Several campaigns are under way to increase the profile of payroll giving after research showed that charities are missing out on a potential £1.4bn because of low public awareness.
The study was commissioned by the Charities Aid Foundation and the Royal Bank of Scotland to measure people's perceptions of payroll giving. It was carried out in June.
Payroll giving is slowly increasing according to the latest figures from CAF. On the basis of donations from employees, and discounting extra money from the Government to boost participation or matched funding from employers, it has grown from £82m in 2003/04 to £83m this year. Just 2 per cent of taxpayers currently contribute. If employer matching is included, £95m has been donated to charity through payroll giving this year.
However, the survey also unearthed an alarming ignorance of the existence of payroll giving, with only half of the working population aware of the scheme. Yet 42 per cent of about 1,000 people questioned said they would be likely to donate to charity through their payroll if their employer offered the opportunity.
Stephen Ainger, chief executive of CAF, said: "If those questioned who said they would give through their payroll actually did so, this would generate £1.4bn more for charities every year."
The survey also showed that eight out of 10 people think employers should encourage staff to donate to charity, with one in five saying they would be more likely to choose to work for an organisation that offered payroll giving.
The RBOS and CAF research coincides with the launch this month of three TV advertising campaigns from Cancer Research UK, NSPCC and Oxfam. Funded by the bank, the adverts convey the message that anyone can make a difference to the treatment of cancer, child abuse and world poverty through regular giving.
At the same time, a generic radio advertising campaign has been launched in Wales and Manchester to encourage employees to take part in payroll giving.