Accountancy Software Checklist

Thoughts on criteria for selecting accounts packages

Suggested criteria to use in selection

Adapted from Accountancy Software Challenge, 1996. More work to be done!

So what was it that make our needs different? Disregarding any thought of larger charities (e.g. Save the Children or Cancer Research), we came up with three areas. Your comments are welcome.

Sector Specific Criteria

Concentrating on Cost of Sales and Gross Profit before Overheads in reporting structures, typical in accounts software, is not a helpful approach. What flexibility is there in report formats, and/or what facilities to produce reports to charity requirements?

SORP (Statement of Recommended Practice) makes certain principles essential for registered charities in compiling annual accounts. Can the package satisfy these, and can reports during the year reflect the principles where appropriate? This requires good analysis facilities to feed into the report ‘extraction’ routine.

Even for small charities and voluntary organisations which aren’t registered, there will be pressures from funders and others who will be increasingly familiar with SORP formats. The need for management reports very different from standard business formats, with complications around multi-funded projects for instance, makes this area important in judging.

Import facilities: There are a number of packages around dealing with specialist income areas: covenants, membership, relationship fundraising, rent accounting, investments. Transferring data directly to the accounts prevents errors in re-keying as well as saving time.
Export facilities: This is closely linked to reporting. If a package has enough analysis available, but not the reports, a spreadsheet (or possibly database) can solve this as long as the data can be transferred to it easily. This can also be useful in building cash-flow projections and ‘what-ifs’ around changing budgets or establishing new projects.

Obvious, but commercial companies can justify investment in terms of better financial management and therefore improvements to the ‘bottom line’ more easily. Smaller voluntary organisations are less likely to be in-house computer or finance experts, increasing costs where the package requires a lot of setting up.

General Criteria

A. Ease of Use

B. Adaptability (for changing needs), upgrade path

C. Robustness (doesn’t crash a lot, and doesn’t corrupt data if it does)

In our experience this can make the difference between pleasure and pain in using a package. Some insist on complicated ‘clear-down’ procedures, others have no means of closing off a year (or month) to late alterations, which can confuse reporting or even audit preparation.

This is mainly for organisations big enough to employ finance staff. In recruitment, is there a large enough pool of people out there who will have some idea of how to use the package, without a long induction period or expensive training? Are you severely limited in who will be able to re-jig reports or compile annual accounts? Will the package be around for some time?

Features Checklist

To develop further/add

A well-featured package should nowadays have:

– ability to hold bank accounts details for suppliers, ready for electronic payments (e.g. BACS).
– bank reconciliation facility (manual definitely, and possibly interface with electronic bank information).
– variable VAT rates (minimum of 10), but may be ignored if not registered for VAT.

Quite possibly:

– job costing and/or project management add-on, which may be capable of adaption to track restricted income and expenditure.

Useful for most volutnary organisations:

– analysis levels
– reporting flexibility
– import facilities: specific packages, ODBC or OLE
– export facilities: ditto

Downsides/limitations to check:

– demo version: what operating system is it being run on, what add-ons or extras are included to get the functions you are interested in


– known sector clients or other comparisons

Income Services

This page originally focused on online income services only. A short section on offline income services was started November 2014.

Online Income Processing Options

There are a number of ways of getting money processed as a result of someone making a decision to ‘buy’ from your website (or via seeing a charity ad elsewhere):

  • At time of writing (June 2000), it is common for all types and sizes of organisations to require a form to be printed off and posted, or a phone call, with cheque or credit card payment being processed in ‘standard’ ways.
  • Use a Payment Service Provider (PSP) facility, where your website connects through when someone wants to make a payment. The money goes to their account, and you get paid typically 45 days later. (Information should be collected on your site so you respond before then!). Operate on a set-up fee (sometimes free) plus a percentage per transaction which can be double the offline charge.
  • A ‘secure server‘ within your web set-up which allows taking credit/debit card details online, and you then feed in manually to your normal card processing arrangements.
  • Real online card processing, through a facility like ePDQ (see Barclays), with a live or batch connection to the card issuers/clearers. Usually a monthly fee, lower transaction charge than PSP – try to negotiate same as your offline arrangement.
  • Your own online processing facility, connecting through to the banks system in a similar way to BACS. Only for the largest, and even then probably not yet.

