Column: Sage Group making a philanthropic imprint in Atlanta

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on March 18, 2016

After deciding to establish its North American headquarters in Atlanta last year, Sage Group is now making a philanthropic imprint in the community.

The accounting software company, located in Atlantic Station, launched the Sage Foundation’s North American giving in Atlanta on March 15.

Stephen Kelly, Sage’s global CEO, was in town for the launch, and he described the company’s giving policy, which he said was breaking new ground in the corporate world.

The 2 + 2 + 2 concept encourages employees to volunteer 2 percent of their time to community organizations while getting paid by Sage. In Atlanta, which has a total of about 1,000 Sage employees, that would translate into 40,000 volunteer hours a year.

The company also has committed to donate 2 percent of its free cash flow, a measure that is roughly the same as net income after taxes, according to Kelly.

The last part of the equation is that the company will dedicate two product initiatives — either free or discounted software with two licenses — for eligible nonprofit organizations.

“This is way ahead of any other program at any other company,” Kelly said. “We will be a poster child, and this will be great for Atlanta and great for the nonprofit community.”

Sage announced its first major gift during the launch, presenting a $50,000 donation to Brian Stann, CEO of Alpharetta-based Hire Heroes. The nonprofit helps veterans and their spouses transition from military life into careers in the private sector.

Sage employees also spent March 16 at Junior Achievement’s BizTown at the Georgia World Congress Center, where they acted as coaches for the middle school students who are learning life skills on how to succeed in the workforce.

The company also was able to introduce its relatively new North American president, Marc Schiepe, who had served as the entity’s CFO for North America and had been involved in selecting Atlanta for the headquarters.

“In Atlanta, we can make an impact as a technology company,” Schiepe said. “It’s a unique developing city in the tech space. We already had a presence in Atlanta, and we want to make our mark here.”

The Sage Foundation launched its global efforts in South Africa in January and in Australia in February.

The North American launch is particularly important for the company.

“North America is the largest market we have,” Kelly said. “We made the decision a year ago to build out a significant hub in Atlanta.”

Kelly said the pluses are being near the largest airport in the world and being in a community of people with great digital skills.

And while the company considered several parts of the region, Scheipe said “we pretty quickly focused on Midtown.”

When asked how much the Sage Foundation will be giving away each year, Kelly said it will be about $8 million to $10 million a year, and that would increase as the company’s business grows.

Girl Scouts honor

The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta has named the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta the recipient of its top honor, the Managing for Excellence Award.

The award, which comes with a $75,000 prize and customized consulting services from the Boston Consulting Group, was announced at the Girl Scouts’ Second Century Circle breakfast at the Piedmont Driving Club on March 15.

Amy Dosik, CEO of the Girl Scouts, was clearly moved after the announcement, saying the award speaks volumes about the governance of a nonprofit.

The Managing for Excellence Award was founded in 1984, and for 32 years, the foundation has been recognizing the most professionally run nonprofits. The foundation looks for strong leadership, consistent business practices, stable infrastructure and a strong allegiance to support its mission and impact.

“Having a strong management team and strategic plan in place is essential for nonprofit success,” said Alicia Philipp, president of the Community Foundation, in a statement.

“We were impressed by how the local Girl Scout board and staff leadership, as part of a 100-year-old organization, continue to evolve and adapt to what girls need today. Having a strong team at the helm frees up the time and resources of others to focus specifically on building sustainable, scalable programs and tools that will help keep girls engaged.”

Second Century Circle breakfast

The award was only one special part of the breakfast.

Kelly Barrett, a Home Depot executive who is on the board of the Girl Scouts and who co-chaired the breakfast, said the organization had a goal to raise $1 million over its first five years. Instead, it raised $1 million this year and a total of $2.5 million over the past four years.

The breakfast also honored Shan Cooper, now an executive with WestRock, with the “Changing the World Award.” Cooper had worked closely with the Girl Scouts when she ran Lockheed-Martin’s Georgia operations to make sure girls were aware of career opportunities in the science, technology and engineering fields.

But Cooper admitted to the 250 attendees that she had never been a Girl Scout because her family could not afford the uniforms and other expenses.

At the end of her talk, several Girl Scouts announced that she was being made an honorary Girl Scout, and they handed her a sash full of patches. Cooper screamed for joy.

“I’m going to wear this sash all day,” she said with a big smile.

The breakfast also included a supportive talk from Paul Bowers, the honorary chair of the breakfast who is also CEO of Georgia Power Co.

He showed a slide of him wearing a T-shirt that said: “Man enough to say I can be a Girl Scout.”

He said his daughter had been a Girl Scout, and now she’s an engineer and an attorney.

The Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta serve more than 42,000 girls a year, and 10,000 of them are at-risk girls, Bowers said.

Dosik said the proceeds of the breakfast and the Community Foundation grant will go towards scholarships for girls who need financial assistance to be a Girl Scout and for supporting the delivery of STEM, financial literacy, life skills and outdoor education programming to Girl Scouts in metro Atlanta.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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