Today Microsoft is launching the “I’m Initiative,” a new charity program carried out through Windows Live Messenger, benefitting nine different organizations. At the main site for I’m making a difference, you can learn more about the charities and how to help them out.

By placing one of the following emoticon codes in your Display Name, Microsoft will automatically donate to the charity of your choice whenever you start a new conversation. We’re not sure whether or not putting the emoticon in your Personal Status Message registers a donation, maybe a Softie who’s in the know can clue us in on that detail. Here are the charities available:

Text Code Cause
*red+u American Red Cross
*bgca Boys & Girls Club
*naf National AIDS Fund
*mssoc National Multiple Sclerosis Society
*9mil ninemillion.org
*sierra Sierra Club
*help StopGlobalWarming.org
*komen Susan G. Komen for the Cure
*unicef The US fund for UNICEF

The strongest point of this program is that it’s so easy to participate that it would be foolish not to. Although this program has been known by some since the launch of Windows Live Messenger 8.1, it is new to the general public and today marks the official start of the campaign. Also, according to the FaQ people not living in the United States will not be able to participate. Each charity is guaranteed to recieve at least $100,000 in donations in the first year of the program, with no upper limit.

The program is already seeing a big response internally on the first day and I hope it grows into a big deal beyond the confines of Redmond. Microsoft has a great history of being a charitable company and it’s good to see that they’re taking another step in the right direction.

Go here to learn more and get started

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