Banking and financial services

Charity sector calls on banks to adapt their services and reduce burdensome bureaucracy

CFG members have "told us, loud and clear, that changes to charity bank accounts and services have increased the challenges being faced when they are trying to look after their charity's cash."


A new survey commissioned by The Civil Society Group between March and May 2022 reveals that charities are facing increased challenges in appropriately managing their finances due to many struggling to find banking services that meet their needs.

Driven by increasingly unavailable services – including physical branches and free accounts, onerous bureaucratic processes, and banking staff’s fundamental lack of understanding about the needs of charities, the survey shows that charities are increasingly frustrated by the difficulty of performing what should be easy and straightforward tasks.

Failure to tackle these challenges collectively will put the delivery of charity services at risk and have a disproportionately negative impact on smaller organisations, which make up the majority of the charity sector, and the communities they work with.

To solve these problems, The Civil Society Group is calling on banks to work with charities to solve the issues in their experience of banking services and to better understand the support that charities need from in order to do their vital work in communities across the country.


Smaller charities are disproportionately hit

The number of bank branches in the UK is estimated to have halved since 2015, and this has seen an acceleration due to the pandemic. Respondents stated that getting to a branch can mean incurring parking and congestion zone charges, limited parking, or lack of suitable public transport options.

This disproportionately impacts smaller and volunteer-led charities, with 85% of organisations surveyed having income of less than £100,000 per year. Of these smaller organisations, 44% are based in rural and small-town settings which brings further challenges for accessing banking services.

With 81% of respondents working in a voluntary capacity at their charity, either as trustees or volunteers, many described having to take time out from their paid employment, or using their lunch break, to visit the bank during its operating hours.


Increasingly unavailable and inaccessible services have forced some charities to engage in poor financial practice

Charities reported more limited services due to reduced operating hours, staff capacity and types of services and transactions allowed. This includes business desks that may be closed or have long queues, reduced numbers of branch staff (adding to longer waiting times), limited facilities to pay cash, coins and cheques into accounts, and difficulty obtaining new chequebooks.

When faced with increasingly unavailable and inaccessible services, some respondents reported feeling forced to find workarounds that they recognised as poor practice, such as keeping cash at home until enough for the bank to accept a deposit, removing dual authorisation in order to gain access to online banking, and paying cash into their personal accounts before writing a cheque to the charity’s account.


Burdensome bureaucracy - Banking staff lack of understanding around the needs of charities

Charity accounts are typically treated as business accounts, and respondents stated a lack of flexibility within the rules to take into account the difference between the needs of businesses and charities. 67% of all respondents reported problems with changing signatories in the last 18 months.

For most charities, their finances are often managed by volunteers without accounting experience. Charities reported that challenges that arise when confronted by systems designed around businesses, rather than a full consideration of how charities operate and what they need from their bank.


Most charities prefer online banking – but don’t currently bank online due to a lack of accessibility

Over half of the respondents (57%) do not bank online, but 64% would prefer to do so. Reasons given for this include the inability to have dual signatories for online business accounts, lack of support from the bank, and no provision for online banking for certain types of account.


Clare Mills, Director of Policy and Communications at CFG (Charity Finance Group), commented:

“Our survey respondents told us, loud and clear, that changes to charity bank accounts and services have increased the challenges being faced when they are trying to look after their charity’s cash. We’d all heard the anecdotes or read the stories about charities facing issues with banking services, but this survey provides the data needed to take the issues to the banking sector. We will work with UK Finance to form a working group on this issue. The Charity Commission and HM Treasury have also been supportive. A big thanks to all those who shared their experiences so we can start to take action together!”


Sam Mercadante, Policy & Insight Manager at NCVO, commented:

“This survey has driven home the enormity of the banking challenges that charities face. We heard over 1,200 stories, behind each of which is a person or group of people who are trying to do the best for their community but are finding their every path blocked. One person told us, “I just find it all very confusing and emotional,” and that has really stuck with me. The Civil Society Group commissioned this survey to help all of us better understand the enormity of these challenges, and we will now seek to work together with the Charity Commission, HM Treasury, and UK Finance to find a way forward that both works for the banks and enables charities to get on with the business of supporting their communities.”


Please get in touch with for more information about the briefing.




Notes to editors


This first briefing forms part of a series that fully explores the results of the survey. The Civil Society Group is an informal collaboration of organisations representing members and groups from across the charity sector and wider civil society.

Media enquiries: please contact / 07852 721 478.

Download the report: You can read the full briefing here.


The Civil Society Group



Our vision: Charities and other social change organisations are valued parts of our society and communities, providing effective, equitable support and opportunities for all. There is wide recognition that a strong civil society is a key part of creating stronger, more inclusive communities and a fairer, more prosperous economy and society.

Our purpose: Increasing collaboration between infrastructure, representative and member organisations across civil society to harnesses the collective strengths of the diverse charities and social enterprises in their networks. This supports the vital work of civil society to help build stronger, more inclusive communities and a fairer, more prosperous economy and society.

Our mission: We are making working together the norm, not just something that happens in times of crisis. We are identifying and collaborating on our shared priorities. We’re creating the space for charity and volunteer leaders to voice ideas and opinions, provide support to each other, and develop shared approaches to the challenges we face.



The aims of The Civil Society Group are to:
1) use our collective power to engage and work with civil society ministers, governments, and stakeholders to ensure the best outcomes for communities;
2) coordinate the identification, promotion, and support of programmes of mutually beneficial change across civil society, and;
3) maintain a mechanism for relationships, cooperation and communication of ideas and information.



Currently collaborating organisations have been working together as the group on a number of priorities, including:
• Working with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on four joint strategic priorities for civil society and the government:
a) Cross-Whitehall relationships.
b) Better data.
c) Demonstrating impact and value.
d) Commissioning and procurement.
• Creating a framework for coordinated action across the charity sector and wider civil society on improving race equity.
• Liaising with the Charity Commission to share information on what is happening across civil society and within the regulator.
• Developing new relationships with government and politicians and exploring how civil society can support the ‘levelling up’ of communities.



Current membership of The Civil Society Group includes:
* = member of strategic oversight group

ACEVO (Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations)*

LGBT Consortium

ACF (Association of Charitable Foundations)*

Lloyds Bank Foundation

ACO (Association of Charitable Organisations)


ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England)

London Funders

AMRC (Association of Medical Research Charities)

Masorti Judaism

AOC (Association of Chairs)*

Muslim Charities Forum


National Voices


NAVCA (National Association for Voluntary and Community Action)*

Charity Finance Group (CFG)*

National Children’s Bureau (NCB)


NCVO (National Council for Voluntary Organisations)*

Charity Retail Association*


Chartered Institute of Fundraising (CIOF)*

Neurological Alliance

Children England

NICVA (Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action)



Cranfield Trust


Disability Rights UK

Richmond Group

DSC (Directory of Social Change)*

Royal Voluntary Service

Eden Project Communities


Equality Trust

Social Enterprise UK (SEUK)*

Equally Ours*

Sign Health*


UK Coop

GMCVO (Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisation)

UK Youth




Voice 4 Change England

Irish in Britain

Volunteering Matters

Jewish Leadership Council

WCVA / CGGC (Wales Council for Voluntary Action / Cyngor Gweithredu Gwirfoddol Cymru)*

Jewish Volunteering Network

Women’s Resource Centre (WRC)


Organisations or individuals interested in joining The Civil Society Group or who have an enquiry should contact


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