Levels of corporate and workplace giving have been badly hit by an increase in the number of businesses replacing charitable donations with employee volunteering, charities have claimed.
Allan McLaren, assistant director of fundraising at Barnardo's Scotland, said the charity was not raising as much money through workplace giving as it had hoped. "There can be problems when what employers want is for their staff to engage with each other and with the charity, but what we need is for them to raise funds," he said. "Businesses can see that the charity receives a direct benefit when their staff volunteer, but we do really need them to raise funds for our ongoing work."
A spokesman for the Children's Society said a number of charities had commented that the level of donations they received from businesses had fallen as employee volunteering had grown since the start of the recession.
A spokeswoman for Workplace Giving UK, which organises payroll giving schemes, said the firm had noticed a "definite trend of companies emphasising volunteering over the promotion of employee fundraising since the beginning of the recession."
She said the trend towards volunteering "had serious consequences for many charities that rely on a certain income and have been hit by people volunteering and thinking they've done their bit for charity for the year."
But Lesley Nicholls, director of employee volunteering at CSV, cast doubt on the link between the two activities. "Not all workplace giving is match-funded by employers anyway, and businesses are almost always asked to pay for employee volunteering schemes," she said.
Jacqui Atkinson, community affairs manager for Yorkshire and Clydesdale Bank, said the firm had increased the number of employees that were released to volunteer for good causes by 30 per cent in the past 12 months and planned to increase it further this year. But she said the bank had not reduced its charitable donations or reduced the scale of workplace giving, and had no plans to do so.
She also warned that non-skilled employee volunteering was of little benefit to charities. "If we get 10 people together to paint a room for a charity, it's a good bonding experience but professional painters would do it quicker and better." She said "asking staff to do fundraising work would be more sensible."