Microsoft's altruism something to cheer
Microsoft took a break from strategy speeches and product demonstrations at its annual company meeting Thursday to pat itself and its employees...
Seattle Times technology reporter
Microsoft took a break from strategy speeches and product demonstrations at its annual company meeting Thursday to pat itself and its employees on the back for giving more than $2.5 billion to charities since 1983.
The company allowed the media in to see the 10-minute segment marking the occasion, but, like the roof of Safeco Field closed against the rain, Microsoft kept a tight lid on access to the rest of the daylong event.
About 14,000 of Microsoft's faithful — many decked out in color-coordinated company regalia — gave Bill Gates a standing ovation during his afternoon presentation.
One employee, in the company of dozens of others gathered at the Pyramid Alehouse across the street for a less formal meeting, described the cheers as a "totally genuine" recognition of Microsoft's co-founder and chairman.
It was the first time many employees had heard from Gates in person since he announced his decision in June to wind down full-time involvement with the company over the next two years.
Another cheer went up when Microsoft Business Division President Jeff Raikes announced the company's charitable milestone.
The $2.5 billion total, equal to less than 1 percent of the company's sales during the past decade, includes software and other in-kind contributions, employee donations and company matching funds. The total does not include donations made through private foundations, such as the $30.1 billion Gates has endowed to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The company's share of the total is $2.3 billion, 12.6 percent of which was focused in Washington state. Employees have chipped in $233 million over the years, 68.7 percent of which was donated locally.
The company matches employee contributions to any 501(c)3 nonprofit group, up to $12,000 per employee annually. Last year, Microsoft began matching each hour of employee volunteer work with a $17 contribution.
Microsoft's corporate giving has accelerated dramatically since 2000. In an interview, Raikes said that tracks with the company's expansion and growth in employment, which totals 71,172.
The increase is not part of any conscious corporate strategy to burnish the company's image or smooth the way in emerging markets, said Raikes, who is co-chairing the United Way of King County's annual fundraising campaign with wife.
Benjamin J. Romano: 206-464-2149 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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