Online Income Tools, Services, Apps

You may want to investigate how these facilities manage or link in to Gift Aid processing. Note that some services are promoted as “free” but check what this means, as the phrase can ignore administration charges or cuts from Gift Aid, for example.

  • Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) can collect donations over the internet in various ways.
  • Charity Checkout online payment processing.
  • Donate is a mobile tool, originally designed to get guests giving at charity events  etc. Run by charity National Funding Scheme.
  • PayPal has a simple Donate button as part of its solutions for charities.
  • Rapidata Services has some online fundraising services as well as direct debit facilities.
  • SnapDonate (new autumn 2014) is an app which connects with JustGiving via scanning a charity logo.
  • Charity Digital (was Tech Trust) has various fundraising related online (and offline) services, including bulk email, card processing.

The open source add-on to the CiviCRM platform, CiviContribute, may be available. While coming from an American base, they are trying hard to internationalise it.

Also see Membership Systems, as increasingly fundraising management processes are integrated into a wider CRM (customer relationship management) function. Also check Online services for Event Management.

Platforms, giving portals

Also see Fundraising Resources page for sample charity websites, ‘shop and give’. Make sure you check what set up costs, commission on Gift Aid claims and/or transaction fees are charged.

  • Charity Choice web directory provides an online donation facility for registered charities.
  • Charity Giving, another online giving site, is operated by the Dove Trust, a charity which has been providing fundraising support since 1983. Lower charges than most.
  • everydayhero “consumer giving” website from fundraising software company Blackbaud also has facilities for charities to build fundraising websites.
  • Encourages individuals to share a photo, video or any link that will inspire others and give to charity. Projects and community groups as well as charities.
  • Global Giving “Projects on are screened to ensure they meet a genuine charitable purpose, in areas such as education, health, economic development and the environment.”
  • GoFundMe launched in the UK in 2017. From 2018, 5% donor charge dropped in favour of “voluntary tips”.
  • Golden Giving Only charges card transaction fees, through support by various philanthropic partners.
  • iRaiser Based in Paris (suggested by Shelter Scotland’s digital manager in an article Oct. 2014).
  • JustGiving The most well-known online platform for individual charity fundraising. There is an annual membership charge, unless you sign up for the Basic account. They also have a crowdfunding facility. Possibly also a ‘white label’ version for use within a charity’s own web page.
  • Localgiving aims to enable philanthropic giving to small local charities and community groups in the UK. It is a social enterprise owned by two charities, and every local charity listed is vetted by their local Community Foundation. There is an annual fee.
  • Make a Donation, now part of Golden Giving No commission charges due to support from businesses.
  • Makerble More about tracking impact of projects to show the change donors can make.
  • SmartGiving Fundraising pages and charity accounts (claiming Gift Aid before the account holder allocates the money). A registered charity.
  • The Big Give.
  • Total Giving from Raise your Profile using its Donation Manager software. No fees, apart from PayPal processing.
  • Virgin Money Giving is another individual fundraising platform, set up as a not-for-profit. There is a set up fee.

Community shares, Crowdfunding

General Payment Services

  • Barclaycard Business Services ePDQ is their online payment facility for approved merchants.
  • Paysafe (was NetBanx).
  • PayPal is a little different to the others. Accepts credit card payments very quickly, but there are some restrictions on what you can then do with the money.
  • Planet Payment Phone 0800 027 3636.
  • PayPoint. (previously SECpay).
  • SecureTrading provides ‘real time’ processing of payments by credit and debit card. UK based. Rates for charities (Autumn 04): 1% of each transaction plus £150 per year.
  • WorldPay is quite widely used by UK charities (which are charged 1% on credit cards, no annual fee). Doesn’t meet full accessibility requirements, according to reports. Part of Royal Bank of Scotland Group.

