Our Transition to Steward Ownership: Putting People at the Heart of Thankyou Payroll

Thankyou Payroll is pioneering a new Steward Ownership model which will see an estimated $1-2m invested annually into shaping a brighter future for the people of our country.

Ever since Thankyou Payroll was founded 14 years ago in a small garage in Ōtepoti Dunedin, we’ve been on a mission to be more than just a payroll company.

Not only do we strive to be the leading experts in payroll, but in purpose driven business too. We have a vision of a world where the most successful businesses are those that operate first and foremost in the service of people and the planet.

Over the years, Thankyou Payroll has never lost sight of this vision. From our original fee model that offered free payroll services to businesses, to our current fee model that has provided free payroll services to over 1,000 charities. From our promotion of payroll giving, that has seen over half a million dollars donated to charities across Aotearoa New Zealand, to the establishment of our own charity in 2013 – the Thankyou Charitable Trust.

We’ve created a legacy that we are incredibly proud of, and all of it has been made possible by the thousands of small businesses who have trusted us to process their payroll. This has motivated us to explore new and innovative ways to further our impact and place people and the planet at the heart of our business model.

The Thankyou Payroll Wellngton Office volunteering in Oriental Bay

The Thankyou Payroll Wellngton Office volunteering in Oriental Bay

Enhancing the positive impact you make possible

After years of researching and planning, Thankyou Payroll is thrilled to share that we will be transitioning to Steward Ownership.

Okay, but what does this mean? 

In a nutshell, this means that the ownership of Thankyou Payroll will transfer from individual shareholders to an independent, not-for-profit trust over the next 6 years.


As a result of this change, Thankyou Payroll will be owned by Generous Ventures (formerly the Thankyou Charitable Trust), who will receive all free revenue from the business to fund initiatives that have a positive impact across Aotearoa New Zealand. Our new ownership structure will enable Generous Ventures to increase its funding of charitable initiatives from an average of $50,000 to over $1,500,000 annually, by the time the transition of ownership is complete.

How amazing is that!

Historic Grantees of Generous Ventures, Kingdom Resources Christchurch

Historic Grantees of Generous Ventures, Kingdom Resources Christchurch

Why Steward Ownership?

Ultimately we want to protect the vision and mission of Thankyou Payroll, whilst finding new ways to maximise our impact. Steward Ownership locks in that commitment and provides a long term, and sustainable pathway to make a bigger impact.

This transition is about so much more than just Thankyou Payroll. We are hoping to demonstrate what is possible for other small businesses across Aotearoa New Zealand. Our CEO, David Morrison, says the model also provides an exit-strategy for founders and investors, who want to leave a positive legacy. Our vision is to see more businesses adopt similar structures.

Imagine if 100 businesses of our size transition to Steward Ownership! That could potentially see hundreds of millions of dollars being invested in communities across New Zealand over the medium to long term.

One of the greatest challenges for many Kiwi business owners reaching retirement age or seeking to exit is that the sale of their firms to a competitor or third party creates a risk of it being transformed into something they don’t recognise or that is inconsistent with their values. Steward ownership offers an alternative, allowing a self-sustaining business to become a legacy that can go on to create an intergenerational revenue stream for a variety of causes – well beyond the life of its founder.

David Morrison

CEO, Thankyou Payroll

Meet our new owners: Generous Ventures

Generous Ventures is led by three Trustees, Adele Cubitt-Cohen, Lani Evans and Susan Basterfield. They offer expertise in philanthropy, social enterprise and steward ownership and the skills they bring to the table are of immense value to the Trust, Thankyou Payroll and this project.

Since its inception in 2017, the Generous Ventures (originally named Thankyou Charitable Trust) has been able to support 300 causes throughout the country. This has seen funds distributed to support mental health, diversity, arts, sports and kaupapa Māori organisations.

To date, the work of the Trust has followed a community-led funding approach by including local charities and groups in decisions around how and where donations are distributed. With the significant increase to funding anticipated, the Trust are considering new funding models which would allow them to deliver even greater value to communities across Aotearoa New Zealand.

Thankyou Payroll’s exit to Steward Ownership represents a huge opportunity for funding things that really matter to New Zealanders. Our focus is on developing a new strategy and exploring new ways of working that can help us generate impact.

Lani Evans

Trustee, Generous Ventures

What does this mean for our customers?

We are committed to creating long-term stability for our customers who place their trust in us to process their payroll. This model protects that and ensures there is no impact to the payroll service that we provide.

What this does mean is that with every payroll you process through Thankyou Payroll, you’re making an even bigger impact than you did before. It affirms your choice to make conscious decisions about who you do business with – by seeing a tighter focus on people and our planet. This story is as much yours as it is ours. It’s because of you, we are able to do this.

The road ahead

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just handing over the reins to Generous Ventures (we wish). In fact, the process of buying our shareholders will need to happen over the course of 6 years and we’re only at the beginning. We’ll be sure to share our journey with you and the lessons we’ve learnt along the way in the hope that we inspire a new and more purposeful way of doing business in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Thankyou Payroll Team May 2023

The Thankyou Payroll Team at our annual Staff Hui in May 2023