Charity begins at work

Helping employees donate to charity via your payroll costs nothing - and charities end up better off...

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Here at MT we’re big fans of Workplace Giving, a Government scheme to get more people donating to charity via their employer. The benefits are obvious: if you make a charitable donation out of your net salary, you have to pay tax on it first. But if the donation comes straight off your gross salary, your chosen charity gets all the tax payable – without the Revenue taking its pound of flesh. So for a higher rate taxpayer, your £60 donation to Oxfam is magically transformed into £100, without you or your employer needing to spend an extra penny. Apparently if every donor did this, it would yield an extra £900m a year for charity (although presumably it would all come out of the Treasury’s coffers, which wouldn’t please the Prime Minister at the moment).

This isn’t a new scheme – it’s been around in one form or another for 20 years. But it seems that relatively few people know about it – just 2.6% of the UK population give via the payroll, whereas in the US (where philanthropy is admittedly a lot more common), more than 30% do it. Lastminute.com boss Ian McCaig, whose company is one of the few to have a sizeable contingent (12% of the workforce no less), reckons awareness is the only barrier. ‘The average person in the UK is very enthusiastic about charitable giving,’ he told MT. ‘Once they understand [this scheme], it seems like a no brainer.’

Last October, the Government launched a 'Geared for Giving' campaign, which tried to address this by sending people into companies to talk to staff. ‘What they do – which wasn’t the case before – is to come in and sit at the side of people’s desks answering their questions,’ says McCaig. And as a result, lots more people soon signed up. ‘We as a company thought our duty was not to ram it down people’s throats. But we did have a strong duty to inform, because we know a lot of our employees give charitably and this is just a really smart way of doing it.’ McCaig stresses that this is a personal choice for employees – and it’s kept completely separate from the company’s own corporate charity efforts (the NSPCC is its chosen charity at the moment).

As an added bonus, this kind of thing is also great for employer branding – it shows your staff that you’re a nice kind of company, and these days that’s an important part of attracting and retaining top talent. As McCaig admits: ‘It’s all part of that emotional connection between you as an employee and the company you work for’.

In other words: it costs you nothing, raises extra money for charity and helps you keep your best people. What’s not to like about Workplace Giving?


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