Add a personalized video experience.

    Embed and edit video files directly in PowerPoint 2010. You can easily trim your video to show only relevant sections, or bookmark key points in a video for quick access. Set the video to fade in and out at specified intervals and apply a variety of video styles and effects—such as reflections, bevels, and 3-D rotation—to help you quickly capture your audience’s attention.

    PowerPoint 2010 Video Editing

    Create high-quality presentations with stunning graphics.

    You don’t have to be a design expert to create professional-looking graphics. Use dozens of additional SmartArt® layouts to create many types of graphics such as organization charts, lists, and picture diagrams. Use impressive visuals that illustrate your ideas. Create diagrams as easily as typing a bulleted list or convert text and images to a diagram in just a few clicks.

    Captivate your audience with new transitions and improved animations.

    New slide transitions and animation effects look similar to graphics you’d see on TV. Easily access, preview, apply, customize, and replace animations. You can also use the new Animation Painter to easily copy animations from one object to another.

    Get things done faster.

    PowerPoint 2010 simplifies how you access features. The new Microsoft Office Backstage™ view replaces the traditional file menu to let you save, share, print, and publish your presentations with just a few clicks. And, with the improved Ribbon, you can access your favorite commands even more quickly by customizing tabs or creating your own to personalize the experience to your work style.

    Do you know an organization that could benefit from a donation of PowerPoint? Point them here to get more information on getting a software donation from Microsoft.

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