• Workplace payroll giving must become a “social norm,” say campaigners

  • 7 Oct 2016
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Five-year plan to get every large business to enable staff donations; just a quarter of employers currently on board

The concept of donating to charity through payroll is poorly understood at present and must become a “social norm” employees feel comfortable with at every stage of their career, according to a broad campaign which aims to kickstart the process in UK businesses.

Only 23 per cent of employers currently offer payroll giving, according to a new survey of 6,900 organisations with at least 250 employees.

The Geared for Giving Campaign – which launched yesterday and is supported by the CIPD, alongside employers such as ASOS, BT, Linklaters and The Entertainer – wants 6.5 million more employees to be actively donating within five years, which would offer an annual £130m boost for charities.

Payroll giving allows employees to donate to their chosen charities direct from their salary, without paying tax. This means charities benefit by at least 25 per cent on top of employee donations; for higher rate taxpayers, charities can receive up to 81 per cent more.

Peter O’Hara, Geared for Giving founder and CEO, said: “Payroll giving remains one of the best-kept secrets in fundraising, a hidden gem one million employees currently take part in every pay day. More staff aren’t giving this way simply because they haven’t heard about the scheme or their company doesn’t currently operate it.

“We want every employer in the UK to have access to payroll giving. And by doing this, we hope in five years we can double the number of employees giving from pay, which in turn will raise an extra £130 million for good causes. Over the next five years, we want to start this step change by making this scheme available in every workplace where there are 250 or more employees.

“If we can encourage these employers to operate the scheme, it will give a further 6.5 million employees access to payroll giving,” he added.

Next year, Geared for Giving, in partnership with BT, will launch a new digital platform which will enable more than 25 million employees to donate through their pay, find out if their company operates the scheme and request access to the scheme for their workplace.

O’Hara added: “We hope this employee-led promotion will encourage more employers to operate the scheme. Between galvanising these large employers and making it easier for employees to donate, we believe we can make giving to charity through pay a social norm and something employees do when they start working for businesses, as well as something they expect a good employer to offer.”

The campaign is encouraging businesses to pledge to take the payroll giving message to five other businesses – a method it believes can help it reach 7,500 organisations in three years.

Rob Wilson, minister for civil society, said: “Businesses are key partners in increasing this country’s culture of giving, and there is more that can be done to harness the potential for giving in the workplace. It ranges from initiatives such as payroll giving to employer-supported volunteering schemes that enable staff to lend their skills to mentor and to help others.

“Employee expectations are changing, as 64 per cent want their company to support the issues and causes that matter to them,” added Wilson. “Not only is payroll giving an effective way to give money to charity, because donors get tax relief, it’s also a flexible ‘giving’ mechanism that can facilitate giving to a range of different charities.”

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  • Given the recent issues over charities targeting vulnerable 'donors', the suggestion that payroll giving "must become a social norm" has the potential to be the next charity scandal - whereby employees are made to feel that are somehow second rate citizens if they don't sign up. When payroll giving was first introduced my wife's employer, during a team meeting gave out forms - told them which charities they could support and advised them to hand in their completed forms at the end of the session. It was only the fact that some of the team were brave enough to question this approach and point out they already gave in different ways, that stopped the others from feeling they had no choice but to sign up. Donotions to a charity should be a personal choice - not something that they are made to feel compelled to do.