Cards and payment facilities

Various banks provide branded debit/credit cards for charities – we haven’t collated details so far.

Banking, Investment, Pensions

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).

Current Account providers

  • 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:
  • 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).

Deposit takers

  • 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.

Investment services, financial advisers

See any charity sector publication for adverts from a variety of players.

Sarasin & Partners LLP Their Compendium of Investment is designed to help trustees plan and implement their investment policy in conjunction with their investment manager.

Check our Ethical investment page too.

Pension Schemes

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: Verity House, 6 Canal Wharf, Leeds, LS11 5BQ, phone 0113 234 5500.

Fundraising Resources

Fundraising services and info, online giving, sample sites, funders

Fundraising information

Payroll giving is covered on the Tax Reclaim Services page.


Consultant sites with resources

  • Get Grants has a blog (featuring grant giving trusts) and newsletter.

See Professional Bodies page for further support networks. Also see Magazines page.

Locating sources of grants etc.

Also see: Directory of Social Change above. There are a number of Twitter feeds (at autumn 2014) putting out updates on grants and other income opportunities, too.

  • EU Money Service publishes a directory of European grants and has a grants update service.
  • Funding Central is managed by NCVO. It covers a wide variety of grants, contracts and loans that are available particularly from official sources, plus sections on advice, ‘find a partner’ etc.
  • Funding Information “the fundraising information service exclusively dedicated to the needs of voluntary organisations, charities, local authorities, and the agencies and information services who support them throughout the UK.” Annual subscription from £300.
  • Grants Net For business as well as charities. Was pending relaunch autumn 2014, still nothing summer 2017.
  • Grants Online Information on calls for proposals from the European Union, government and National Lottery grants etc. Free trial, annual sub from £75.
  • Idox has a suite of media platforms which “offer access to thousands of funding opportunities for businesses, community groups and students across the UK”. See Grantfinder database. They also run Open4FundingOpen4Community to allow councils to put funding search facilities for charity and community groups on their web sites.


Funders with useful websites


National Lottery related

Fundraising on the web

Crowdfunding is a label sometimes attached to online sourcing of fundraising by individuals. See Online Income Services for Platforms/giving portals, Online Tools and Services. Our Taking Action Personally page may also give some initiatives you can benefit from or be inspired by.

Also see Membership Systems, as increasingly fundraising management processes are integrated into a wider CRM (customer relationship management) function.

Note that some services are promoted as “free” but check what this means, as the phrase can ignore administration charges or cuts from Gift Aid, for example.

Mailing lists

  • MarketingFile Provides access to mailing lists via the web. You make your own selections and pay per item (no minimum quantities). While they see this as useful to smaller charities, there aren’t any tailored charity lists and you would need to have a clear idea of your target audience. Definitely worth a look if you are thinking of doing a cold-mailing appeal to generate new donors.
  • Avongate Find relevant postal and email lists for direct mail campaigns.

Shop and Donate

Sites generating commission/donations based on consumer purchases from various online retailers. Most of these charge charities/organisations to appear, and/or take a cut of each transaction generated. Some sites don’t last long, but others are now reasonably established. Note: We don’t update this list very often.

  • Easy Fundraising Over 55,000 causes, 2,700 retailers, at Sep. 2014.
  • The Giving Machine. Has a shopping toolbar/reminder system. Over 6,600 schools & charities at Sep. 2014.
  • Give or Take Chance to donate “cashback” earnings.
  • Give as you Live Over 3,500 stores, give to a charity of the month or your own choice.
  • GoRaise.
  • Vouchers4charity. Gift Vouchers/Greetings Cards can be bought online, with 3% of voucher value donated to charity.
  • eBay for Charity section – auctioning items for charity benefit.

