Microsoft’s employee philanthropy program dished out a record $117 million to nonprofits and schools last year, the company said on Thursday, topping the 2013 total of $113 million.
Those donations included contributions from two thirds of Microsoft’s 58,990 U.S. employees. About $60 million went to Washington organizations including the United Way of King County, the Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Humane Society for Seattle-King County.
Microsoft offers to match donations of up to $15,000 per employee each year. Included in that total is the reimbursement Microsoft offers employees who donate their time. The company pays nonprofits $17 for each hour Microsoft employees spend volunteering their time. That figure will rise to $25 an hour for 2015, Microsoft said on Thursday.
The employee giving program dates back to 1983, when 200 employees raised about $17,000 for nonprofits, said Lori Harnick, Microsoft’s general manager of citizenship and public affairs. That year, Mary Gates, the mother of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and one of the most prominent civic figures in Seattle, had been named the first female chair of the United Way’s national executive committee.
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Corporate Responsibility Magazine last year ranked Microsoft No. 3 in the philanthropy category of its tally of best corporate citizens, trailing printer maker Lexmark and IBM.
“It started from our founders, and it’s just carried through,” Harnick said. “We feel it’s important to contribute to the communities where we live and work.”
In 2012, the cumulative donations since the program’s inception surpassed $1 billion, with more than half of that spent in Washington, home to 70% of the company’s U.S. employees.
The gains in Microsoft’s employee donations came despite a turbulent year for its workforce.
“This past year we did quite a lot of discussions with new employees” about Microsoft’s philanthropic programs, Harnick said. “We really just tried to get the word out.”
In April, Microsoft welcomed 25,000 new employees globally after its acquisition of Nokia’s mobile phone business. By July, the company was in the process of laying off 12,500 of those new Microsoft employees, along with 7,500 others.
The company on Thursday also announced the introduction of Tech Talent for Good, a program designed to match Microsoft employees eager to donate their technical or management expertise with nonprofits that could use a hand.
Microsoft already hosts a matching service to help employees find volunteer opportunities, Harnick said, but “we saw internally a trend of employees wanting to get involved with their tech talents.”
Erik Arnold, the chief information officer at Seattle health care nonprofit PATH, said his 30-strong information technology department planned to turn to Microsoft volunteers to develop programs to train workers to use its software.
Many of PATH’s employees work in sub-Saharan Africa or Southeast Asia, Arnold said, and haven’t spent much time with the donated Microsoft software PATH uses to coordinate its efforts to tackle malaria and other public health issues.
“A lot of our staff don’t have a lot of technology experience,” Arnold said. “This might be the first time some of our staff have had consistent access to computers and the internet.”
Fred Krug, senior director of corporate partnerships with Year Up in Seattle, said his organization also plans to participate in Microsoft’s new tech volunteer program. Year Up, which conducts yearlong training and internship programs for low-income young adults, will seek Microsoft volunteers to help brainstorm ways to ramp up its program to include more students.
“They do a great job of reinvesting in talent” Krug said of Microsoft.