The number of people donating to charities through payroll giving has risen for the first time since the credit crunch began four years ago, an accountancy firm has found.
Figures from Wilkins Kennedy reveal that 15,000 more employees used the payroll giving in 2011/12 than in the year before, taking the total to 735,000. It is the highest number taking part in the scheme since 2008/09.
Employees also gave a record £118m through the scheme last year, the highest total since the scheme began in 1990.
But Wilkins Kennedy, which compiled the figures using the HM Revenue & Customs database, said the number of people donating through payroll giving was still below the 2007/08 level when 758,000 employees used the scheme.
John Howard, head of charity and not-for profit at Wilkins Kennedy, said that the rise offered "a slight glimmer of light" but added the recovery in payroll giving could be short-lived if the economy enters a sustained double-dip recession.
"The boost in users is a particularly welcome one for charities struggling with increased workloads and cuts to local authority spending," he said. "However, if the current downturn continues and unemployment begins to move up again, the recovery in payroll giving will be all too brief."
Nick Hurd, the minister for civil society, recently asked companies taking part in the scheme to come up with "radical ideas" that would increase the number of employees using it.
But Joe Saxton, co-founder of the research consultancy nfpSynergy, told Third Sector last week that payroll giving was the "British Leyland of fundraising techniques" and should be scrapped in favour of employees setting up personal direct debits with charities that are then match-funded by employers.
Wilkins Kennedy says the government should promote the scheme properly and encourage more employers to take part.