Payroll giving take-up 'is high in top-20 charities, but staff participation is low'

Research by Third Sector finds that 17 of the UK's 20 biggest charities by fundraising income offers the scheme, but the average participation by employees at the 12 charities that gave figures was 1.7 per cent

Payroll giving
Payroll giving

A higher-than-average proportion of the UK’s biggest fundraising charities have set up payroll-giving schemes, but a lower-than-average proportion of their staff are participating in them, according to research by Third Sector.

The research found that all but three of the UK’s 20 biggest charities by fundraising income offered payroll giving.

Workplace Giving, a professional fundraising organisation that runs payroll-giving services, says 8,500 UK companies offer it – about 24 per cent of the 37,000 companies that, according to the Office for National Statistics, employ more than 50 people.

Third Sector’s research found, however, that the average participation by staff at the 12 charities that gave figures was 1.7 per cent, lower than the 6 per cent of employees that Workplace Giving says take part across all UK employers that offer a scheme.

The three top 20 charities that do not offer payroll giving are the National Trust, Mencap and the Royal British Legion.

Valerie Morton, a fundraising consultant and trainer, said: "I’d like to know why those three charities don’t offer payroll giving. What possible reason can they have? If you’re not doing it, you’re saying it isn’t something worth doing, so how can you morally go and ask businesses to do it? You should be able to talk businesses through how you promoted it in-house and how they can do the same."

A spokeswoman for Mencap said that although the charity did not offer payroll giving, almost a quarter of its 8,000 employees were signed up to the Pennies from Heaven scheme, which allows staff to donate up to 99p from their salaries to one charity selected by their employer.

Spokeswomen for the National Trust and the Royal British Legion both said the charities would consider offering payroll giving in the future.

The strongest staff participation among the top 20 was 7.5 per cent at Save the Children, followed by Cancer Research UK on 4.5 per cent.

Participation at Leonard Cheshire Disability and the British Red Cross was 0.1 and 0.3 per cent respectively. At the Salvation Army, only one person out of a staff of 4,800 was signed up, the charity said.

Other charities with a take-up of less than 2 per cent were Macmillan Cancer Support, the NSPCC, the RSPCA, the RSPB, the RNIB and the British Heart Foundation.

Before the BHF scheme was opened this year to staff working in its shops, the proportion was 5 per cent, the charity said.

Five charities – Oxfam, the RNLI, Age UK, Sightsavers and Marie Curie Cancer Care – declined to say how many staff were participating in their schemes.

Asked whether the RSPB promoted payroll giving to staff, Ann Kiceluk, people director at the wildlife charity, said the scheme, which is administered by the Charities Trust, was promoted on the staff intranet. "Such a wide range of options is available these days for people to donate to charity, and payroll giving is only one of those ways," she said.

A spokeswoman for the RNIB said the sight-loss charity also promoted payroll giving through its intranet and at staff meetings. The NSPCC said it promoted the scheme on its intranet.

Commenting on the NSPCC’s 0.8 per cent participation rate, Paul Farthing, director of fundraising at the children’s charity, said: "While we recognise that payroll giving participation is relatively low here at the NSPCC, our employees go the extra mile to support our work and the work of other charities close to their hearts in all sorts of other ways.

"For us, payroll giving is just one part of the bigger picture and we’re proud of our staff’s commitment to good causes, but we will be speaking to staff over the coming weeks to ensure they are aware of the scheme and the opportunities it provides."

Elena Joseph, head of new projects at Workplace Giving, said: "We have always stressed to our charity clients how important it is for them to facilitate charitable donations from pay for their own employees.

"A charity employee might have been helped personally by a charity or had a family member supported through an illness, so they should all be given the easy opportunity to give something back."

Peter Lewis, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising, said it did not encourage member charities to offer payroll giving and that charities should be free to decide their own policies.

For more on our payroll giving research, see good practice

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