Most of us volunteering for charity do so as a hobby, to give back. We don’t often think about the cost and rarely claim back what we have spent enjoying our hobby.
I was like that, then life changed and I couldn’t afford to do anything. Let alone give more of my weekends camping, not if I was driving to camp, shopping for this, that and the other. I asked to be reimbursed. It happened, without fuss and over time we came up with an expenses policy. Now, however, a number of us in the group are concerned that generally someone pays for things and claims it back.
We bank electronically. This is still quite unusual in the UK as, naturally, we want to adhere to the Charity Commission guidelines and to good practice and have dual authorisation. Goodness knows, I have taken part in too many fund-raisers on damp days and worried how the charity might pay its way to make it easy for someone to defraud us. Electronic payments from a charity bank make payments quicker and easier. A review of bank accounts will be made and shared here soon.
The point is that this system works if you have got the money or credit to be able to pay up-front. Not everyone can and it troubles me to put a bar in the way of potential volunteers or to make it hard to do the good work.
What are the alternatives to reimbursing payments?
Cheques – these would need two signatures and are hardly accepted anywhere. We still have a need for them, usually (but thankfully less so) as deposits for campsites.
Cash – universally accepted but risky. I have felt troubled at the start of a week-long camp wondering how to keep thousands of pounds safe. Still needed as ice cream vans and farmers selling bales of straw are not geared up for much else
BACs (Electronic) Transfers are great when the cost of a bill or expense is known.
Debit Cards – some charity accounts allow a debit card to be linked to an account but as there is no dual authorisation they cannot be used in line with the law. A user would have access to all of the funds in the charities account and potentially more as they could force the account to go overdrawn.
‘Corporate’ or Business Credit cards are used by some larger charities. The banks like to know their funds are secure so out barriers like requiring guarantors and high fees in place to filter out the smaller charities
Pre-paid cards, growing in popularity for holidaymakers who require the ability to pay in a foreign currency, these cards are typically bought from a bank, post office or travel bureau. The cards are then topped up with a sum of money which is then available for the cardholder to spend.
Our research pointed us to www.equals.co. they offer these cards but for businesses, charities and other organisations they have a few fabulous extras;
- More than one card can access the funds
- Fees are low and can be avoided by topping up via BACs
- Controls per card and detailed reports should mean that risk is minimised
After almost three years using the cards, we wouldn’t go back to using anything else. We easily top up the account and allocate money to individual cards are required.
It’s easy to add and remove users and to pause a card if needs be.