The payroll giving record of the biggest UK charities

Take-up of the scheme among large charities has been good - but the rate of participation is relatively low, writes Susannah Birkwood

Payroll giving
Payroll giving

Charities have long supported payroll giving as method of donating: it is one of the most tax-effective ways for people to give, provides charities with monthly gifts they can depend on and is rarely cancelled.

Last year the Geared for Giving campaign – launched in 2008 by the payroll-giving agency Workplace Giving to increase the awareness of payroll giving among business leaders and politicians – revealed that only 1.5 per cent of all MPs were signed up for it.

Third Sector has now carried out a survey of the UK's 20 largest charities by fundraising income, which shows that all but three of them offer payroll giving (see table, below). The three that do not are the National Trust, Mencap and the Royal British Legion.

This appears to put the top 20 charities ahead of companies in general in terms of provision: Workplace Giving says 8,500 UK companies offer payroll giving, which is 24 per cent of the 37,000 companies that, according to the Office for National Statistics, have more than 50 employees.

However, staff participation rates at the top 20 charities that revealed figures average only 1.7 per cent. This is lower than the 6 per cent that Workplace Giving says is the national average at all employers that operate a scheme.

At the Salvation Army, only one of the charity's staff of 4,800 was signed up to the scheme. Five other charities – Oxfam, the RNLI, Age UK, Sightsavers and Marie Curie Cancer Care – all declined to say how many staff were participating in their schemes.

So why does payroll giving seem to appeal to so few charity staff? Some charities say it is because their staff do other kinds of fundraising. A spokeswoman for the Salvation Army, for example, says: "There are a number of other ways our employees can donate money, such as Give As You Earn. However, some also take part in fundraising through challenge events, such as running the London Marathon."

Valerie Morton (left), a fundraising trainer and consultant, says one reason is that many of the charities that offer schemes don't promote them. There could be an underlying feeling among staff that their employer will disapprove if they give to a different charity, she says.

Elena Joseph, head of new projects at Workplace Giving, agrees that there is a lack of commitment to publicising the schemes by the charities of which she has experience. She believes this should change because charities should set an example to other employers.

"We believe that charities should practise what they preach," she says. "They are no different from any other employer we work with. Indeed, their employees are sometimes better paid than some retailers we work with, so we are bemused when a charity says staff feel they already do enough."

Third Sector asked some of the charities surveyed about how they promote payroll giving. Ann Kiceluk, people director at the wildlife charity the RSPB, says it promotes its scheme on its staff intranet. The NSPCC says it does this too. An RNIB spokeswoman says her charity also promotes the scheme on its intranet and at staff meetings.

Asked whether charities should do more to promote the method internally, Peter Lewis, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising, says charities should be free to decide their own policies.

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, says the survey prompted him to reflect on what more could be done to promote payroll giving among his staff. The charity's director of fundraising, Paul Farthing, adds: "We will be speaking to staff over the coming weeks to ensure they are aware of the scheme and the opportunities it provides."

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