Not enough charities are coming forward with sensible business plans to win donations from Microsoft SA, the company says.

Microsoft makes more contributions to social responsibility initiatives than any other hi-tech company, donating $68m in cash and $331m in software to non-profit organisations throughout the world last year.

 Yet the charities in SA are not professional enough in their approach to win more of that support, says Lungile Lose, Microsoft SA's community affairs manager. Instead of being inundated with requests for cash and free software, Microsoft SA often has to sit with the charities and show them how they could benefit, he says.

Those that do seek funding often need help in drawing up a sound proposal.

More cash would be available for SA if local worthy causes were better at presenting initiatives that pique the interest of its parent company, but they lose out to charities in other countries that are far more professional in their requests for cash.

"In this country, we have to work closely with non-governmental organisations to encourage them to come up with proposals," Lose says.

This year, Microsoft SA has approved grants of about R1,5m, up 46% from last year because some charities presented better business plans.

"The grants are issued on a competitive basis worldwide, so we compete with the Middle East and Africa for grant allocations," says Lose. The firm was pleased to get more funds allocated to SA. "We got a 46% increase because our programmes this year have much more national impact."

Last month, Microsoft SA handed over the first R800000 and will donate software to three organisations working to improve their communities. One was Skills Development and Economic Independence of the Disabled, a body helping physically disabled people earn a living by setting up income-generating centres in each province by 2008.

Cash also went to the E-community Development Forum, a Western Cape project helping to set up more centres to provide access to government information over the internet in rural areas. The third donation went to a Telecentre "Train the Trainer" project to develop the skills of telecentre operators.

Microsoft SA aims to work with local organisations to help at least 775000 people realise their potential through the use of technology over the next three years, says Chose Choeu, its director of law and corporate affairs.

Business Day