Business Toolkit: Should your company be more charitable?

ROB STOCK
Last updated 05:00 13/12/2015
STAMP DESIGN ROYAL MAIL GROUP

Scrooge as imagined by artist Quentin Blake for a 1993 British Royal Mail stamp.

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Businesses are being Scrooges, the Giving New Zealand report has revealed.

While ordinary Kiwis are playing their part in making charitable donations, businesses have been pulling back on their good works, says the report.

Businesses contributed just 3 per cent of all charitable giving in 2014, about $77 million, which was 22 per cent less than they gave in 2011 when businesses were generous in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes.

That led philanthropist Andrew Barnes to call on firms to do more.

What can your business do?

Donate cash. Businesses do that. Their shareholders simply decide they will make donations to causes they support. It can be good for employee morale.

What if I don't want to give cash?

Many businesses do "give" in other ways, though some of them involve staff committing their time, which requires their buy-in.

The Giving New Zealand report found that for every $1 given in cash by businesses, businesses gave $3.27 in services and goods.

That kind of giving is the likes of accountants doing the books of charities for free, or supermarkets giving unneeded stock to foodbanks.

The most famous example of this kind of giving is BNZ's "Closed for Good". The bank shuts its branches for one day a year, and the staff go out and do volunteering on community projects they believe in. That kind of venture can be healthy for a business as research shows that people like working for companies which do more than just seek the next dollar of profit.

Any other options?

Yes, payroll giving. The Inland Revenue Department runs a payroll giving scheme. People get to make donations each month to charity direct from their wages. Usually when you make a donation, to get a tax credit on it, you have to fill in a form and send it with a donations receipt to the taxman. The payroll giving scheme allows people to give out of their gross pay (before tax). Employers can decide to make matching payments to support their employees' giving. One business that does this is Barnes' Perpetual Guardian, the largest trustee, wills and estates company in the country.

Is payroll giving easy to set up?

It's not hard, but it does involve a bit of work. Payrollgivinginfo.org.nz has all the information a business needs to bring in payroll giving, including advice on how to engage with employees. It's fair to say that payroll giving has not really taken off yet.

Do I need to choose a charity?

The payroll giving scheme allows giving to any one of thousands of charities, but that's not to say that a business can't adopt a charity. That can work well both for the charity and the business either on a national scale, or on a hyper-local one. Indeed, charitable works can include things that benefit the community and give a business profile. Giving New Zealand noted that for every $1 donated by businesses, $1.43 of business "sponsorship" was paid. That money supported things like local sports and schools.

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