Acting Locally, Globally

"While Microsoft has operations around the globe and our products touch every corner of the world, our company and more than 40,000 of our employees call Washington State home."

Program Overview

We are committed to keeping Washington State a great place to live, work and raise a family. We want our employees and their neighbors to enjoy a high quality of life. At the same time, we want state businesses to have a healthy business climate that allows them to operate cost-effectively.

With those goals in mind, our top four priority areas are:

  1. Improving public education so that families can send their kids to great public schools, colleges and universities and the higher education sector can continue to be an engine of local economic growth.
  2. Improving transportation infrastructure so all Washingtonians have a safe, reliable, efficient, and sustainable way of getting from place to place.
  3. Promoting a healthy business climate including a sustainable state budget, so that Microsoft and other Washington employers remain competitive in the global information economy.
  4. Advancing the quality of life so current and future citizens will live in healthy and vibrant communities enriched by arts, culture, natural outdoor resources, a human services safety net, and lifelong learning.

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At Microsoft, one of our top priorities within Washington State has been to help improve educational opportunities and outcomes in higher education, K-12, and early learning. We work to improve our education system because we believe that a strong education system is essential for the economic and social health of our company, our employees, and our community.

Microsoft works with educators, policymakers, and business leaders to ensure that all Washington students can develop the skills, and the commitment to life-long learning, that are necessary to succeed in a workplace – and a world – that is increasingly complex, technologically driven, and globally competitive. We must continue to take the critical steps needed to ensure that our education system prepares all kids for college and work.

In 2011, significant progress was made. Microsoft executive Brad Smith chaired the Governor's Higher Education Funding Task Force, which secured legislation to:

  • Increase funding stability by linking state support to tuition-setting authority at Washington's public universities
  • Create the Washington Opportunity Scholarship program, an innovative public-private partnership to establish a financial aid endowment for state students

Microsoft and Boeing each pledged $25 million over the next five years to launch this new program.

Brad Smith was also appointed to the Opportunity Scholarship Board, which has set a goal of creating a $1 billion public-private endowment for financial aid within a decade.

Other higher education initiatives and targeted state investment that Microsoft supports aim to:

  • Prioritize higher education funding as a strategic investment in our economic future
  • Increase operating flexibility for the institutions and establish clear accountability for results
  • Prioritize high-demand degree programs and research activities that create jobs

At the early learning and K-12 level, Microsoft constructively contributes to efforts that will:

  • Prepare all children to get off to a great educational start by being “kindergarten ready.”
  • Target investments to improve student achievement and ensure that our schools are among the best in the nation.
  • Align graduation standards to college entrance requirements.
  • Change teacher hiring, evaluation and compensation systems to prioritize performance over seniority and utilize student performance data
  • Develop a comprehensive statewide strategy to improve student achievement in STEM
  • Streamline educational governance to improve transparency and accountability
  • Directly fund innovative programs such as the Washington State STEM Center, the United Way’s Parent-Child Home Program, and the Microsoft Math Partnership.

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As the Puget Sound area continues to grow, the safe and efficient transportation of people and goods around the region becomes increasingly important to the economic and social health of our communities. At Microsoft, we believe efficient, cost-effective transportation that also protects our environment is key to the livability of our region. Not only does Microsoft provide commuter shuttles for our employees, but we also have an extensive program to encourage our employees and contractors to use public and shared transportation resources.

No matter how much a company like Microsoft does to help get the most out of our existing roads and transit facilities, the ultimate responsibility for providing a well-functioning transportation system that supports our economy and our communities falls on our state and local governments. The simple fact is that the state of Washington, and especially the Central Puget Sound region, has grown significantly, and the transportation infrastructure hasn’t kept pace.

That’s why Microsoft has a long history of supporting balanced and innovative transportation solutions. We will continue to support regional transit agencies and advocate for targeted investments in roads and other transportation improvements that have major regional or statewide significance. Our top priorities include the replacement of the aging and undersized SR-520 Bridge across Lake Washington and other transportation choke points such as the I-405 corridor among other congestion relief opportunities. These are improvements that will benefit the entire region, easing transportation problems and also bringing significant environmental and economic benefits. As a company that is constantly moving forward, Microsoft recognizes that our state cannot afford to get stalled on these and other projects. We must keep moving forward to overcome the lingering effect of many years of neglect of Washington’s transportation system.

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Business Climate

Microsoft has grown up in Washington State—this is our home, and we want to see the state continue to be successful. As a major employer in the state, Microsoft has a genuine and profound desire and responsibility to make Washington the best possible place to live, work, and raise a family. The long-term success and vitality of Washington State depends on a common commitment to protect and enhance the quality of life enjoyed by our citizens and to provide employers with the competitive edge that they need to succeed in a global economy.

Decisions made in Olympia go a long way in determining whether our communities remain healthy places to live and work, meeting the needs of both citizens and businesses. Microsoft feels strongly that Washington must engage a balanced and comprehensive strategy, including a commitment to pursue necessary policy changes and to measure progress against clear, accountable benchmarks.

