I interviewed Pamela Passman, Microsoftâ€™s head of corporate citizenship, this morning at the annual conference of Business for Social Responsibility, the biggest organization of people, from companies, NGO and government, involved in the world of corporate responsibility. About 1,200 people are attending the three-day conference in New York.
Hereâ€™s something she told me that surprised me: Microsoft will match each employeeâ€™s charitable contributions up to $12,0000 per person a year. The company matches its employeesâ€™ gifts of time as well as money, at a rate of $17 per hour for the eligible groups they serve. All told, Microsoft and its employees have donated more than $2.5 billion since 1983; this year, so far, the employees and the company have given away $63.4 million. Most MSFT employees also get three to five days of paid volunteer leave each year.
The question is, why? Itâ€™s one thing for Bill Gates to give away his own money. Itâ€™s another for the company to be generous with what, in effect, is their shareholderâ€™s money.
Passmanâ€™s answer was simple. â€œItâ€™s an employee benefit,â€ she said. In the competition for the best talentâ€”which is what the software industry is all aboutâ€”MSFT needs to attract and engage the best people. This is smart corporate philanthropy and good business, too.