Charity retail

Affiliate schemes, banner ads

These involve linking into existing schemes, such as the popular online bookseller Amazon’s facility for site visitors to link through from appropriate content, e.g. a book review, with a commission from connected sales coming back to you. You can get paid for carrying banner ads on your site, and some commercial sites now carry charity banners, with the named charity getting a small amount every time someone clicks on the ad (presumably the hosting site gets some info on its visitors this way).

Tab for a Cause web app turns any newly opened tab on a Chrome or Firefox web browser into a “charity collecting hub”, raising money from the banner advertisements which populate the new page. Purely American at Sep. 2014, but may expand.


Financial Procedures: Sample Document


Items in italics in the body of the text are Notes


For An Organisation


0. Purpose of document

1. Ordering supplies and services

2. Payment authorisation

3. Cheque writing and signing

4. Handling of cash

5. Salaries, payroll and freelancers

6. Income

7. Bank accounts

8. Books of account and records

9. Budget setting

10. Financial monitoring and audit

11 to 14. Roles


0. Purpose of this document

To define the financial systems used by An Organisation and how they relate to all areas of the organisation (sometimes referred to as Financial Standing Orders).

Relevant to managers and finance staff. All suggestions for amendments to Financial Controller. Minor amendments/updates to be agreed by Management Team; major amendments by Board of Trustees.

1. Ordering supplies and services

All staff need to be aware that expenditure is committed when an order is placed on behalf of AN ORGANISATION, not when the cheque is requested. Therefore, it is important that all orders are placed properly, and are within agreed budgets and delegated powers.

Budget holders can place orders for goods or services within their budget areas, subject only to cash-flow restraints. All orders of £1,000 or more must be authorised by the budget holder, except for specific areas of expenditure where written procedures have been agreed (e.g. book printing). Under £1,000, the budget holder may delegate all ordering as appropriate. Budget holders will discuss with the Financial Controller appropriate parameters, plus maximum allowed deviations before the budget holder or senior manager is brought in, which will be documented.

Any lease, hire purchase agreement or other contract involving expenditure will be subject to the same authorisation procedure as above, with the appropriate expenditure amount being the total committed expenditure over the period of the contract, or where the contract is open-ended, over the first 12 months of the contract. Larger contracts should not be entered into without adequate advice from a relevant professional adviser (e.g. accountant, solicitor, surveyor).

Orders of £1,000 or more must be placed in writing. Orders under £1,000 but over £100 should be in writing where practical . Each Department will devise appropriate ways of keeping records of such orders, which will be contained in an Appendix. Suppliers must be requested to produce invoices. If payment is needed on or before delivery or no credit is given, a ‘pro-forma’ should be provided.

While claims for small items of expenditure may be made via petty cash (see section 4), adequate supporting documentation, preferably receipts, must be obtained. Large items requiring cash payment must be checked with Finance before the arrangement is confirmed.

2. Payment authorisation and Purchase Ledger

All invoices must be authorised for payment by the budget holder, although the actual checking of details may be delegated. The authorising department is responsible for checking invoices for accuracy in terms of figures and conformity with the order placed, that the services or goods have been received, and following up any problems. Finance must be informed if there are queries delaying authorisation or if payment is to be withheld for any reason.

A Purchase Ledger is operated by Finance. All incoming invoices are to be passed to Finance section as soon as they arrive. Invoices will be recorded on to the Purchase Ledger within two days, unless there are coding problems. They are then passed on to budget holders for authorisation. Once authorised as above, suppliers will be paid within the appropriate timescale. This is generally 14 days of invoice date for NICE PEOPLE, 30 days for others, unless there are exceptional cash-flow difficulties or specific supplier arrangements. The latter must be communicated by budget holders to Finance, who will inform them of any difficulties in meeting these.

Refunds of overpayments or cancellations of bookings/orders can be fully delegated to the relevant activity manager or administrator (note that this does not include any ‘compensation’ or similar payment).

