October, 2012

  • Hurricane Sandy - Northeast Coast, USA (October 29, 2012)

    Molly Bull, Senior Communications Manager, Microsoft Disaster Response

    As has been widely reported, Hurricane Sandy is bearing down on the U.S. East Coast, with extensive shut-downs and evacuations from Washington D.C. to New York. 

    Microsoft is closely monitoring the situation, and has already taken several actions including publishing its disaster response ReadyReach information portal. This site provides information on updates & projections from experts, preparedness recommendations from FEMA, and links to more information on what you can do to help. A number of nonprofits are actively responding to the storm, including:

    • American Red Cross – Mobilized more than 400 workers, 200,000 ready-to-eat meals shipped, six shelters in Virginia and North Carolina.
    • AmeriCares – Assessing needs with over 130 response partners, positioned stock of supplies and medicine ready for immediate shipment.
    • Save the Children – Using U.S. Emergencies Fund to help prepared to distribute aid, psychosocial support, and more.
    • World Vision – Ready to dispatch flood clean-up kits, working with local partners to bolster emergency supplies, and more.

    Latest Information

    For all the latest news and information on storm developments follow NBC News and the Storm Tracker map. Another great resource is the American Red Cross’s Hurricane App. It provides great information about hurricanes, what to do immediately afterwards, and location-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) alerts. It will provide the information you need at your fingertips.

     

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  • Windows 8 now available for nonprofit donations

    We are delighted to announce the global availability of Windows 8 – the latest version of the Windows operating system – for eligible nonprofit organizations through our software donations program today.

    Windows 8 represents a reimagining of Windows. It provides a personalized experience with a beautiful new user interface that puts you at the center. You get a great experience for entertainment and creating content all on the same device, either with touch or with a mouse and keyboard. No compromise. The Windows Store makes it super easy to discover, buy and install new apps in Windows 8.

    To find out how you can order Windows 8 for your nonprofit organization through the Microsoft software donations program please visit this website.

     

    Join our Windows 8 for nonprofits webinar this Thursday, November 1st 2012

    TechSoup Global and Microsoft are hosting a special webinar for nonprofits this Thursday, November 1st 2012 at 2pm Eastern / 11am Pacific to introduce the new features of Windows 8.

    Todd Rutherford, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Windows, will provide an overview of Windows 8 including a live demonstration. 

    Register for the webinar here.

    Interested in finding out more about Windows 8?

     

    Windows 8 Pro    

     

    More about nonprofit software donations from Microsoft

    Do you work with a nonprofit?  The Microsoft nonprofit software donation program, which is operated in partnership with TechSoup Global, provides software donations to eligible nonprofit organizations around the world.  Find out more at: http://www.microsoft.com/ngo .

  • How Reach Out and Read believes in immunizing kids against illiteracy

    While literacy isn’t traditionally considered part of well-child visits, one organization is working to change this. Reach Out and Read believes that “immunizing” kids against illiteracy is just as important as general pediatric preventative care. This innovative nonprofit builds on the unique relationship that exists between parents and medical providers to develop early reading skills in children.

    “We partner with doctors and nurses across the country to promote early literacy and school readiness in pediatric exam rooms and give new books to children and advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud,” explains Eric Belford, Reach Out and Read’s Director of IT. “Each child, from age six months through five years, walks away from the doctor’s visit with a new, developmentally appropriate book.”

    Getting parents more involved in their child’s reading development also helps kids avoid the pitfalls of school failure, including low self-esteem, skipping class, dropping out, substance abuse, and teenage pregnancy — all things that can perpetuate cycles of poverty.

    The Boston-based organization of 48 full- and part-time staff members has been working to increase literacy rates among youth for more than two decades. Two years ago, it began establishing satellite offices around the country to spread the positive message of reading to even more parents. This expansion served as the tipping point for a complete technology overhaul.

    During this time, the organization added a dozen staff members in the Carolinas, Indiana, and Washington State. “After setting our remote staff up with new laptops, we needed a way to provide a seamless connection to our IT services at the National Center,” says Belford. “Microsoft has this great new technology called DirectAccess that helps us do just that.”

