Tracey Bird gives some advice on how to make charity banking as stress free as possible
Around this time last year Third Force News ran a story about high street banks failing charities. This wasn’t a surprise to us at SCVO’s Information Service, where we had received a number of queries about the problems SCIOs were having in opening a new bank account, lost paperwork, bad service, and difficulties when changing signatories.
Remember you can always change your bank and take your organisation’s money elsewhere!Tracey Bird
So what happened next? Well, Scotland’s charity regulator established a group of people from various organisations to come together to discuss what we could do to help the sector. The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) had already been in touch with various banks and the British Banking Association (BBA) and it soon became clear that due to heavy regulation, changes were not going to be quick. So we decided to focus on making sure third sector organisations can be as informed and prepared as possible when it comes to choosing their bank.
The result is a publication called Banking for charities which outlines the things that you need to think about when it comes to choosing a bank. Here’s five top tips, but take a look at the guide, which has much more detail:
1. Know what you need
Do you need online banking? Do you want access to a local branch and/or a credit card? Does your constitution require two signatories (known as dual authorisation)? Banks will expect you to have an idea of what kinds of transactions you will be carrying out e.g. depositing cash, issuing cheques, setting up direct debits, use of credit cards etc.
2. Do your research
All banks offer different products and services, and some may involve monthly charges. Some banks have a minimum amount that you need to deposit to even open an account. We’ve pulled together information on all the main banks offering charity current accounts in our Bank Account comparison table but have your questions ready as all banks differ in the way they operate.
3. Be prepared
All banks will need ID from your trustees, a copy of your constitution and may ask for more. Banks have a duty to know about the people who have financial responsibility in your organisation, whether they’re volunteers or employed staff. And a bank can refuse to bank with anyone. Some banks also require a solicitor’s letter to prove that you are who you say you are. SCVO members can get access to two hours of free legal advice which may help with this.
4. Keep up to date
Check your account regularly to make sure it’s still the right one for your organisation. Charity trustees have a duty to ensure that the organisation’s funds are managed properly and to make sure they have the best banking arrangements for their charity. This level of care is good practice for all third sector trustees.
5. Not happy?
Well complain then. All banks have complaints procedures and if they don’t respond you can take your concerns to the financial ombudsman. Alternatively, remember you can always change your bank and take your organisation’s money elsewhere!