Sage breaks the mould and puts charity in the spotlight

As well as the batch of product updates, partner commitments and strategy talks, a significant amount of time at Sage Summit 2016 has been dedicated to the company's philanthropic efforts.

Most companies these days do their bit for charity but Sage seems to be giving it much more of a prominent role then most. The topic has been central to the two keynote sessions so far, especially today's where the theme of 'The Giving Economy' was front and centre.

Actresses Gwyneth Paltrow and Zooey Deschanel were the celebrity attractions (speaking about their respective ventures Goop and HelloGiggles), but the biggest cheers of the morning came earlier, when president of Sage North America Marc Scheipe spoke about the Sage Foundation and the company's involvement with the Invictus Games.

The Sage Foundation is a program that was launched at Sage Summit 2015 with a mission to invest time, money, extertise and technology to projects in local communities around the world. It follws a 2-2-2 model, where 2 per cent of employee time, 2 per cent of free cash flow and 2 donated licenses are used to support registered charities, social enterprises and non-profit organisations. "The Sage Foundation has become the beating heart of our company," Marc said, adding that the "entire Sage family has embraced the opportunity to give back."

The growth of the Foundation has occurred in line with what Marc called "The Giving Economy," where modern consumers "expect the businesses they buy from and work for to have a higher purpose."

And the work Sage is doing in communities is something it has been keen to highlight. During Stephen Kelly's keynote on Tuesday, a $50,000 grant was awarded to Chicago-based Brave Initiatives, which aims to empower young women through coding and community action. Sandra Campopiano, Sage's Chief People Officer, spoke about the company's "commitment to being an inclusive organisation," also saying: “We care deeply about supporting the needs of women and young people at Sage. We are committed as a business, to boost the number of women Sage hires into leadership and technology roles."

Also announced on Tuesday was a new global initiative for the Sage Foundation, with new offerings including a $1M open grant tender, a worldwide community-led fundraising challenge and a global online mentoring platform. CEO Stephen Kelly said: I am incredibly inspired by our new vision and really call on my colleagues and our customers and communities, to unite behind our vision. I believe in doing business in a caring and responsible way."

This announcement rolled over to today's keynote where the Foundation's priority to support military veterans was highlighted, specifically through the Invictus Games - an international, Paralympic-style multi-sport event for wounded veterans started by Prince Harry in 2014.

Marc was joined on stage by four former military personnel and Invictus Games competitors - Team Canada Captain Bruno Guevremont, Team UK competitor Mike Goody, Team USA competitor Air Force Staff Sergeant Sebastiana Lopez Arellano; and Brian Stann, Marine Corps veteran and Hire Heroes USA CEO - to discuss their experiences since leaving the military and the challenges they face integrating back into society.

Sage's efforts in this area will be centred around an online mentoring and training programme to support miliary veterans in transitioning into civilian life through things like career training and job placements.

These are all great things that Sage is doing - and rightly generated the biggest cheers of the week - but it is certainly unusual to see the charity aspect being given so much airtime at a company's annual summit, even one the size of Sage that may be perceived to have a higher prerequisite to do so.

"Business is at its most powerful when it also gives back," said Marc. "I encourage you to seize your opportunity to give back. Show your people your soul, invite them to contribute and the rest will follow"

The audience of partners, customers and prospects here at Sage Summit was certainly responsive to this flurry of announcements and it will interesting to see whether philanthropy continues to play as prominent a role in the future.