💛 For the final blog of 2016, we are happy to end on a high note and feature another Microsoft Partner who is giving back to their community. Our series on partner philanthropy has featured tech companies from around the world doing their part to make the world a better place. Today we’re featuring the work of partnereMazzanti Technologies and what they’re doing to help clean up our oceans. The Inspiration; eMazzanti Technologies co-founders, Jennifer andCarl, believe that their professional successes offer a unique opportunity to contribute to the greater community on both a local and a global scale. It gives them a chance to give back while uniting and motivating their staff and building relationships in the community. “Doing this kind of community support has always been really important to us since starting our company.”– Jennifer Mazzanti, Co-Founder of eMazzanti. Jennifer said that in the past, most of the philanthropic efforts taken on by eMazzanti were rather ad-hoc in nature. Their efforts were either driven by inbound requests or improvised to fill an immediate need. “This year, in celebration of a milestone birthday, I really wanted to focus our efforts in one direction and to be more proactive. Because of our passion for the ocean and environment, there was no doubt which direction we would take.” “Carl and I both grew up on the water. It’s been a central character in our lives. We’ve gone on to share that with our children. From boating adventures to all-night Shark Week marathons, they’ve inherited our love of the sea and our belief in giving back.” – Jennifer Mazzanti, Co-Founder of eMazzanti. Jennifer continued on to say “We believe that our oceans are a barometer for the health of our planet. By protecting this resource, we can make great strides toward improving our world as a whole. After reaching out to many marine conservation organizations, we undertook some great volunteer opportunities to get to know each one. We had the opportunity to work alongside the researchers and engineers who are on the frontlines of marine conservation." From that love of the ocean came the inspiration for eMazzanti’s Blue Project. Jennifer shared that the mission of this effort is to advance the study of our oceans and to generally engage the public in marine conservation efforts. But it was the impact of ocean cleanup efforts that really drove their passion for this project.The Project; Blue Project is made up of several philanthropy efforts: financial support and fundraising, community activism, and technical consulting and equipment donation. eMazzanti commits financial resources to select organizations and specific research projects that work in the area of ocean cleanup and marine conservation. They also work on spreading awareness of changes everyone can make to have a positive impact on the ocean’s ecosystem. One of these concerns is the damage to ecosystems caused by mylar balloons. In 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found more than one hundred balloons collected at the cleanup of just one beach, the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey. Balloons like these are often discarded thoughtlessly or sent adrift only to land in the ocean. Jennifer and Carl have asked local supermarkets to stop selling the balloons and continued raising general awareness of ocean pollution through the Blue Project. “A great example of this would be our initiative to discourage the use of mylar balloons, many of which wind up in our oceans and harm or kill creatures who mistake them for food. We also hope to engage with the local fisheries to recruit them as partners in accomplishing our objectives as part of the Blue Project.” – Jennifer Mazzanti, Co-Founder of eMazzanti. eMazzanti also commits technical resources and equipment to aid in marine research whenever possible. This includes technical consulting and equipment donation. As Jennifer put it, “Because technology evolves so quickly there tends to be a lot of waste when it comes to hardware. Suddenly the switches you bought a year ago are too slow to accommodate current service levels. They are difficult to recycle and are often discarded. As we perform upgrades for our clients, they often trust us with disposal. eMazzanti Technologies can retask equipment for research and conservation purposes, freeing up grant money for other pursuits. We can also donate our services for implementation.” They also drive social media initiatives and community awareness through their Blue Project microsite. While the site is largely informational at the time of publication, Jennifer says the team is planning to add features such as micro-grant application, equipment availability updates, and an application to request service donations. Additional plans for the future include streaming news from partner organizations and volunteer opportunities. How You Can Make a Difference Too; If you’re also interested in giving back, Jennifer recommends turning to your passions for inspiration. “In the same way that it’s important to start a business inspired by your passions, it is important to start by taking on a cause close to your heart. The best way to begin is to start small and reach out to local organizations and find out about their goals and needs. You should listen to their challenges in the same way you would when meeting a potential client. In that way, you can serve them on their terms which will forge a stronger relationship.” She says that volunteer experience is a great place to start. It’s those experiences that help you learn about the organization from the ground up and get to know the individuals involved. “With time, it becomes easier to identify similar organizations and plan your giving strategy, but try to maintain your focus. If you direct your efforts with as much specificity as possible, you can make the biggest impact.” – Jennifer Mazzanti, Co-Founder of eMazzanti.What inspires you to give back to your community? Share your thoughts in the comments below.