Most banks will expect to see some form of constitution before they will open any sort of account. If you’re not registered with either Companies House or the Charity Commission, banks can usually set up a treasurers or a club account instead. Different banks take different approaches. A lot of groups I work with prefer to have a local branch that they can access in person.
There should be adequate financial controls in place when operating a bank account – most community groups have 2-3 signatories on the account. Where electronic banking is used, the same level of internal financial controls should be in place as for more traditional forms of banking. There should be clear segregation of duties to prevent any single person (e.g. the treasurer) from being able to control substantial resources or obtaining unauthorised access to account information; and there should be proper approval for movements between, and payments from, bank accounts. Constitutions usually state something about financial controls (like having at least 2 signatories to the account). Many community groups use online banking with a multiple authorisation system. One example is the Internet Banking Service, developed by Unity Trust Bank, which has a ‘dual authority’ or ‘triple authority’ option.With these options one user submits a transaction and one or two additional users will then authorise it from a ‘pending transactions screen’.
When groups charge for their services, they should check the tax/VAT position – they can call HMRC Charities and non profit helpline on 08453020203. Groups should also consider concessions on charges for services they provide and make sure that people are not excluded by reason of poverty.
There is a useful web-site http://www.fundingcentral.org.uk which helps groups identify relevant local and national sources of funding.
Lastly, my top tip would be choose an organisational structure that suits your requirements and activities. Establish that there’s an ongoing need through community consultation / feedback. Ensure that you monitor and evaluate the initial project effectively – funders, partners and stakeholders will be interested in the projects impact / success.