     

     

     

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    A volunteer teaching a child how to read

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    A pediatrician with a child, book in hand

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    A parent and child reading a book

    The only caveat was that in order for DirectAccess to work optimally, Reach Out and Read needed to upgrade all of its server and desktop software. This was no small feat. “We wouldn’t have been able to do this all at one time without help from Microsoft and TechSoup’s donation program,” Belford says. The nonprofit requested multiple licenses of Windows Server 2008, Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows Exchange Server 2010, and Office 2010. “These donations immediately cut down on support time and costs by speeding up sluggish computers and eliminating incompatibility issues.”

    Having all employees on the same technological page not only increased work efficiency and improved internal communication, but also ensured that email attachments received from outside the office — from everyone from medical partners to donors — could be easily opened, read, and shared. “From a support point of view, this has been invaluable,” Belford says. One staff member in particular experienced immediate relief once her computer was upgraded to Office 2010. “Her mailbox was too large and was slowing down her machine,” he remembers. “The new version of Outlook solved the problem immediately.”

    Belford hopes to continue to improve the organization’s technology platform this year by requesting Microsoft’s Lync Server through TechSoup. “This will help us continue to improve communication and collaboration efforts with our satellites,” Belford says with excitement. “We’ll be able to more easily share documents and use video capabilities to work together.” This ultimately means sparking a passion for reading in even more kids.

    Reach Out and Read serves upwards of 4 million families annually, and as a result, more children are entering kindergarten with larger vocabularies, stronger language skills, and a six-month developmental edge over their peers. Microsoft and TechSoup are proud to play a behind-the-scenes role in helping to “immunize” kids against illiteracy, one young reader at a time.

    More about nonprofit software donations from Microsoft

    Do you work with a nonprofit?  The Microsoft nonprofit software donation program, which is operated in partnership with TechSoup provides software donations to eligible nonprofit organizations around the world.  Find out more at: http://www.microsoft.com/ngo .

  • Bidding for a good cause (no bull)

    As we near the end of the 2012 Microsoft employee giving campaign we thought we’d give you a glimpse at one of the most popular giving initiatives: MS Auction.

    MS Auction is an internal only auction site that gives employees the opportunity to submit and bid on a range of different items ranging from collectibles (e.g. an actor’s shirt), experiences (e.g. craft distillery tasting), electronics, food & drink (e.g. six months of homemade cookies) and many many more.   Presentation1

    The auction takes place as you’d expect with people bidding (and auto-bidding) all through the month and the prize going to the highest bidder.

    MS Auction grows every year and this year looks like being yet another record breaking year.

    There’s an amazing range of items from getting your face on the front page of Microsoft.com to a trip in a Formula One car and a Caribbean getaway.

    However, there was only one choice for our favorite item this year.

     

    Bull (2)

    We’re not sure if there’s a steak dinner included.

     

    A big thanks and congratulations to everyone who contributed to another incredible year of employee giving this year!

  • Do you know what cats have to do with employee giving at Microsoft?

    Editor’s Note: As we come to the end of the 2012 Microsoft employee giving campaign we took some time up to talk to Susan Bunch and Karen Easterbrook the founders of one of the more unique and prominent campaigns that take place every year, the “Cats of Microsoft” calendar.

    MSFT Citizenship: What’s your role at Microsoft and how did you get involved in the “Cats of Microsoft” calendar?

    Susan Bunch (SB): I am a Global Program Manager in Microsoft Customer Service and Support, and have spent most of my career in the Services Organization. I love being a program manager, because even when it’s not the Give campaign I still feel like I am ‘herding cats’.

    Having been friends with the people who started the Dog Calendar for the giving campaign at Microsoft, I always wished there was something like that for cats.

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    So in 2007 a group of us got started. But there is no way this calendar could have happened without a team – Karen Easterbrook, Kristi Minietta, David Sullivan, and many others helped shape the calendar. To me, the calendar is a labor of love and represents the work of people who care about the cats, the shelters, and each other. We’re friends.  

    I want to add how important Microsoft employees are to the calendar – we are so lucky to have so many resources.

    Karen Easterbrook (KE): I am a Principal Program Manager Lead in the Microsoft Research Extreme Computing Group.  Our group does targeted research on security and cryptography projects.  When we succeed, our ideas and technologies transfer into Microsoft products and services.

    MSFT Citizenship: How did the “Cats of Microsoft” calendar get started?

    KE: Susan sent out an email to the internal group for people who love cats asking who wanted to start a calendar. Subsequently, myself, and Kristi Minietta joined Susan as the founders.

