What to look for
While there is (currently) no high street name which majors in voluntary sector banking, there are some ‘deposit takers’ which do. Some of the ‘second rung’ bankers have specialist charity staff actually dealing with banking matters, rather than just marketing.
Many members and even trustees of voluntary organisations make sweeping assumptions on the terms you can get for banking. While the smaller community group or charity may well be able to get ‘free’ banking, this is by no means automatic. ‘Free’ may mean you also don’t get much interest paid on any spare cash you may have on deposit – if this happens often you may be better off paying (low) charges and getting proper interest rates. Charging structures have got more flexible recently, and may be based on a fixed fee, cost per transaction or sometimes a mixture. It is worth assessing what types of transaction you process most (e.g. volume of small cheque receipts as opposed to large direct credits such as grants) as this can make a large impact on which bank is the best for you.
Branches nowadays often don’t talk with ‘small business’ customers direct, but refer them to regional managers. Don’t expect these people, even with their narrower focus, to have any understanding of voluntary sector needs. We frequently have ‘oddities’ to deal with – some one-off foreign exchange visit or sudden need for loads of cash for an event – and developing a relationship and educating your manager can pay dividends in smoothing out the problems.
Deposit takers aren’t full banks – no or limited cheque facilities – but can help you maximise the return on spare cash, if you have the time and ability to manage transfers (to ensure your bank cash-flow doesn’t get you into trouble).
- Barclays Bank Charities Team concentrated on large organisations like NSPCC to start with, but presumably have now spread outwards.
- Bank of Scotland Treasurers account for non-profit making organisations with a turnover below £50,000.
- CAF Bank, part of a charity itself, offers high interest current accounts and easy access deposit accounts, CAF Cash and CAF Gold. Higher interest rates than standard on minimum deposits of £1,000, accounts operated by phone, post and online. Also operate longer term investment options such as the CAF Equity Growth Fund. Phone 0870 264 3296.
- Cater Allen Bank Part of Santander, has a range of accounts for clubs, associations, charities.
- Co-op Bank has the Community directplus account for community organisations, charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises. See their Community Banking pages. Their ethical policy may well be attractive alongside no charges for standard banking facilities plus post, phone and internet access. Charities Tam phone 020 7977 2121.
- NatWest Search for Community Account (under Business) for the smaller voluntary group – free banking for turnover below £100,000 a year.
- Royal Bank of Scotland Treasurers Account for clubs, societies, churches and charities. Contact Tom Lynch, 28 Cavendish Square, London, W1M 0DB, phone 020 7647 8726 or 8713.
- Santander Corporate Banking – look under Specialist Sectors.
- Triodos Bank Known for their ethical stance, they also have Charity Cheque and Reserve Accounts, and a Social Venture Current Account. Phone 0800 328 2181, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Unity Trust A specialist bank for voluntary, membership and credit union organisations, as well as the trade unions involved in setting it up, with the help of Co-op Bank. Did have a ‘Rent to Buy’ scheme enabling charity and voluntary organisations to acquire their premises – may have ended. It also sponsors various charity finance and management courses and events. Nine Brindley Place, 4 Oozells Square, Birmingham, B1 2HB, phone 0845 140 1000.
Direct Debit and Direct Credit (paying suppliers electronically) facilities are offered by most banks, but organisations need good accounting systems and adequate financial controls to be able to sign up. Check out BACS website for some basic info (the jointly owned automated clearing system house).
- CCLA Investment Management Have a COIF Deposit Account offering instant access but high interest rates, amongst other options for charities. In our experience the service is straightforward and reliable. CCLA, 80 Cheapside, London, EC2V 6DZ, phone 020 7489 6010.
- Epworth Investment Management is a specialist charity fund manager who offers a range of charity funds including the high interest, instant access Affirmative Deposit Fund for Charities. 9 Bonhill Street, London, EC2A 4PE, phone 020 7496 3636.
See any charity sector publication for adverts from a variety of players.
Check our Ethical investment page too.
targeted at voluntary sector:
- The Pensions Trust is the only pension provider working exclusively with the voluntary sector. There is a specific scheme they manage for NICVA/northern Ireland charities, for instance. Email: email@example.com. Verity House, 6 Canal Wharf, Leeds, LS11 5BQ, phone 0113 234 5500.