CAF has a long and proud history of supporting universities in the UK to engage their employees in charitable giving via payroll giving. We work with over 80 universities and as a sector these universities and their staff have donated £13.3 million pounds to charity through payroll giving, in the past 10 years. This achievement is testament to the power of the collective and how important payroll giving is to staff within universities.

Payroll giving offers university staff the unique benefit of supporting the causes they care about most. Whether it is a large national charity, a cause in the local community like a school or foodbank they feel passionate about or, because of its charitable status, they can even choose to make donations back to the university they work at.

Making the case for employee engagement

A workplace culture with employee engagement at the heart can transform your organisation and your employees.

Today’s employees are rapidly evolving with demands and trends that shape what they want from their place of work – a lot of us no longer work just to make a living; we want to be part of something bigger. The work we do has to be meaningful and rewarding on a deeper level. And the majority of employees really perform their best when they know that the work they are doing is making a difference.

Now more than ever, organisations looking to attract and retain talent need to recognise that employee values are changing.

According to the Independent, employee disengagement costs the UK economy £340bn annually and is evidently eroding UK productivity. Management strategies must evolve to meet employee needs if organisations are to retain staff and remain competitive. Retaining employees in this competitive market is seen as one of the biggest cost savers for companies. In 2018, it was estimated that replacing an employee who on the UK average salary was up to £11,000.

Even though most organisations realise the importance of employee engagement, the majority of them find it very challenging to find something to engage employees with. We believe that payroll giving is a simple tool that can be used to engage employees and show them that you care about the things that are important to them. After all, eighty-three per cent of millennials in the workforce say they would be more loyal to an organisation that enables them to contribute to social problems.

Let’s start at the beginning, what exactly is Payroll Giving?

Payroll giving is a scheme that enables your employees to give to any UK charity straight from their gross salary (before tax is deducted), and to receive immediate tax relief. Charities also don’t have to claim Gift Aid, so there’s less administration for them and they can plan ahead and budget for the future based on the regular, reliable donations received through payroll giving.

We offer three different ways for employees to give through their pay:

Direct to charity

Allows for employees to set up a donation to go straight to their favourite charity.

Charity account

Allows employees to accumulate donations and disburse them as they see fit. Employees can make ad-hoc donations or set up standing orders from their account.

Staff charity fund

Pool your employees’ payroll giving donations and make a substantial collective contribution to a predetermined charity.

Besides employee engagement, what are the other benefits of offering and promoting payroll giving?

Enhances existing corporate social responsibility activity – payroll giving can be utilised as a tool to help achieve broader CSR objectives and create significant, tangible impact for charities.

Creates positive PR – demonstrate the university’s commitment to supporting the community, to wider stakeholders and show employees that you care about the things that are important to them.

Serves as a differentiator – provides external recognition for charity contributions through Government-recognised quality marks to contribute to making you a preferred employer.

Simple to run – payroll giving offers a digital friendly user experience to deliver online support for processing which means that you don’t need a dedicated person to administer your scheme.

Top tips for driving engagement with university staff

The key is in communicating the scheme and its benefits as often as possible.

1. Position payroll giving as part of your employee wellbeing strategy

This is an easy way to communicate to employees why you have the scheme in place and why it is important.

2. Remind them they can give locally

From our work with various universities we’ve noticed that a lot of staff opt to give to small local causes in their direct area through Give As You Earn. Be sure to remind them as often as possible that this is possible through the scheme.

3. Tell new joiners about it

Be to include information on payroll giving in your new starter programme to ensure all staff are aware of the scheme and the benefits it has.

If you already have a scheme, how can you boost engagement around payroll giving with your staff?

We are here to help Reward and Benefits Managers maximise engagement in payroll giving with staff. There are various ways of increasing engagement around payroll giving – at CAF we try and do as much as possible to support our clients in doing so.

1. Strategic alignment

We are here to help universities incorporate payroll giving into their broader employee engagement strategies.

2. Campaigns

CAF drives a few campaigns throughout the year that we encourage clients to take part in to help drive engagement with their scheme. These include campaigns like Giving Tuesday, our free to use CAF content guideline and toolkits that contain specific tools like posters and email signatures.

3. Hands on involvement

There are various more hands on ways that we can support like running Lunch&Learn sessions in person, a webinar staff can join to find out more about the scheme and ask questions or for your university to work with a  Professional Fundraising Organisation (PFO). PFOs specialise in face-to-face engagement with employees, bringing life to a promotional campaign and boosting sign-ups in person.


Universities naturally foster a culture of giving and philanthropy. That’s true for many of our clients in higher education, who raise extraordinary amounts for good causes. We spoke to our client The University of Manchester, to see how payroll giving has become one of the key ways they engage with staff to carry out their philanthropic goals. Employees at the university have donated over £1m to charity through payroll giving, helping give back to a variety of causes they care about.

Manchester Uni photo header

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