    We started with three goals:  1) have fun, 2) build the community at Microsoft, and 3) raise enough money for animal shelters to make it worth doing again next year.  That approach hit a chord and our community and the scal of the calendar has grown every year. 

    MSFT Citizenship: The Cat Calendar has tremendous support across Microsoft. How do you get the word out?

    KE: We rely on the community of cat people at Microsoft to take on everything from hanging posters, staffing tables at events, etc.  An Army of Cats, as we call ourselves, do the work and I think that has both helped us get the word out and has kept the energy going. While raising money for the shelter is a matter of life and death to the animals we are supporting, we try not to take the calendar part of it (or ourselves) too seriously.

    By far the biggest promotion that we have had is the badge posters across campus. Last year, we had 1,157 photos submitted, which turned into 588 unique posters for this campaign – every cat submitted was on at least one, sometimes multiple. That makes it fun for everyone:  there’s lots of chatter about who is in your building.

    SB: We do have some great event volunteers who have tables at Give agency fairs and occasionally other events when time permits. Emily Hoffman leads this group and is amazing with her enthusiasm and willingness to wear cat ears in public.

    MSFT Citizenship: How much did the calendar raise in the last year and what organization(s) benefit?

    KE: Last year, counting matches, we raised over $77,000. Out of that, we have to pay for printing of the calendar and the shelter has fees for PayPal, etc., but that’s pretty good.

    For the first four years of the calendar, we have been working with Forget Me Not Animal Shelter.  Forget Me Not is located in Republic, WA, and supports all of Ferry County. When we started with them, they were a hardworking shelter, making do with a donated single-wide trailer on land they’d purchased. Volunteers brought water every day to the shelter. Many/most animals had to be fostered at volunteer homes. But they were doing great work. We picked them in part because of where they were, and because of the difficulty of raising local funds:  Republic was hit particularly hard by the economic downturn.

    Now, we are working with the Forget Me Not shelter to both help fund their ongoing operations AND to start building-up other shelters. This year, funds will go to support the Colville Valley Animal Sanctuary.

    MSFT Citizenship: How do the shelter(s) use the funds?

    KE: Over four years, we have raised over $250,000 for Forget Me Not. This has funded:

    • Construction of two “Meow Manor” cat buildings
    • The septic system, water, electricity
    • The office
    • Fencing for the entire shelter
    • Washer/dryer and other necessary infrastructure (medical & microchip, etc.)
    • Sponsorship of their cat adoption program, funding the spay/neuter, care, and transport for 275 cats as of July 2012
    • Support for their “Fear no Feral” program:  223 cats/kittens have been helped. Adoptable animals have been put into the adoption program, true feral cats have been spayed/neutered, treated for medical conditions, and returned (TNR). Thirty feral colonies have been TNR’d as of July 2012
    • Support for “stop the cycle” spay & neuter

    MSFT Citizenship: How many cats have benefited from the Cat Calendar?

    SB: We know of the hundreds that have been rescued, hundreds more who have received free spay/neuter, and dozens who are returned when lost because the shelter can now microchip. Calendar funds also supported the control of 32 feral colonies. Forget Me Not does spay/neuter and adopt out kittens.

    MSFT Citizenship: How many photos do you receive?

    KE: The number of photos received has been growing every year:  for the 2011 calendar, we nearly outgrew one calendar, so for 2012 we went to two versions of the calendar. We received 1,157 photos. 

    MSFT Citizenship: How do you pick the cover cat?

    KE: We don’t. Thank goodness! This is one of the tasks that Forget Me Not does for us.

    MSFT Citizenship: If someone is interested in supporting this effort, but is not a Microsoft employee, what can they do to help?

    KE: We are open to all members of the Microsoft Community, which includes alumni. For a brief window in December, our calendar will be available for sale in the Microsoft Company store on the Redmond campus. 

    Beyond that, I’d recommend that people look for a great local shelter or animal welfare group, and make a small donation. In tough economic times, all charities take a hit, but animal charities are hit particularly hard. 

    SB: Volunteering is also great – shelters often lack resources with computer skills to design websites, assist directly with the animals, or even foster an animal. If you have a barn or safe outdoor area, you can adopt a barn cat.

     

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    Susan Bunch (left) and Emily Hoffman at a Microsoft giving campaign event.

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    Bandit, one of the stars of the Cat Calendar

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