3. Cheque writing and signing

Signatories will only be drawn from senior staff and Trustees, and any new signatory must be approved by the Trustees before the bank is notified. All cheques for £100 or over require two signatories. Cheque signatories should check that the expenditure has been authorised by the appropriate person before signing the cheque. Salary payments require the signature of the Director, Company Secretary, Financial Controller or a member of the Board of Trustees, plus one other.

Signatories will not sign cheques which are payable to themselves, or blank cheques. Cheques should be filled in completely (with payee, amount in words and figures, and date) before cheques are signed. The only acceptable exception is that the amount can be blank as long as the cheque is endorsed ‘Not more than £ ….’. Receipts for this type of expenditure must be returned immediately.

The day-to-day limit on encashment of cheques is £250. However, where a larger cash float is required (for a major event for example), this may be approved by the Financial Controller with the Director. When signing cheques to restore the imprest balance (see section 4), receipts accompanied by an add-list must be presented with the cheque request.

4. Handling of cash

Petty cash will be topped up on the ‘imprest’ system, where the amount spent is reimbursed. It is intended for small items, up to £20. Anything over this should be paid by cheque where possible. The imprest has a balance limit of £250. The petty cash balance will be reconciled when re-storing the imprest balance, or monthly if this is more frequent.

All cash collected from Finance will be signed for, and receipts will be issued for all cash returned. Specific extra cash floats (for tills at events etc.) should be arranged with the Financial Controller. The person signing for the float is responsible for ensuring cash and receipts are returned as soon as possible after the event etc. No further floats may be issued to that person, or another person in the same department for a similar purpose, unless the previous float has been accounted for.

Mixing money or receipts from different petty cash sources creates large accounting problems. In a real emergency, where another cash float has to be used for something, a clear record must be kept, and brought to Finance Section’s attention.

Any cash income will be banked via Finance, and not used for petty cash expenditure. Such cash will be passed to Finance:

  • weekly for cash received in-house
  • monthly for payphone
  • immediately after the end of an out-of-house event.

Cash will be kept in locked metal cabinets wherever possible. Appropriate arrangements will be made for till security.

5. Salaries, payroll and freelancers

Could also refer to volunteer (and staff) expenses here.

AN ORGANISATION is required to operate the PAYE system, and make annual returns to the Inland Revenue. All people working directly for AN ORGANISATION, whether permanent or temporary, must provide a P45, or sign a P46 or student exemption certificate, or give reasons why they can’t. All payments will be made by cheque or direct bank credit.

It is the nature of AN ORGANISATION’s activities that a large number of freelance consultants will be used. Freelance contractors will only be taken on when authorised in accordance with section 1 above. With a few exceptions, they will be treated as self-employed, and contracts with such people must clearly indicate this. However, work in other areas of activity must be assumed to be employed by AN ORGANISATION and so subject to PAYE & NIC. Finance will obtain clarification of any unclear areas as needed.

Payments for additional work over and above standard hours must be approved by the relevant Department Head. Clear written authorisation must be given in adequate time for Finance to process it for the relevant payroll. These claims are financial records, and should be treated in the same way as any other.

Payment will usually be made via the NatWest Autopay service, direct to employees’ bank account. The salary payment listings will be checked by the Financial Controller. Salaries will be paid on the 28th of the month, or nearest working day, apart from in December, when it will be the 23rd.

Pay scales and new posts/re-structuring are approved by the Director, and are revised by March for implementation in April. The Board of Trustees will set the Director’s remuneration. Appointments to existing posts are the responsibility of the appropriate Department Head (or Director for senior positions).

Staff loans are not issued, but advances may be made against salary due, by arrangement with Finance.

The finance section is responsible for:

  • paying each employee in accordance with the approved terms and conditions, and issuing payslips.
  • operating the PAYE system, keeping the required records, issuing P45s and P60s, and communicating with the tax office as appropriate.
  • making the correct deductions for Income Tax, NI, court orders and any other appropriate deduction authorised by staff; ensuring that deductions are paid to the correct body, and necessary returns made.
  • administering the Statutory Sick Pay and Statutory Maternity Pay schemes, alongside any additional related benefits provided by AN ORGANISATION.

