Silicon Valley corporations get a lot of press for the perks they offer employees: free meals, shuttles, flexible schedules, even housecleaning. But one of the most important perks a company can offer doesn’t get a lot of attention, and as a result millions of dollars go unused every year. I urge you to investigate the charitable matching programs offered by local companies so you can find innovative and powerful ways to support the nonprofit causes you care about.
Most large companies in Silicon Valley and around the country offer some kind of matching gifts program: when employees donate money to nonprofits organizations, the company will match dollar for dollar. At Microsoft, we’ll match up to $12,000 of every employee’s donations to nonprofit and educational organizations each year. We’re proud to have one of the most generous matching programs in the country, and incredibly proud to have donated more than $1 billion dollars over the last 30 years to 62,000 different nonprofits.
My favorite part of our matching program is that employees have complete freedom to choose which nonprofit to support. Some choose nationwide organizations like the American Red Cross and the United Way, others support local schools, and some seek out innovative local nonprofits working to tackle tricky environmental, social, and educational issues. Their causes become Microsoft’s causes, and together we make a larger impact than we could ever make individually.
Last year alone, Microsoft employees donated $100 million through our matching gifts program, which also matches employee donations of volunteer time or company products. So far in 2012, 83 percent of Microsoft’s employees in Silicon Valley have participated in the matching gifts program – a pretty big deal, since many similarly sized companies in the region see participation rates of 30-40 percent.
On the one hand, it’s great that so many companies and so many people give generously. But there are still millions and millions of corporate matching dollars that go unused. Those dollars could be finding a cure for cancer, helping disaster victims, saving shelter animals, or supporting foster kids. So during this season of celebration and gratitude, check with your friends, family members, and co-workers to see how you can leverage corporate matching programs to support the causes you care about. Our country and our communities face a lot of challenges, so let’s use all the resources we can!