The Microsoft Corporation obviously sets a high standard for employee volunteerism and community service. For the past twenty years, the company has placed a higher importance on philanthropy than any other technology based corporation(Microsoft Giving Overview,2000). But why does Microsoft devote so much effort when they are not required to? Why do they spend literally hundreds of millions of dollars every year on donations, volunteer programs, and disaster relief?
The simplest answer to this question is that its a good business strategy(Questions About Workplace Volunteerism,2000). Every major corporation in the country makes some kind of contribution to the community. Even most small businesses will sponsor a little league team or make a small donation to the local PTA. One part of a good business strategy is creating a reputation as a fair and humble corporation.
Microsofts reputation as a fair and respectful operation is far from unblemished. After recent books, articles, and films, it is common knowledge to many people that Microsoft was founded on the ideas and inventions of other people. Microsofts reputation suffered especially during its anti-trust difficulties from 1998-1999. During this time, the US government accused the corporation of trying to form a monopoly and attempting to force competition out of the market. Public opinion holds heavy weight in our judicial system. It has been suggested that this is the reason Microsoft has expanded there giving programs since 1998. The simple truth is that the average person doesnt care if Microsoft forms a monopoly, because it doesnt affect their lives.
However, if a flood is about to wipe out the town a person lives in or if a person cant find a job because they lack technological training and Microsoft helps them, then that person along with the thousands of others whos lives are a little bit better because of Microsoft may take an interest in how the government is treating the company. Perhaps then some of the people Microsoft have helped or someone who has heard about the good work done by the corporation see a Microsoft sponsored commercial where Bill Gates explains the rule of free enterprise and everyones right to make an honest dollar. These people, now convinced of the raw deal Microsoft is getting, may write a letter to their congressman or fill out a petition in support of Microsoft. Although the government was successful against Microsoft in the first few anti-trust lawsuits, the decisions were soon after overturned. If public opinion had been drastically against Microsoft, this would not have been so. Ultimately, the trials had very little affect on the corporations continued earnings. At a minimum of cost Microsoft effectively ensured its continued billion dollar annual income(Volunteers From The Workplace,1998).
A significant amount of Microsofts annual donations go towards education. They provide boys and girls clubs around the country with current high tech equipment. Microsoft believes that early education with computers is the best way to ensure a continued interest in technology. Similar programs supply equipment to the nations community colleges. Microsoft also makes large donations to diversity institutions such as the United Negro College Fund, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, the American Indian Science and Technology Education Consortium(Microsoft Giving Overview,2000). These programs aim at providing everyone with the equal opportunity to familiarize themselves with the use of equipment necessary in the high-tech job market. Both parties involved gain from these donations and scholarship programs because it is to Microsofts benefit to ensure that more and more technologically proficient laborers emerge in the workforce every year. Creating an early admiration for Microsoft ensures that the people helped through these programs will, at the very least, become Microsoft customers, and possibly even Microsoft employees one day. The corporation obviously intends to continue growing, and that growth is dependent on the available workforce(Volunteers From The Workplace,1998).
Microsofts largest area of giving is employee related. The corporation has a policy of matching most donations made by its employees. This accounts for more than half of Microsofts annual giving. There are also volunteer programs in affect that allow employees to donate portions of their work week to charities by volunteering(Microsoft Giving Overview2000). Microsoft and its employees benefit equally from these endeavors. Microsoft gains positive and often free publicity, while its employees gain in many different ways. Volunteerism has been proved to enhance productivity, morale, teamwork, mental and physical well-being, interpersonal and professional skills, and the quality of life for team members and the community(Questions About Workplace Volunteerism,1998).
Many companies find that workplace volunteerism is the most efficient way of providing community service. A very small investment in philanthropy, coupled with a few million dollars in advertising fees, can usually turn out several times the principle amount. Perhaps also there are some modern day Rockefellers who genuinely regret the pain they have caused and are trying to make amends. However, it is certain that when a worker feels better about himself, he feels better about the job he is doing. A positive workplace is invaluable to employers and often the only way they can develop one is through helping their employees help others.
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