Software firm hits $1 million in charitable gifts
Program benefits youths, homeless
Corporate giving takes on a special meaning at Lexington-based Ipswitch Inc., a small, privately held software firm that recently reached a $1 million milestone in donations to charitable organizations, many of them serving young people and the poor.
Ipswitch was committed to philanthropy from the time it was formed in 1991, rolling out a comprehensive program in the last 10 years, chief executive and founder Roger Greene said in an interview last week.
Some 100 charities have benefited from Ipswitch donations, Greene said, adding that the firm earmarks 5 percent of its annual profits for gift-giving. Most of the recipients are in Massachusetts and in Georgia, where the company has offices in Augusta and Atlanta.
"Our program has been very helpful in getting employees who want to be around other nice people and accomplish a lot," Greene, 49, said. "Also, customers become interested in what we're trying to do to help others."
Small firms like Ipswitch that have full-blown philanthropic programs are rare and often do not get the recognition they deserve because they are overshadowed by the efforts of much larger companies, said Charles Moore, executive director of the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, based in New York City.
Paul Grogan, president of The Boston Foundation, added, "Certainly Ipswitch's reaching the $1 million milestone [in corporate giving] is notable, particularly given the perception that high-tech companies are not giving away a lot of money."
The company has 161 employees, half of them in Lexington and the remainder in Georgia and overseas.
Although small and medium-size corporations are targeted for Ipswitch's information technology software products, at one time or another, more than half of the nation's 500 largest companies have bought some of Ipswitch's products, said Greene, a Somerville resident.
Greene said that employee input on the types of groups to help is seriously considered, and in recent years they have favored organizations that assist young people and the homeless.
These groups include the Quincy-based Cradles to Crayons, which distributes clothing, books, and other goods to needy children; Give Us Your Poor, a University of Massachusetts McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies program that works to end homelessness; and Year Up, a nonprofit that has programs for young adults in Boston, New York, Washington, and Rhode Island.
The Lexington firm has contributed $150,000 to be the presenting sponsor of a Nov. 16 concert to be put on by Give Us Your Poor at Dorchester's Strand Theater. Proceeds will benefit 16 organizations that work with the homeless.
Ipswitch began a partnership last year with Year Up, which helps men and women between the ages of 18 and 24 learn technical skills and get internships and then jobs, said Casey Recupero, executive director of Year Up-Massachusetts.
One individual served an internship at Ipswitch and was subsequently hired, Recupero said.
"They show how a positive leadership at the top is important," said Recupero.
But it is employees, Greene said, who follow through on the corporate-giving concept, which, he added, "is fundamentally important to any company's growth and to a stronger society."
Last year, Ipswitch reported revenues of $29 million, a 14 percent increase over 2005. "We've made money every year since 1992," he said.
Two months ago, Inc. magazine named Ipswitch one of the nation's 5,000 fastest-growing private companies. The magazine cited the company's revenue growth of about 40 percent over the last four years. Greene said giving away money for worthwhile causes was always on his mind when he first went into business, but so was starting his own firm.
"I was the 12th person hired by FTP Software [then of Cambridge], so I saw what it was like for a company to be in the early stages [of development]. And that's where I wanted to be with my own company," he said.
Greene left FTP as a vice president and set up shop in Reading 16 years ago. The operation subsequently was moved to Wakefield, then to Lexington nine years ago.
The derivation of the company name is a story in itself.
"One of my original programmers was driving along the North Shore one day when he spotted an Ipswich town sign," Greene recalled. "He said to himself, 'That's a nice pun,' because he took the IP of the town name to stand for Internet Protocol, which was the business we were in.
"So we adopted the town name - adding a 't,' of course - to acknowledge the state of Massachusetts, where we were located, and the pun. We wanted a descriptive corporate name so that we could build a brand on it."
The company, he said, was started "with a lot of sweat equity and an investment of less than $100,000."
Since then, "millions of people globally" have used the company's three software products, Greene said.
Very simply, these products help customers monitor computer networks, retrieve e-mails, and transfer computer files securely.
Product prices range from $100 to several thousand dollars each, he said.