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Know Your Charity’s Financial Position

29 November 2021

Debbie, our Finance Manager, shares some tips from The Charity Commission website.

Set a budget and follow it

Your charity should have a budget. Check that it is being used. It helps make sure you have realistic plans based on how much money your charity:

  • currently has
  • plans to raise
  • plans to spend each year

By checking how much your charity receives and spends against the budget, you can identify problems in good time and agree what to do about them. It’s particularly important to do this where you see big differences between the budget plans and what is actually being spent.

Get the funds you need

Your charity may get the funds it needs in different ways.

This can include:

Make sure you know what the rules are for getting funds in these ways and that your charity complies with them.

If your charity does not spend all of its income

Check that your charity has a reserves policy. This explains whether your charity is aiming to keep a reserve of unspent income, what it will be used for and why this is reasonable. Check that your charity sticks to the policy or can explain why if it does not.

Make sure that your charity’s annual report explains the policy and says how much money (if any) it has kept in reserve, what it is for and when the charity will use it.

If you want more information, see our guidance on how to set a reserves policy.

Keep accurate financial records

Make sure that your charity keeps records to show all the money coming into your charity and the money it spends to help it meet its aims. You should check whether your charity’s governing document has any specific rules on record keeping and follow them if it does.

Check that your charity has adequate records to show:

  • details of money received and spent by the charity – for example bank statements and minutes of any meetings where significant decisions were taken
  • the charity’s assets and liabilities

These records are used to prepare the accounts which you should approve.

You must ensure that your charity keeps accounting records for:

  • 6 years for a charity that is not a company
  • 3 years for a company charity

Manage expenses and payments to trustees

All trustees can claim expenses. These are to cover out-of-pocket payments you have to make in order to carry out your duties, for example:

  • travel to and from trustee meetings
  • postage and telephone calls for charity work
  • childcare or care of other dependants while attending meetings

Your charity should have a written policy setting out what is classed as an expense and how to claim and approve expenses.

As a trustee you cannot receive any other payments or benefits from your charity unless the charity’s governing document allows it, or you have a specific authority for it. Check the rules before you make any payments.

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