6. Income

The majority of income received by AN ORGANISATION is from sales of services and goods produced. With the exception of bookshop sales, invoices will be issued for every sale as soon as practical. For completeness of customer and sales information, this includes where payment is received with order.

All invoices should be raised on AN ORGANISATION letterhead, or in a format agreed with the Financial Controller and auditors, and be drawn up in accordance with AN ORGANISATION’s standard invoice requirements. In particular VAT invoices need to meet HM Customs and Excise requirements, and must include the VAT registration number, VAT rate and VAT amount. All invoices will be sequentially numbered, with each area of activity having its own prefix reference, agreed with Finance. Any accidental deviations from such sequences must be notified to Finance.

Invoice listings will be produced on a regular basis by the departments generating them. This is at least monthly, to fit in with the reporting system, although high volume activities are expected to be listed weekly. Outstanding invoice payments will be followed up at least monthly by the relevant department.

Information about non-routine and all grant income must be passed to Finance with the cheque or remittance advice. This will be filed by Finance for reference, and used to ensure such income is correctly recorded in the accounts and grant conditions etc. noted. Lack of documentation will lead to such items being ‘held on suspense’. It is the responsibility of the person gaining the grant to ensure all grant income is claimed as it becomes due or available, and that all appropriate staff and the Finance Section are aware of relevant grant conditions and exactly how the grant is to be expended.

Post opening (and control of cheques and cash in) will be subject to random management checks. The process will be written down, so that there is a clear standard for those doing the work regularly, and others covering or checking.

Could also refer to investments (if you have any)

7. Bank accounts

AN ORGANISATION’s bankers are:

  • National Westminster Bank plc, A Branch – Current, Business Reserve & Capital Reserve.
  • CAFCash high interest cheque account.

An automatic sweep arrangement between current and reserve accounts is operated. These arrangements are subject to review, in the light of what is most advantageous in terms of cost and service. All changes are to be authorised by the Trustees.

All income will be paid into the current accounts as soon as possible, not less than once a week. The make up of each banking will be clearly recorded, for later computer entry.

8. Books of account and records

Proper accounting records will be kept. The accounts systems is based around computer facilities, using Sage and Excel, but manual/paper records will also be used if appropriate.

At a minimum, the following records will be kept:

  • appropriate control accounts (i.e. bank control, petty cash control, VAT control).
  • salary control account.
  • monthly trial balances.

Petty cash and bank accounts will be reconciled at least monthly, and VAT returns produced on the required quarterly cycle.

All vouchers entered into the computer system will be clearly initialled by the person entering it, along with date and accounts reference. All income/expenditure information will be recorded within three days. All corrections and adjustments will be clearly noted in a written ‘Journal’ giving reasons for them, with supporting documentation where available.

Purchase Ledger, other cheque payments and banking sheets will be filed in the appropriate reference order, with any supporting documentation. All petty cash vouchers, cheque stubs etc. will be retained for audit and for statutory purposes thereafter.

All fixed assets costing more than £250 (or such other level as may from time to time be agreed by the trustees) will be capitalised in the accounts and recorded in a fixed assets register. This register will record details of date of purchase, supplier, cost, serial no. where applicable, description and in due course details of disposal.

9. Budget setting

12 monthly income and expenditure budgets will be prepared in time for final approval by the Board of Trustees in December, before the start of the financial year under consideration.

Department budgets are prepared by the Head of Department, working with the Financial Controller. Central management budgets are prepared by the Financial Controller in consultation with the Director. The Management Team will play a lead role in ensuring that budgets are set fairly, efficiently and in time. Approval of the budgets is by recommendation of the Management Team to the Board of Trustees.

The approved budget will be used as a base to construct a cash-flow forecast for the year, which will be updated quarterly.

