Charitable payroll enterprise looking to grow

Thankyou Payroll director Steve Walker stands outside the company’s birthplace — a humble shed at...
Thankyou Payroll director Steve Walker stands outside the company’s birthplace — a humble shed at the back of a Port Chalmers house — as the social enterprise prepares for an expansion drive. Photo: Peter McIntosh.
A social enterprise born in a Port Chalmers shed is now promising new jobs, as well as a new way of doing business in Dunedin.

Thankyou Payroll, which has offices in Dunedin and Wellington, has since 2010 provided free payroll services to businesses and charities across New Zealand, funded by subsidies from the Inland Revenue Department.

But, unlike other more profit-driven ventures, the company has also been giving money away, through charitable offshoot the Thankyou Charitable Trust.

Yesterday, the company announced plans to seek between $400,000 and $600,000 through a PledgeMe crowdfunding campaign beginning on April 7.

Thankyou Payroll director Steve Walker — also the West Harbour Community Board chairman — told the Otago Daily Times the aim was to grow the company and the benefits it delivered to the community.

The company had 13 staff, including three in Dunedin, but aimed to recruit more, potentially doubling in size.

Up to six of the new staff would be based in Dunedin, requiring a new office and providing a much-needed boost for the city, he said.

"I really believe that those sort of jobs are the jobs that Dunedin needs — good, well-paid, sustainable jobs."

The company was the brainchild of Hugh Davidson, who launched the venture in a shed and helped grow it from humble beginnings to having more than 4300 customers.

Along the way, it had modelled a new way of doing business with a community and charitable focus, Mr Walker said.

The company boasted a female chief executive, Christina Bellis, and a board of directors dominated by women, who occupied 60% of the seats at the table.

Community groups could access funds they might otherwise struggle to secure from traditional donors, and were asked only to report back on their projects at a potluck dinner, he said.

But, most of all, the company’s success showed business and charity could work together, he believed.

"A business can employ well, can make money for its shareholders, but at the same time can give back to the communities in which it lives and operates.‘‘It’s just a win-win."

The company had been funded by the IRD, which wanted to encourage small businesses to use intermediaries when providing payroll data.

Thankyou Payroll received about $15 from the IRD each time a client used its service, and then funnelled 25c from each payment into its charitable offshoot, he said.

Since 2013, the trust had distributed about $80,000 to 80 organisations across New Zealand, including in Dunedin, but continued growth meant it hoped to distribute a further $60,000 this year alone, he said.

However, changes being introduced by the IRD meant the company would have to adapt, by moving to a paid model when the IRD ceased subsidies next year, he said.

From 2019, the IRD would also require all businesses to use a payroll provider or the department’s own online service, meaning 60,000 new clients would be available, he said.

Thankyou Payroll expected to secure at least 8000 of them, and the crowdfunding campaign aimed to position the company to do so, he said.

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