To help guide the state in achieving these objectives, Microsoft is a firm supporter of the Washington Roundtable’s Benchmarks for a Better Washington. This program is based on metrics that speak to the very heart of what constitutes a world-class state, using clear and independent state-by-state data. The Washington Roundtable will evaluate Washington’s progress against these metrics annually and will develop year-by-year strategies for advancing or maintaining Washington’s position in each category. The program is about competing on value and on cost. It is about providing a quality education for all of our young people; an infrastructure that is safe, reliable, and efficient; and a climate of innovation that attracts investment and encourages job creation. Competitiveness is a process of continued improvement. Hard work is required to catch up, keep up, and move ahead. Microsoft believes that the Benchmarks for a Better Washington will help keep the state on track.

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Giving back to the community is a core value for our company and our employees. Through monetary grants, software donations, technology solutions, and employee volunteer hours, Microsoft supports programs and organizations that address the needs of communities throughout Washington state. We give broadly in our defined priority areas of education, workforce development, family-friendly culture, arts and human services. In dollar terms, the largest share by far of the company’s giving is directed by our employees themselves, in the form of the company’s match of their philanthropic contributions. Last year, Microsoft and its employees donated $62 million in the form of cash, services and software to nonprofits in Washington State.

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We Start in Our Backyard

Since Microsoft began in 1975, we have made community involvement an integral part of our business and corporate culture. The truth is, giving starts at home. Our investments in the Puget Sound area of Washington State are designed to ensure continuing vitality in the region. This vitality depends on a thriving art and cultural scene, a strong network of critical human service providers, a world-class education system, and engaging civic affairs programming.

To maximize our impact, Microsoft focuses our grant support in King County, Washington, where the majority of our employees reside.

Puget Sound Grants

Contributions include direct grants of cash and products to nonprofit organizations in King County, Washington, in the program areas of human services, arts and culture, civic affairs, workforce development, and K–12 math education. In each program area, Microsoft selects a limited number of organizations to receive direct grants. Cash grants are primarily given as capital or for general operating costs, supporting the long-term financial plan of the organization. Microsoft rarely awards event-sponsorship support. The company's contributions to nonprofits also include Microsoft matching of employee gifts of cash, volunteer time, and products. For many organizations, the direct contributions from Microsoft complement the employee matching contributions that they receive.

Human Services

By supporting organizations that address a comprehensive range of hunger, housing, employment, emergency service, and counseling needs, we are working to move people toward self-sufficiency. Human services nonprofits are eligible for unrestricted operating and capital grants. Recipients include organizations such as Hopelink, United Way of King County, Northwest Harvest, Youth Eastside Services, Plymouth Housing Group, YMCA, and YWCA.

Arts and Culture

We believe that a community is only as strong as its ability to nourish the mind and spirit through excellent, diverse, and accessible programming in the visual and performing arts and museums, and high quality public television and radio programming.

A significant portion of the Microsoft arts funding is directed through ArtsFund, a federated giving program for local corporations, foundations, and individuals. Through ArtsFund, Microsoft supports more than 70 arts agencies in King County. Only ArtsFund Charter organizations are eligible for additional arts sponsorship grants. All ArtsFund beneficiaries are eligible for capital grants. Recipients include organizations such as the Performing Arts Center Eastside, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Children's Theatre, and Pacific Northwest Ballet.

Cultural organizations that do not qualify for ArtsFund support, but do meet Microsoft guidelines, are eligible for unrestricted operating or capital grants. Such recipients include the Woodland Park Zoo, Pacific Science Center, Burke Museum, KUOW, KCTS, and the Central District Forum for Arts and Ideas.

Civic Affairs

Because the entire community benefits from the active engagement of an informed citizenry, Microsoft supports public policy education, voter registration efforts, youth leadership programs, and organizations that build public understanding of trade and global affairs. Civic affairs nonprofits are eligible for unrestricted operating grants. Recipients include the World Affairs Council, League of Women Voters, City Year, Washington 4-H, YMCAYouth and Government, and DECA.

K-12 Math Education Programs

In an economy and society that are increasingly complex, globally competitive, and technologically driven, one of our highest priorities remains to adequately prepare young people for college, work, and citizenship. Recipients include the Microsoft Math Partnership, Partnership for Learning, Explorations in Math, and the Alliance for Education.

Workforce Development-Community Technology Skills Program

Now more than ever, information technology skills are critical for jobseekers and workers in today's economy. Workforce education and training can help people obtain the skills they need for success in today's job market. Recipients include the King County Workforce Collaborative, Seattle Jobs Initiative, Workforce Development Council, and Goodwill.

Read more about Workforce Development

Eligibility for Microsoft Puget Sound Grants

Eligible organizations are those whose missions and work align with Microsoft funding areas—human services, arts and culture, civic affairs, workforce development, and K–12 math education that meet the following criteria:

  • A public charity with 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
  • Located and operating in King County, Washington, and serving a regional and diverse population
  • Demonstrated effective programs and achievement of the organization's goals
  • Leadership, staff, and board diversity that reflect the population served
  • Stable financial performance
  • Diverse funding sources

Ineligible organizations and projects include:

  • Individuals
  • Private, for-profit enterprises
  • Private educational institutions
  • Hospitals or medical clinics, except those designated as Community Health Center Programs by the U.S. Department of Health
  • Private foundations
  • Political, religious, or fraternal organizations
  • Amateur or professional sports groups, teams, or events
  • Conferences or symposia
  • Endowments

(Microsoft is currently not accepting unsolicited proposals)

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