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Jeff Raikes
Jeff Raikes will lead the combined group as chairman of the Microsoft Alumni Network board.

It’s almost impossible to spend time in the Seattle region’s tech community without meeting people who worked at Microsoft at one point in their careers. It’s a large and unique group of corporate alumni, and a new effort is under way to unite them.

Two Microsoft alumni groups, the philanthropic Microsoft Alumni Foundation and the business-oriented Microsoft Alumni Network, are combining in an effort to bring together more of the company’s former employees for philanthropy and business networking.

The combined Microsoft Alumni Network will be led by board chairman Jeff Raikes, the former Microsoft Business Division president who was most recently CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Raikes had previously been chairman of the Microsoft Alumni Foundation, which will remain a 501(c)3 organization as part of the combined Microsoft Alumni Network.

The combination, announced today, has the support of current Microsoft execs including CEO Satya Nadella and general counsel Brad Smith, Raikes said in an interview with GeekWire.

alumnia“We came together, Microsoft and the two entities, in a way that we think will really further energize this community,” Raikes said. “Really it’s a no-brainer for people to join.”

One reason is that the group, with more than 10,000 members, is also working with the company to add new “Microsoft-style” benefits as part of a push to expand its membership. Those benefits include a complimentary year-long Office 365 subscription; insurance and health care discounts; employee pricing in the Microsoft Company Store; a Passport card for dining, shopping and travel discounts; and the opportunity to participate in the company’s philanthropic and civic initiatives.

Members pay $125/year for a premium membership with the group, or $99/year for a basic membership.

Another advantage of combining the groups will be stronger programming and events, connecting the networking and charitable sides of the two organizations. Microsoft veteran Marylou Brannan, the executive director of the Alumni Foundation, will continue in that role for the group’s philanthropic initiatives.

“There’s tremendous energy around the alumni community related to philanthropic activities,” Raikes said. “But there’s also a lot of energy around people who are doing business and entrepreneurial things, or who want to connect with each other for other purposes. So we thought it was smarter to bring the two entities together, with coordinated programming to support the alumni community across those areas of interest.”

When large numbers of Microsoft alumni get together, “you can just see the energy in the room,” Raikes said.

“A lot of that goes back to the sense that we had at Microsoft of being part of changing the world through personal computing and software,” he said. “I think people are quite appreciative of the opportunities that they had at Microsoft, and those values that we learned.”

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