Finance policy

Our policy explaining our approach to finance

Approved: 26 September 2020
Version: 1
Content owner: Finance

This policy outlines responsibilities for all volunteers in Girlguiding who manage funds and keep financial accounts.

Charity regulators within the UK – the government which sets the legal framework all charities are expected to follow. In Northern Ireland this is the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland, in Scotland the Office of Scottish Charity Regulator (known as OSCR) and in England and Wales the Charity Commission for England and Wales.

Trustees or Charity Trustees – units and levels operate as charities, some are required to be registered with the Charity regulator. At unit level the leader, assistant leader(s) and leaders in training are typically the trustees. For other levels it’s typically the voting members of a county executive committee and the members of a division or district committee who will hold the Charity Trustee position. Trustees have specific responsibilities under charity law.

Financial year – the twelve-month period used to prepare the accounts, for example 1 January to 31 December or 1 August to 31 July.

End of year review – an independent review of the annual accounts prepared by the unit/level. The type of review needed will vary depending on the charitable status of the unit/level.

Bank account – the term bank account is used throughout this policy and includes building society accounts.

Signatories – these are the people that can operate a bank account. They may need to visit the bank and fill out a form called the account mandate.

Volunteer expenses – these are payments that you have personally made which relate to your Girlguiding role.

Reserves – money set aside to protect your unit/level against drops in income or to allow your unit/level to take advantages of new an opportunity.

Assets – this could include any valuable equipment, land buildings or investments.

Liabilities – this is something that is owed, usually a sum of money.

What rules do I need to follow?

Girlguiding units and levels operate as charities. This means that everyone needs to follow their national charity regulator’s rules about looking after finances. Check your country website for further information as rules in Scotland and Northern Ireland differ to England and Wales.

While units and levels operate as charities, only some will need to register with their local regulator. See our guidance on charitable status, or your country or region website will tell you more.

If you guide outside the UK, ask for advice from your country or region office about how to apply this policy while also complying with local regulations. If you’re part of British Guiding Overseas (BGO) including Branches, ask the BGO Chief Commissioner.

What are my financial responsibilities?

Trustees have a legal duty to look after their charity’s money, accounts and other assets.  

This includes: 

  • Keeping funds safe 
  • Setting a budget and following it 
  • Dealing with money coming in promptly 
  • Keeping records of any payments you make 
  • Making sure accurate accounting records are kept 
  • Dealing with any financial problems quickly 

Unit leaders, assistant leaders and leaders in training can delegate the day-to-day handling of money and keeping the accounts up-to-date to another person with the right experience and knowledge. But you’ll still be responsible for making sure they do the work correctly.  

Bank accounts

All units and levels must have a bank account and keep the amount of cash they hold to a minimum.

You can open an account with any bank or branch you want to. You should use a recognised and well-known brand that’s part of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme and a registered banking organisation with a strong credit rating.

Your bank account must be in your unit or level’s name. You should have at least three signatories, and at unit level this should be two from the unit and one other who can come from elsewhere including your local guiding district or division. This way if one of the signatories is unavailable, another can step in. At least three signatories need to be in place by 31 March 2021.

Two signatories need to agree and authorise all payments. Signatories must not be members of the same family. You can use online banking but you still need two signatories to authorise all transactions. If your bank offers a debit card, you shouldn’t accept it. This is because there’s no way for two people to authorise each transaction.  Credit cards aren’t allowed at any level, and signatories mustn’t sign blank cheques.

Bank account details should be shared with all relevant members and unit leadership teams should also share with your local commissioner. Make sure to include details of your bank’s name, your account number and sort code, the account signatories and where you keep your cheque book.

If you guide outside the UK, ask for advice from your country or region office about how to apply this policy while also complying with local regulations. If you’re part of British Guiding Overseas (BGO) including Branches, ask the BGO Chief Commissioner.

Girlguiding is not registered to give financial advice. Therefore, the choice of which bank to use is made by the trustees.

Setting a budget and following it

It’s important to plan ahead to make sure you have enough funds to cover all your costs. Never spend more money than you have, or borrow from or lend money to your guiding accounts. This could have serious implications both inside and outside of guiding.

