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Microsoft Workers Swim, Play Hopscotch, Dress Up In A Bacon Suit For Charity

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Ashley Gross
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KPLU
Microsoft employee Melissa Worley hula hoops as part of the company's 24-hour global giving relay

Imagine being cut loose from your regular work responsibilities for four months to dream up ingenious ways to get your coworkers to donate to charity.

Think an auction that includes items such as the “best bologna sandwich," a “chainsaw-carved wooden bear” and lunch with Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella.

One sales guy in Chicago, Kevin Bognar, who is apparently not easily embarrassed, has offered to dress in a suit that looks like strips of bacon, serve a bacon-themed meal and explain to the winning bidder how he or she is connected to Kevin Bacon in six degrees of separation or less.

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Credit Microsoft
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Microsoft
Kevin Bognar, a Microsoft sales director in Chicago, in his "bacon suit"

That auction is just part of what seven Microsoft employees based in Redmond have been working on in recent months. Every year the company frees up some workers from their normal job duties to work as “loaned professionals” on the company’s giving campaign.

Goal

October is the big push to get employees to contribute. The overall goal for this year is more than $100 million dollars — roughly half in employee contributions and the other half as a match by the company.

That goal is for U.S.-based workers. But this past week, the company involved employees from all corners of the earth during a 24-hour giving relay.

Microsoft workers biked in Israel, swam in the ocean in Australia, and collected dog food in Poland to raise money for an animal shelter. In Redmond, some workers staged a “Recess at Work” event and urged people to hopscotch their way to lunch.

'Kind Of Tricky'

But isn’t it hard to step out of your regular job? Eli Sheldon is one of the loaned professionals whose regular job is as a program manager on the Office team.

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Alexander Ruzicka, a Microsoft employee in Austria, posts a picture of his 8K run as part of the 24-hour giving relay

“I trust my team and it’s in good hands, but making that clean break and really getting to focus 100 percent on the giving campaign has been both wonderful but also kind of tricky,” Sheldon said.  

Nevertheless, he says volunteering is so important to him that he decided it was worth making that leap away from his team. He’s volunteered in Uganda and also as a big brother for the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Microsoft donates $17 for every hour that an employee volunteers.

An 'Inspiring' Part Of The Culture

With the company going through so much upheaval lately with rounds of layoffs, this is something a lot of Microsoft folks take pride in. Midori Lawler took leave from her job in the developer experience group to work on the giving program, in which Microsoft matches employees’ donations to nonprofits one-for-one up to $15,000 a person.

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Credit Ashley Gross / KPLU
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KPLU
Microsoft's "loaned professionals" on the Giving Campaign

“I had always been a fan of the giving program ever since I learned about it, and always thought, 'Wow, that’s such an inspiring and great part of our culture,”' Lawler said.

She donates to Seattle Children’s Hospital, where she used to volunteer her time holding babies.

Of course, many other companies in this region have matching gift programs, including Boeing and Starbucks.

Still, Microsoft’s is one of the largest, according to a group called Double the Donation that tracks them. Microsoft’s gift campaign has topped $100 million for the past three years, and the majority goes to nonprofits in Washington state.   

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.
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