The Annual Giving Campaign: Microsoft’s 6 Tips for Success

October has become the month of corporate giving in North America. If you’re one of those companies looking to break the giving record you set last year you know exactly what you have to do – increase the number of employees who give and the enthusiasm with which they participate.

Simple, right?

Sure, until you ask yourself the question, “How exactly do I increase employee engagement in my annual giving campaign?”

The answer?

To find the answer to that very question, we traveled to the Microsoft campus in Seattle for a behind the scenes peek at one of the largest workplace giving campaigns in North America. The giving goal this year is a whopping 100 million dollars. No small feat – not even for mighty Microsoft.

(For more information about how these funds are invested in the community, read this article by Brad Smith, Executive Vice President & General Counsel, Microsoft).

Microsoft uses a strategy that we’ve seen successfully employed by other companies looking to create widespread participation in workplace giving campaigns. The strategy is to issue the role of “Executive Sponsor” to a senior executive who is willing to step up as a champion for the giving campaign.

Last week in Seattle, we sat down with S. Somasegar (who goes by Soma), the corporate vice president of the Developer Division at Microsoft, to talk about his insights as the Giving Campaign Executive Lead in this year’s campaign. Soma has been with Microsoft since 1989 and is an avid supporter of the Campaign.

We asked Soma how he champions the campaign at all levels of the organization. Without hesitation, he outlined six action points that blew me away. I think these action points are brilliant and may prove helpful in your campaign.

Microsoft’s 6 Tips for Success

1. Distribute Responsibility. As an executive, Soma has the opportunity to sit with his peers and have conversations with them about the campaign goals, tools, and benefits. Enlisting your peers is the first logical step toward broad engagement.

2. Think Small. Yes, it’s important that the CEO give a mandate for the month of giving, but if Microsoft relied on Steve Ballmer to make this campaign successful, it would fail. The key is to look at the bottom of your org chart instead of the top. Where are the smallest teams or units of business within the company? These people are on the ground level, executing every day. It is essential to go to these employees and engage them directly. Soma does this by making sure managers and supervisors at this level have all of the information and tools they need to talk about the campaign during their team meetings. This equips an army of people to pitch for the campaign, rather than relying on the voice of the big guy or gal.

3. Hold Big Events. Too many options for giving and volunteering can be confusing for employees who wish to participate for the first time. Yet Microsoft knows that by increasing the options for employees the participation rate will increase. The key is to do both. Microsoft holds one or two big events designed for everyone. This provides clarity and direction for those employees who may be joining in for the first time. They also offer hundreds of small events and opportunities to give and get active in the community.

4. Deal with Nay-sayers. Managers are very aware of their business targets. So sometimes when they are approached by employees who want to spend time volunteering or raising funds they are less than enthusiastic about granting time away from work – even for sanctioned, community investment activities. Soma believes that one-on-one conversations are they only way to help these managers see the value of activities that may not seem to contribute directly to the business unit goals.

5. Give What You Can. Soma doesn’t like asking people to give money. He prefers to present opportunities and then enable people to give however they can. Some employees give money. Other employees give time. Microsoft also loves to give away software products. Whatever the contribution, Microsoft is working to match each type of donation. Matching allows people who can only give a little feel a sense of significance. Successful campaigns enable individuals to matter.

6. Have fun. This should go without saying, but sometimes annual giving campaigns can be dreary or boring. Microsoft’s Giving Campaign is neither. For example you can bid online in an auction for the world’s best baloney sandwich. Or, following the 5k run/walk, you can join your colleagues at the beer garden for food and live music. (We made sure to join this one – you can check out the pics on the Facebook Page). But maybe the most interesting/fun/bizarre event is the Flamingo Flock:

This year the Microsoft Operations team is ‘flocking’ the offices of unsuspecting employees with plastic flamingos. Employees can plot and surprise co-workers with their own flock of flamingos. There are four levels of participation:

Flock‘em – Allows an unsuspecting individual’s office to be overtaken by FLAMINGOS!
Flock Migration – A Flock Migration allows the ‘flocked’ individual to pass the flock over to another colleague.
Flocksurance – The well prepared and those with Flamingo Phobia can purchase the Flocksurance to avoid these pink creatures.
Flocksurance Side Stepper – The Side-Stepper is a premium product which allows one to override another’s Flocksurance.

Weird – but fun (and financially successful).

More about Microsoft’s Annual Giving Campaign

Microsoft’s campaign is held during the month of October. Employees are mobilized to engage in the local community and support nonprofit organizations nationwide. The month is filled with engaging fundraising events driven by employees and executives across the United States. Every year, full-time Microsoft employees receive up to $12,000 in corporate matching gifts. Microsoft will match employee volunteer time at $17 per hour. If employees wish to give financially during October, Microsoft will make a dollar-for-dollar match of an employee’s financial donation to the non-profit. Last year, the company raised a record-breaking $96 million throughout the year with a big push during the October giving campaign that helped achieve this exemplary goal.

Full Disclosure: Our trip to Microsoft was sponsored by Waggener Edstrom, Microsoft’s PR agency. They kindly covered all of our travel related costs. We received no fees for writing or posting this article.

Realized Worth works with major corporations to launch high impact employee volunteer programs. We focus specifically on the challenge of employee engagement. Call us to chat: 317.371.4435.