When will charity start at work?

There’s an old idiom that says charity starts at home, but as the payroll giving trend starts taking off in South Africa, charity may very well find its place at work, giving new meaning to the concept of ‘give as you earn’.

Already well-established in the UK and US, payroll giving is gaining traction in South Africa, offering employers a simple but effective way to involve their employees in social investment initiatives while building a shared culture of caring for vulnerable groups and communities. Payroll giving is facilitated by employers, and enables employees to donate a chosen amount to a supported charity straight from their gross salary before it is taxed each month, with a minimum of hassle.  

Payroll Giving is growing in South Africa, and is founded on the basis that many small donations, given on a recurring basis, with minimal administration required by the employer, can amount to a substantial and meaningful impact for a needy charity. If only 10% of South Africa’s 9.2 million employed people contributed R50 a month of their salaries, it would amount to R46-million every month, or R552million every year invested in charitable programmes. Many companies are also challenging employees to support such programmes, with the promise of matching and doubling up on whatever employees donate in their personal capacities.

B-Cause is a specialist agency in South Africa that focuses specifically on cause-related marketing, social responsibility and sustainability issues, matching corporate brands with appropriate social and public benefit organisations.   

One of the greatest appeals of payroll giving is that employees have the peace of mind that all the checks and balances are in place, and that approved charities supported by their employer have been through the process of confirming their legitimacy and that the funds will be used effectively. There is also the cohesion that comes from working towards supporting a common vision where everyone’s smaller contributions can make a huge social difference as a collective effort. Finally, not all employees are able to invest their time or skills in worthy causes as often as they would like to, so payroll giving provides an opportunity to be part of a well-managed charitable effort, on a consistent basis without any demands on their time.  

While payroll giving initially took off in larger employers, small and medium commercial entities are also seeing the opportunity to rally their people around a common cause, with a minimum of effort and costs to company to administer the effort. At the same time, it provides the business with a distinct competitive advantage to differentiate in an increasingly socially-conscious consumer market. In fact, progressive business strategists have long been advocating for corporate social investment to be managed as aspects of core business strategy.

Entrench a culture of giving

There is an important internal marketing job to be done in creating and maintaining the payroll giving momentum. B-Cause works with employers to introduce and demonstrate to staff how easy it is to make a difference with payroll giving. Invest the marketing resources to promote the payroll giving opportunities, and then get leadership involved to challenge employees and set the bar. It’s also vital that staff get to see the results of their contributions, so provide regular feedback on how their hard earned money has benefitted a needy cause.  

Payroll giving drives employee engagement  

An often overlooked but valuable benefit of payroll giving is that of employee engagement.

Payroll Giving is one of many important employee engagement tools which are vital in the age of millennials. According to a 2015 Cone Communications study, millennials are far more engaged with social causes than their older counterparts. Millennials are more likely to work for a company based on its corporate social responsibility commitments, and will even be willing to take a drop in salary in order to work for a socially responsible company that they admire when deciding where to work. Millennials expect brands to integrate sustainable and responsible practices into all that they do. Brands that are embracing CSI as a business-imperative strategy, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s also the profitable thing to do, tend to retain skilled staff for longer, and enjoy a greater share of the consumer wallet.    

For the employer brand, besides the ease with which it can be integrated into the payroll system, payroll giving also brings structure to its CSI strategies. With payroll giving, you have the consistency of donor income that can be earmarked for specific charitable projects, allowing for long-term and structured forward planning which is worth gold for both donor and recipient organisations.

In embarking on a payroll giving strategy, B-Cause helps companies to identify NPOs that align with the strategic imperatives and nature of the business, and ensure that there is a good fit for the cause and beneficiaries that would be best served by the partnership. We focus on creating and sustaining mutually beneficial relationships between corporates, employees and NGOs - relationships that will last and become deeply ingrained in the mind of the organisation, its people and the public.

Michelle Govender is the Director of Strategic Marketing at B-Cause.

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