Costs could include (but aren’t limited to) your annual subscriptions, venue costs, activities and buying equipment. Volunteer annual subscription and uniform payments can be included as a legitimate expense but this is a decision that should be made on an individual unit or level basis and reviewed annually.

Units and levels can raise money through weekly, monthly or termly subs, and by fundraising. Money that you have in savings or investments can also be used.

If you don’t have money set aside to cover drops in income, you should budget to create a reserve of funds. This will make sure you have enough money to pay for costs, especially fixed costs like rent, if your member numbers suddenly drop or there are delays in parents/carers paying subs.

Find out more about budgeting

Dealing with money coming in promptly

It’s vital that: 

  • You bank any money you receive as soon as possible. 
  • You keep any cash in a safe place, under lock and key. Your household insurance policy probably won’t cover loss or theft of funds.
  • You keep Girlguiding funds completely separate from your own money.
  • You minimise the amount of personal money you use to cover guiding costs.

Keeping accurate accounts 

You must record all money paid to you or that you spend. You can use a method that suits you. But if you need to submit your accounts to your charity regulator, you should check their accounting requirements. All units and levels should agree with your local commissioner the dates to use for the financial year.

It’s important to keep your records secure. Password-protect electronic documents and keep physical documents under lock and key. It’s best practice to keep your accounting records up to date.

Unit leaders must review the accounts themselves termly if they’re delegated to a unit treasurer (unless you’ve made an alternative arrangement within the unit leadership team). Unit leaders must also make sure that anyone managing unit accounts who isn’t a member of the unit leadership team is registered on GO as a unit treasurer.

Accounts for all other levels should be reviewed regularly at district, division or county executive or committee meetings.

You need to keep all paperwork connected with managing your accounts for seven years following the end of each financial year.

End of year review

At the end of the financial year you need to finalise your accounts. This means that at a minimum you must: 

  • Produce an annual accounts statement 
  • Produce a statement of assets and liabilities 
  • Have your accounts independently reviewed. 

All levels must make sure to send all this information to your local commissioner no more than three months after the end of the financial year. If this is not possible you must contact your local commissioner and discuss this with her. 

Units and other levels in Scotland and Northern Ireland must check with their country/region offices to find out if they need to submit a more detailed annual accounts statement. You can find more about this on Girlguiding Scotland’s website and Girlguiding Ulster’s website.

For units and other levels in England and Wales your commissioner will tell you if you need to have your accounts independently examined. This will depend on your income.

If you are guiding outside of the UK you can ask the relevant charity regulator or your country/region Chief Commissioner if you need to submit more detailed information. BGO, including Branches, should ask the BGO Chief Commissioner.

Find out more about end of year accounts.

Claiming expenses

We never want our volunteers to be out of pocket. If you incur costs related to your volunteering at Girlguiding, you should claim them back.

If you pay for something for guiding from your own money, you need a receipt, travel ticket, invoice or bill to claim it back. Another volunteer must authorise all expenses. You should claim back any expenses as soon as possible.  

Find out more about claiming expenses

Dealing with financial problems quickly

It’s crucial to act quickly if you think your unit or level doesn’t have enough money to cover all its expenses, or you are having difficulty in maintaining the accounts. At unit level in the first instance you should get in touch with your local commissioner. She’ll be able to support you with short-term solutions. She can also help you work out how to increase your income and/or cut your expenditure in the longer term.

Other levels should escalate any concerns to the next level in the first instance.

If you suspect Girlguiding money is being misused, contact your local commissioner or Girlguiding HQ immediately. 

Gift Aid

You can claim Gift Aid on members’ subscriptions and on donations you receive, depending on HMRC’s rules and in particular subject to receipt of a valid signed Gift Aid declaration from the donor. We encourage all units and levels to claim Gift Aid annually from HMRC as it’s useful extra income. Units and levels in Scotland and Northern Ireland must be registered with their charity regulator to allow Gift Aid to be claimed.

Fundraising income

You need to keep a separate sheet within your accounts of all money you make through fundraising and apply all the actions above to those monies.  

For more about the rules of fundraising for Girlguiding, take a look at our fundraising policy.