10. Financial monitoring and audit

All budget holders will receive appropriate, regular reports of income and expenditure against budget.

The Management Team will receive:

  • weekly snapshots of cash in hand, total creditors and total debtors.
  • weekly graph of cash in hand.
  • monthly reports of income and expenditure versus budget – within two weeks of month end.

Detailed monthly payroll reports will be produced. Detailed cash-flow reports will be produced as appropriate.

AN ORGANISATION’s financial year is from 1st January to 31st December. Annual accounts will be submitted for audit, as required under the Companies Act, charity regulations and grant conditions, prepared per SORP for Charities and any other relevant accounting conventions. Final draft should be ready for and passed by Board of Trustees in March, with audited accounts signed at the June meeting.

11. Role of Treasurer

Extracted from Charity Finance Yearbook:

The Treasurer works in close co-operation with, and provides support and advice to, the Financial Controller. Specific responsibilities are to:

  • Guide and advise the Board in the approval of budgets, accounts and financial statements, within a relevant policy framework.
  • Keep the Board informed about its financial duties and responsibilities.
  • Advise the Board on the financial implications of An Organisation’s strategic plans and key assumptions included in management’s operational plan and annual budget.
  • Confirm that the financial resources of An Organisation meet present and future needs.
  • Understand the accounting procedures and key internal controls, so as to be able assure the Board of An Organisation’s financial integrity.
  • Ensure that the accounts are properly audited, that accepted recommendations of the auditors are implemented, and meet the auditor at least once a year.
  • Formally present the accounts at the AGM, drawing attention to important points.
  • Monitor An Organisation’s investment activity and ensure its consistency with policies, aims, objectives and legal responsibilities

12. Role of Management

The Management team consists of Heads of This That and the Other, Financial Controller, plus the Director. Each has responsibility for their individual department’s financial performance and ensuring that the department complies with Financial Procedures. They will receive weekly snapshots and monthly management accounts, keeping adequate records to be in control between monthly reports. The Team will review finances thoroughly at its monthly meetings.

13. Role of Board of Trustees

The committee is responsible for:

  • approving the budget for the year.
  • approving signatories to the bank accounts.
  • appointments of staff where not delegated to the Director.
  • receiving reports from the Management Team on areas of concern.
  • approving exceptional items of expenditure.
  • monitoring the financial position based on monthly reports, with advice from the Director.
  • approving the annual accounts, auditors report and appointment.

14. Role of Financial Controller

The Financial Controller is the lead person for processing all changes and exceptional items, and will assist the Treasurer in any financial matter connected with the organisation.

The Financial Controller will ensure that adequate security precautions are taken to safeguard financial and other assets.


Refer to Job Description


  • Departmental recording of orders placed.
  • Information on delegations to be filed with these Procedures.

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Staff Payment Practicalities

Salary Scales and Comparisons

Many voluntary organisations use scales linked to local authority, civil service or specific groups like academic or nursing grades. The main problems are equating rather different jobs to particular points or grades on the scales and getting hold of the complete pay rate information on a reliable basis. Many of the scales are published and subscription services may be available – alternatively your organisation may have to become a member of the negotiating body (rates for small organisations aren’t always prohibitive).

NJC (local authority) scales can be found at

There are also some sector salary surveys:

  1. ACEVO publishes regular surveys of Chief Executive pay, which is available to members – see support bodies page.
  2. Croner Solutions does regular (annual) surveys in many sectors, including charities (in association with CF Appointments). 2003 results are based on data from 270 charities of all shapes and sizes, covering 7,800 different jobs. Reliable, but not easy to get to grips with. Charity survey costs (at 2003) £305. Phone 01785 813566, email:
  3. NCVO carries out an annual sector salary survey through Xpert HR Solutions (previously Remuneration Economics). Results published in September, and participating organisations get a discount (e.g. small organisations got the 2002 version for £65 as opposed to £290). Some professional consultants have been puzzled by past findings which are roughly 40% lower than their experience and other surveys say.

