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Working the numbers in Richmond to give back

Accounting software firm match volunteer-hungry workers with local charities

If the potential employee likes the idea of volunteering at a local charity for the day, instead of working in the office, then great.

If, during the interview with Sage North America, it becomes apparent they’re already volunteering in the local community, even better.

It’s no coincidence that almost half of the 350-strong workforce at accounting software firm Sage — whose Canadian HQ is on Richmond’s Wireless Way, just east of the Richmond Auto Mall — have signed up this year for the company’s volunteering program.

The “Sage in the Community” program plays matchmaker for employees to swap up to five working days per year for helping out one of 15 local charities.

And it’s been nothing short of a revelation since its inception in 2013, with help donated to more than 60 volunteer events, along with around 2,200 hours of employee time.

In 2014 alone, 140 Sage workers have stepped forward to give 705 days of volunteering at the likes of: the Richmond Food Bank; Terra Nova Sharing Farm; Critter Care; ALS; Ronald McDonald House; Habitat for Humanity; RAPS and OWL.

“We believe it’s important to give back to those less fortunate and this is something we really believe in as an organization; it’s not just words, it’s action,” Nancy Harris, vice president and general manager for Sage North America’s Canada division, told the News.

“We are all about supporting small businesses, as they are the fabric of our community and if we can help them more than just providing them with great products, then it’s a win-win for everyone.

“And when colleagues see each other signing up for the program, it goes viral very quickly.”

The volunteering program at Sage, which creates and supplies accounting software amongst other products for small and medium businesses, is not mandatory for employees and they still get paid when attending at the charity of their choosing.

If signing up for Sage in the Community, they give two per cent of their working year, or up to five days at the charity of their choice.

The program also donates two per cent of the “free cash flow” (company profits after all investments are made) to the charities.

And Sage is in the process of working out how to donate its software licences, so the non-profits in question can run their organizations more efficiently.

“What we find is that people really want to help their communities but rarely have time to figure it out,” added Harris.

“What we do with this program is make it easy for them; we set it up so it’s a case of ‘here are the charities and here are the days you can help them.’

“It’s also a great recruitment and retention tool and we do bring it up at the interview stage, as employees care about their communities and about giving back.”

A lot of the time, said Harris, interviewees will actually ask if Sage has a program to give back to the community.

“Many of them are already volunteering in their communities and this resonates with us a corporation,” she said.

“These are the kind of people we want at the company and the program is definitely important to us in attracting the right kind of person.”

The system itself is an online calendar, which simply matches employees with charities.

Harris suggests that anyone thinking of running a similar program should first ask employees if they’re interested in volunteering and then get ideas of what charities they’re interested in.

“Then figure out the logistics of what that charity needs and set up the matching program on the calendar,” said Harris.

“Once it’s up and running, employees can even suggest charities along the way. That happens here all the time.”