Best banks for charities revealed

Charities are facing mounting challenges accessing banking services, amid branch closures and lack of contact through online and telephone support.

Small charities are being hardest hit, according to a survey published earlier this summer by the Civil Society Group, a coalition of charity sector bodies including the Charity Finance Group (CFG) and National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO).

They are being adversely impacted by lack of access to online support and bank closures in small towns and rural areas where many are based.

Other issues charities face is lack of ability to have dual signatories online, which is good practice as charity leaders look to make their finances more secure.

These challenges are forcing some to adopt “poor practice” to manage their finances including using personal accounts and keep cash at home, warns the Civil Society Group, which is working with the banking industry to solve access problems facing the voluntary sector.

Some charities are also forced to take their complaints to banks further. The Business Banking Resolution Service has warned small to medium sized charities that they have only until February 2023 to register any unresolved historical complaints.

In the meantime sector body the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) has published a useful list of the best banks for charities to access.

Those selected offer a range of services and support and already have strong links to the voluntary sector.

A strong High Street presence in Scotland is another important criteria. But their list is useful to all UK charities, as many of their selection offer a wide array of online and other support services, even if nearby High Street branches have closed.

The SCVO's full list of bank accounts suitable for charities is available here.

SCVO’s list of top banks for charities includes:

Charities Aid Foundation Bank

SCVO points out that this bank is owned and operated by the Charities Aid Foundation, which is a charity.

This means it provides tailor made financial services and products for charities. In addition profits are reinvested into the charity sector.

Its Cash Account has a £5 monthly fee and offers free online and day to day banking services, access to High Street branches at HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland. The minimum deposit required is £1,000 and accounts can be managed online, by phone and post. It also offers online banking with dual authorisation service.

Triodos Bank

Triodos’s focus on working with organisations committed to positive social, environmental and cultural change has impressed the SCVO.

The bank’s range of support is another bonus, says the sector body. It offers account management online, by phone and post as well as online banking banking with a choice of level of authorisation.

It can also be accessed from NatWest Royal Bank of Scotland, however there is no credit or debit card available on current accounts.

Charities that want to open a Triodos Bank account must have an expected turnover of more than £5,000 and be registered with the Charity Commission of the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.

Unity Trust Bank

Another bank to focus on organisations working to improve society through social, community and economic change is the Unity Trust Bank.

The SCVO also ranks the bank highly for offering phone account management as well as online support. Its online banking offers single, dual or triple authorisation, the sector body points out.

The minimum deposit required is £500 and its services can be accessed through Natwest Royal Bank of Scotland branches.

SCVO’s analysis suggests this bank is ideal for small charities with an annual turnover of up to £100,000 although other accounts are available for larger organisations.

Fees are from £6 a month but there is no debit card available on current accounts.

Reliance Bank

This bank is part of The Salvation Army and all profits made go to the charity.

It offers a charity current account for charities with a turnover below £500,000 with free online banking services when in credit for the first six months, with an average credit balance of £5,000 and with no more than 25 transactions on average each month.

Charities can access their Reliance Bank account via a network of high street branches and account management online has dual authorisation.

Clubs, trusts or societies that are not registered charities can gain their first six months banking free if in credit.

Co-operative Bank

This well known bank among charities offers free ethical banking to organisations in the not for profit sector.

Its Community Directplus account offers free online and day to day banking services as well as access to accounts via High Street branches and Post Offices.

Charities can also apply for project funding to the Co-operative Bank for up to £1,000 from the bank’s Customer Donation Fund.

Other High Street Banks

Several High Street banks offer online banking options for charities with multiple signatory options via community specialist accounts, says SCVO.

This includes HSBC, Barclays, Santander, Clydesdale Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland, Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Bank.

Barclays for example offers a community account for not for profits offering up to six debit cards and a cheque book as well as authorisation for up to three people on the account.

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