Microsoft corporate matching? It's time to raise the roof....

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2011/09/04 07:01 -04:00, original URI:

This blog is non-technical and represents my personal opinions about giving in general and the corporate matching by Microsoft in particular. Although I hope that some or all of these opinions one day become official policy of Microsoft, I do not and cannot claim that it is official policy, and anyone who takes this particular blog as "me speaking for Microsoft" is ignorant of the basic premise of the blog that they reference. Please take this opportunity to either understand this point or read something else....

stacks of money  

Microsoft is a very generous company, one that employs many people who are themselves generous.

Chairman Bill Gates is also very generous -- The Gates Foundation does amazing things, and it is interesting the kind of problems you can contemplate when you have millions and billions to work with!

In the earlier days, the policies surrounding charitable giving were quite different, e.g. the Manes/Andrews book Gates mentioning a time when the policy was different:

Microsoft was relatively generous with its matching funds -- matching employees' contributions to the United Way without limit, to other charities up to $1000.

I question the accuracy of that described policy, for what it is worth; the book came out in 1994 and I was on campus hearing about http://give just a few years later. I have only been a full-time Microsoft employee since August 26, 2002 but friends of mine who have been there longer haven't described it to me as working that way, saying it is more like the current policy, which has as far as I know been the policy the whole time I have been an FTE, described here:

Like many companies in the United States, we match our employees’ donations dollar for dollar. At Microsoft, we take it one step further by matching volunteer time at $17 per hour through the Volunteer Time Matching program. Through this benefit, the allocated limit is US$12,000 per employee, per year. International employees are provided a minimum of three days of paid time off to volunteer in their local communities.

That amount ($12,000) has not changed in all this time.

Despite the fact that the value of $12,000 has changed a lot, and thus its buying power and what can be accomplished has also changed, negatively.

I don't have exact figures to share on this, though estimates I have been given informally suggest that although a huge percentage of employees give -- and are matched, thus doubling the contribution -- that it is only a small percentage whose annual charitable contributions hit this particular ceiling.

Given the [probably true] premise that the majority of those who give $12,000 now will give the larger amount later, the exact cost of this change would be pretty easy to calculate, even allowing for the potential that any increased interest generated might mean more matching happens!

Every FTE has had this benefit for all these years, from the 126 Executives to the 21 Technical Fellows to the 51 Distinguished Engineers to the 13 Distinguished Scientists to the many many partners (all of whom make money and more than a few of which are likely on that list of Leadership Givers) to everyone underneath them.

And so every year that I have been an FTE, I have attended the Company Meeting, for one specific purpose.

Because when the annual Giving Campaign kicks off, when the execs sponsoring it that year announce all of the new things going on, I wait for them to announce that they are raising the matching ceiling.

To date, in every single one of the eight meetings I have been at, this has not happened.

There have been two years when I knew it wouldn't happen (the years of the 5000 layoffs and the health care changes and the bonus freeze). This is just common sense political stuff, where it's just bad form to point out ways for people to give lots of money when people are losing jobs or benefits or money.

But any of the other six years?

It could have happened.

It just didn't.

And now I sit here (knowing that the nice salary bump happened across the company that will appear in the next paycheck we receive) and hoping against hope that at the September 23, 2011 Company Meeting eight days later that one of the many announcements will be an increase in the annual matching maximum, or an increase to the matching percentage.

Or maybe a 150% match to Gates Foundation contributions, or a two-tiered maximum with a different one given for the Gates Foundation.

Or maybe that the amount now will be increased annually to keep up with inflation, so that people who want the amount they give to keep up with inflation can do so with Microsofyt's help in funding it.

Perhaps some really complicated plan thatis a good thing but thqat one has really carefully read to understand.

Anyway, you get the idea.

I want to be able to believe that this one particular part of Microsoft that has been stuck in the past will now follow the example of their chairman and his wife, and make more of a commitment to show that the company is looking toward the future as well.

Every employee of Microsoft should have the [company augmented] opportunity to improve the world to the best of their ability, if they so desire....

It is not The Giving Pledge, of course. But it is perhaps an opportunity to let that pledge scale down to everyone else!

Larry Osterman [MSFT] on 4 Sep 2011 7:51 AM:

About 8 years ago, I complained to HR that after you hit 13 years or so of seniority, they stop increasing benefits (vacation, etc).  When they asked what I would change, my comment was: "Increase the giving cap at 15 years" (I hit the cap every year so it matters to me).  They told me they would "take it under advisement".  

Michael S. Kaplan on 4 Sep 2011 8:41 AM:

That's an interesting idea -- kind of an implicit "we value your opinion and are even more willing to back up what you do" kind of thing!

Though the actual differential may be theoretical (how many people have >12,000USD in spare cash when they are just hired?). It probably surprised 'em, in any case (they might have expected a greedier response)....

ErikF on 4 Sep 2011 12:40 PM:

That's a really cool policy. Are you limited in what kind of volunteering you can do? I could easily see a Microsoftie being the "support group" for a small charity, where maybe once a month they make on-site calls to keep all the computers running nicely!

John Cowan on 4 Sep 2011 4:17 PM:

It's actually not that big a shift: $12,000 in 2002 would be $14,400 today using either the Consumer Price Index or the GDP deflator (which is appropriate when comparing what a chunk of money contributed to a project could buy for that project)

Michael S. Kaplan on 4 Sep 2011 7:49 PM:

It was $12,000 before 2002 -- I just wasn't eligible at the time....

Klimax on 11 Sep 2011 7:07 AM:

Looks like there is some kind of limit. because Apple now does this as well and even with same limit.


Michael S. Kaplan on 11 Sep 2011 6:55 PM:

Big difference between 10k and 12k!

Though its nice to see Apple taking steps, too.... :-)

Michael S. Kaplan on 23 Dec 2011 12:33 AM:

For th3 record, they once again did not raise the limit. :-(

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referenced by

2012/01/09 Better know an Exec, part 1 (Hanging with Marlena Werder + her skip & skipskip level!)

2011/12/23 What I'd do with my 'Microsoft 20% time'

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