Invictus Games sponsorship – tech philanthropy meets corporate pragmatism


Sage’s announcement of a multi-year partnership with the Invictus Games raises questions around the motives behind corporate social responsibility initiatives.

Invictus-Games-Wheel-Chair-Basketball-CompetitionSage’s decision to team up with in May last year to create a new small business application suite in the cloud appears to have rubbed off in other more philanthropic areas too.

The UK-based firm is now citing Salesforce chief executive’s Marc Benioff’s altruistic mantra-  “Serving as a force for good in the world”- as its own model for corporate social responsibility.

Because these days, if you’re a tech company, it is no longer enough to please customers, investors or even your own staff by providing good, reliable products and services.

Instead in a digital world – whether we’re talking workplace or consumer space – that is increasingly peopled by Millennials renowned for their social consciences, it’s all about aligning yourself with progressive values and being seen to do good in the world.

That’s what will make your employer/corporate brand really stand out. As a result, CEO Stephen Kelly says that Sage is keen to:

Touch the communities we serve in a way that is meaningful – we want to be a force for good. That’s why we have embraced the Pledge 1% movement so wholeheartedly. In fact, we have pledged 2% [of revenues] for the Sage Foundation to support important causes, as part of our 2+2+2 model.

The company set up the charitable Foundation, which is headed by Ivan Epstein, chief executive of Sage Africa & Asia, in October last year to provide grants that create entrepreneurial opportunities for the young and disadvantaged as well as to match employee charitable donations.

Under the 2+2+2 model, meanwhile, the company’s 13,500 employees can also choose to volunteer 2% of their annual working time – the equivalent of five days paid by Sage – to a local charity of their choice, while two software licenses will also be donated to non-profit organisations per year.

Supporting worthy causes

As to the Foundation’s premier charity of choice, however, it has just announced its decision to enter into a multi-year partnership with the Invictus Games Foundation, a deal that includes sponsoring the Games to be held in Orlando, Florida in May this year.

Set up by the UK’s Prince Harry in 2104, the Games consist of an international sporting event for wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women that is intended to help with their recovery and rehabilitation. The inaugural Games were held in London in September 2014 and were attended by more than 400 competitors from 13 nations. The Orlando version is expected to see more than 500 people compete in 10 sports from 14 nations.

A team of Sage employees also plan to volunteer at the event as part of their 2% working time entitlement. The company itself, meanwhile, intends to expand its existing mentoring and work placement programme for former military service personnel to any Games competitor who would like to learn business skills and set their own company up in future.

As part of the initiative, participants in the scheme who have left the armed forces in the last year and are seeking civilian work experience, will be provided with six-month placements in areas that Sage has traditionally focused on such as accounting, IT, sales and customer service.

And as to why the Sage Foundation has plumped for focusing on supporting ex-service personnel in this way, Kelly’s explanation is this:

Because we’ve worked with small and medium businesses around the world for more than 30 years, we know what makes brilliant businesses, and we’ve also learned that many of the skills people acquire in the military transfer brilliantly into entrepreneurialism. Working with the Invictus Games and delivering our wider military programme enables us to repay our debt to those heroes by supporting them as they move from service to life beyond the armed forces.

My take

While all philanthropic undertakings of this kind may ultimately be self-serving, to be pragmatic about it, as long as corporate money ends up going to worthy causes to help the disadvantaged, it has to be a good thing.

But I would like to think that a focus on less high profile although no less deserving – just all too often drastically underfunded – initiatives will be worth thinking about too?

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Disclosure - At time of writing, Salesforce is a premier partner of diginomica.