Setting up a bank account

This part of our finance procedures explains how to make sure your bank account is right for your guiding needs

Last reviewed: 4 March 2022

Running an account for guiding is a little different to your personal banking.

You’ll need to make sure the account is suitable, set up correctly and used safely.

This guidance is part of our finance procedures.

All Girlguiding units and levels must have a bank or building society account. And most of your money must be kept in the account. If you do have some cash that's not kept in the account, make sure it's as little as possible

  • Your bank account should ideally be in the name of your unit or level as it appears on GO.
  • Units with the same leadership team can share a bank account, but we encourage each unit to have its own account if possible. Sharing an account may limit the Gift Aid you can claim - each unit counts as a different charity and you can’t use the same bank account to claim Gift Aid for more than one charity. If sharing a bank account causes any issues, like records not being kept accurately, then the commissioner can insist that separate accounts are opened.
  • Units with the same leadership team can share an account for a specific purpose, like a trip or activity that both units are fundraising for.
  • A joint unit should use one bank account for the unit. So, if a Rainbow unit and a Brownie unit merge together they should use the same bank account. Similarly, if a Guide unit combines with a Scout group they should share the same account. If the units have only merged temporarily then keep using separate bank accounts.
  • Units cannot use a district or division bank account.
  • You should not have an arranged overdraft on your account. Never spend more money than you can afford. 

Choosing the right bank account

Choose a bank that is part of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), as this protects your funds up to £85,000 if a bank or building society fails. Most banks will say on their website if they are part of the FSCS, but you should check the Financial Services Register.

There's a lot to consider when deciding on the best bank for your unit or level to use.  You should think about:

  • Ease of access. If you don’t have a branch near you, some banks allow payments and withdrawals from other banks or from The Post Office.
  • Online-only accounts. A lot of banks now offer online-only services which may be a great option to cut down on trips to the bank. See here for further information on online banking.
  • Banking fees. Check if you’ll be charged a monthly fee or a fee for certain transactions. Some banks allow charities to bank for free. If you choose an account that does charge a fee, make sure that you include this in your budget planning.
  • Minimum deposit. Some banks need you to pay in a certain amount of money when you open an account.
  • Expected turnover. Some banks will only let you open an account if you can pay in a certain amount in the year.
  • Account statement limit. Some banks may limit how often you can get certain information about your account. This can make it difficult to track payments made to and from your account.
  • Type of account. A charity, community, or treasurer’s account will usually offer the best terms, but not all banks provide this as an option. A business account is another good option, and may offer better conditions without charging too much.
  • Banking licenses. If you have funds greater than £85,000, this will only be protected if it's kept in accounts with different licenses. For example, Halifax and Aviva are both owned by Bank of Scotland and share a banking license. RBS and Natwest are both owned by Natwest Group but have their own banking license. If you had two bank accounts, one with Halifax, one with Aviva, you would still only be protected up to £85k in total because there is just one license. If you had a bank account with RBS and one with Natwest each account would be protected up to 85k, 170k in total, because each bank has it's own license.

What you need to set up an account

When you open an account, either online or in person, you'll need to show some documents. What you'll need will depend on whether your unit or level is a registered charity or just has charitable status.

You should check with each bank what they need from you. This is likely to include:

  • Your charity registration documents and charity number, or a letter that confirms your unit or level is a part of Girlguiding and has charitable status. Email us at [email protected] and we can send you this.
  • Your charity trust deeds, if you have them.
  • Minutes from a meeting where the trustees agree to the account being opened.
  • Proof of identity of each signatory. They'll need to show proof of their name, like a passport or driving license, and proof of their address, like a utility bill.

If you are setting up your account in a branch, you might need all signatories with you to sign the mandate.

Who can be a signatory?

Our finance policy explains what being a signatory means and who should be one on your account.

Units should have two signatories from within the unit. The third signatory should ideally come from elsewhere, for example, your local guiding district or division – but signatories shouldn’t be related to, or in a relationship with, any of the other signatories. If your unit is run by members of the same family this might not be practical. In this case, you must have at least one signatory who is not related to the others. And members of the same family cannot approve each other’s spending.

To keep banking information secure, signatories must not use a shared email address for banking communications, and they cannot carry out the end of year financial review of the accounts they are signatory for.