Other sources of salary comparators are organisations similar to yourselves (although they could be cagey if there is competition for staff!) or for admin work try temp agencies and other commercial firms who have similar jobs to yours.

Pension Issues

Update March 2012: Stakeholder pensions are now old hat, and new requirements for occupational pensions have a staged introduction (based on number of employees) from October 2012. The following needs amendment.

Employers should check the government’s pensions info page for more – also see employee pension page.

Both the HM Revenue and Customs site and that from The Pensions Regulator (was Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority) are generally clear and helpful.

See Pension Provider page for pension schemes of particular interest to the voluntary sector.

For employees, PensionSorter is worth checking. Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) is a grant aided voluntary organisation giving free help and advice to members of the public who have a problem concerning either a company or personal pension scheme. TPAS will also assist with general enquiries on State Pension Schemes; helpline for employees on 0845 601 2923.

Also check ethical investment issues at UKSIF (or see the VolResource Ethical Investment page).

Sector Trends

Levels of staff turnover are something managers and management committees worry about. In some areas, high turnover can be a good thing, as moving between organisations is the only way to gain breadth and depth of experience, with long service being an indication of low self-esteem or drive. (We have come across this in many small community-based groups.)

Surveys etc

(Material to be updated.)


Payment of expenses can be more of an issue than salaries. The tax implications are often not understood, by employee or employer. See PAYE section below.

Car Mileage rates: HM Revenue and Customs sets out rates which they regard as not being taxable. Compare these with the NJC scale rates (see Payscales above. And don’t forget that there is a bicycle tax free mileage rate (of 20p in 2002), and cycles and cycle safety equipment made available to employees for commuting don’t attract tax charges.

Subsistence allowances. Again NJC publishes some rates (we haven’t checked if they are on the usual websites). Voluntary organisations may prefer to reimburse actual costs, within limits.

Other issues. There are many oddities, but some we have come across include:
– phone calls from home/own mobile. Do you recognise a rental element? If so, you will probably have to declare this with the year-end tax return.
– do staff incurring regular expenses (site visits?) need a float? Make sure record keeping is adequate on both sides. If you are going to pay expenses out of petty cash, can you ‘trap’ any problematic ones or compile adequate info. for Inland Revenue purposes? If you are going to pay by cheque, can you turn these around quickly enough so that staff don’t suffer and/or complain?

Income Tax, Payroll issues (PAYE/NIC etc.)

Once you know what you are looking for, get more details from the HM Revenue and Customs web site.

Voluntary groups are viewed in exactly the same way as any other employer. The only thing you need to make sure any adviser checks is the Small Employer criteria for Statutory Maternity Pay and Statutory Sick Pay, which means you can reduce NI contributions if you qualify. The Contributions Agency, which deals with National Insurance, became part of the Inland Revenue in 1999 (and is now called the National Insurance Contributions Office), so start at the web site given above.

The Employers Helpline is on 0345 143 143 for general tax and NIC enquiries. The Inland Revenue are now publishing their main guides and forms on CD-ROM annually, but seemingly only available at the start of the tax year. Get this through the Employers Orderline on 0845 7646 646 (you need your employers reference for this).

Specific Issues

It is worth trying to be extra rigorous in recording employee expenses – it is rare that voluntary orgs pay more than actual costs, but inspectors often want proof. Check out if you need a ‘dispensation’ so you don’t have to report all these details on the annual return, and also check that car mileage rates are within their scales. Download the current version of the HMRC booklet on Expenses and Benefits (480) but expect it to be around 100 pages.

Calling senior staff or your management committee/trustees ‘Directors’ can also lead to confusion, as there are special rules about people who are actually company directors.

Payroll Resources

Many local sector support organisations (CVS), community accountancy projects, DSC and some other sector trainers provide basic training on operating the payroll – check training provider page for contacts.

The available commercial payroll support bodies have changed since this page was compiled, but there are probably some still out there.