As a signatory, you must share the bank account details with the members of your leadership team who need them, and with your local commissioner. If your commissioner changes, you should make sure the new commissioner has the details.

The following details must be shared:

  • Bank name
  • Account number and sort code,
  • Names and membership numbers of signatories
  • Where you keep your bank documents, like statements, cheque books, and debit cards

This information must be kept securely. If you are sharing the details by email, it’s a good idea to put them into a password protected document and then send the password separately.

If you need to change or remove a signatory on the account, for example if a volunteer no longer wants to do it, you must contact your bank as soon as possible and remove their access to the account.

You might need to complete a form and provide a copy of minutes from a meeting where the removal of the signatory was agreed. Make sure to update your leadership team and commissioner about changes of signatories and keep a record of when the change took place, in case of any issues.

We have a movers and leavers checklist that commissioners can use to make sure everything is handed over correctly when a volunteer changes their role.

Debit cards

If you'd like to use debit cards for your guiding account, decide who in your team should have one and follow this best practice advice. 

Debit card users must be signatories for the bank account the card is linked to, but it’s up to your leadership team to decide how many of the signatories should have a debit card. It may be that one card for the unit or level is enough. Each authorised user will be given their own Personal Security Details and will be able to operate available services on their own.

You can now pay the annual subscription invoice by card, as well as by cheque, so you may choose to make the payment using the debit card linked to the unit account.

The finance policy states that you must minimise the use of personal money for guiding costs, so we do not recommend that personal debit or credit cards are used to pay the subscriptions invoice. If they are, you must ensure that the full cost is repaid to the volunteer immediately, and this is recorded accurately in the accounts.

If your debit card is lost or stolen you should follow the advice given by your bank. Usually this will involve informing them as soon as possible by phone or through their mobile app, so that the card can be cancelled and a replacement sent to you. Some banking apps allow you to temporarily freeze your card until you find it. You should also make sure to inform the other signatories on the account and anyone else involved in finances for your unit or level.

Best practice for using debit cards

Volunteers must:

  • Keep the debit card safe and secure.
  • Get approval from another signatory before using the card to make a purchase. This could be through meeting notes, where spending was agreed and assigned to you, or it could be with an email, text, Facebook or WhatsApp message between signatories. It’s important that this evidence is easy to find in future, as it will be required for the end of year review of the account. You could save the emails in a specific folder in your inbox, or screenshot and save or print the WhatsApp conversation.
  • Keep receipts from all purchases made, and share these with whoever is in charge of keeping the accounts. This can be done electronically, for example you could send a photo of a receipt by email.
  • Agree limits on spending with the other signatories on the account. You may also be able to place a spending limit on the card.

Volunteers must not:

  • Allow anyone else to use the card, PIN, or Personal Security Details, including other volunteers.
  • Use the card to make personal purchases. If the card is used in error, you should contact whoever is in charge of keeping the accounts and arrange to pay back money owed.
  • Use their card to obtain cash back at a store. This is to stop the card being used inappropriately.
  • Store their debit card on their mobile device, such as through Apple Pay or Google Pay. This is to stop the card being used in error.
  • Save their card details on any websites, or in their browser. If possible, use the option to checkout as a guest when paying online.

Instead of using a debit card, your unit or level may prefer to use a prepaid card. We recommend using one of these when travelling overseas, but they can also be used for day-to-day purchases in the UK. You can find out more about prepaid cards on our Managing finances for overseas trips page.

Closing a bank account

When a unit closes, it's vital that the bank account associated with the unit is also closed. Having one signatory at a district or division level helps to make sure that a unit bank account can still be accessed if the unit leadership are unable to close the account themselves.

Before the process of closing the account starts, the leadership team must:

  • Complete the end of year review process.
  • Transfer any leftover funds to the level above them. The district or division should hold on to the money as a separate amount for one year, in case the unit reopens.
  • Make sure any regular payments to or from the account are cancelled.

Different banks and building societies will have different processes for closing accounts. Most will give you a choice between doing it in person, by phone or by post. You'll need to give back or destroy any debit cards or chequebooks associated with the account.

You must ask for evidence that the account has been closed. Most banks will be able to give you this in a letter or email.  Pass this on to your local commissioner to keep in their records.