Finance Issues for Covid-19 Support Groups

Finance Issues for Covid-19 Support Groups

Safe systems for handling financial transactions, with people you are supporting

Groups need to think about using a system that is safe for both the person you are supporting and the volunteer.  The right system may vary depending on the size of the group and whether your organisation has access to funds for a float and/or a bank account.  The following are some of the ways organisations are managing this issue:

For larger groups and/or with a bank account:

  • Volunteers buy the food with a prepaid supermarket card* provided by the group (these can be topped up and managed remotely).  Volunteers take a photo of the receipt and send it to their group who then invoice the client. The card is topped up as required.
  • Volunteers buy food with their own money; take a photo of the receipt and claims the cost back from the group.  The client is invoiced by the group and pays them separately.

If the group does not have a bank account or funds to use as a float:

  •  The volunteer buys the food and provides a receipt.  The client pays when they receive the goods – either online (to the volunteer’s bank account or paypal account) or via cheque or cash.
  • The clients buy supermarket cards which can be topped up online and given to the volunteers to purchase shopping with.  This limits the financial exposure of the client and removes the need for handling cash.

It is strongly recommended that clients do NOT hand over bank cards or PIN details.  If cash/cheques are handed over, these should be in a clear plastic bag, to avoid the need for handling until safe to do so.

Accessing Funding

If your group is a constituted body with a bank account then you are able to apply for grant funding from a range of sources.  See here for details or contact VARB if you have a specialist area.  Many funders are now processing applications faster than usual.

If your group is new, you may still be able to access small amounts of funding from Community Foundation for Surrey.  Alternatively you could raise funds directly from your supporters or through crowdfunding.

Managing donated funds 

Some support groups may raise money to cover costs.  If you are an established organisation you will have legal structures in place to ensure the funds are properly accounted for.  However, money donated to new groups may be held and managed by individuals; this can have a higher degree of risk.  Here are some processes that can help mitigate the risk:

  • Have 3 or more unrelated people decide what the money is spent on / who gets the money – these people can be self-selected or elected within networks. These people should not have any conflicts of interest that might persuade them to mis-spend the money.
  • The money should be given out in small chunks of £25 or £50.  You won’t be able to get money back once it’s left the account, so never transfer large amounts at once.
  • If possible, have people front costs and be paid back. However, this won’t be possible in every area, it depends on people’s wealth.
  • Keep track of who gets it, so that you can make sure you spread it fairly across the area for which it was donated. Don’t share information that could identify the individuals who get the money, but do keep a record until you receive proof that it’s been spent properly. Receipts are good proof.
  • Keep track of and do share the amounts and areas to which they go. Make sure none of the information identifies individuals.
  • Making public the information about where and how much money is being spent is really important. If the network can see where the money is going then they can see if it’s going somewhere it shouldn’t.
  • There needs to be a system of accountability if the money is misspent. The people allocating it need to be able to be changed.

Paying Volunteer Expenses (Source: NCVO)

Volunteer expenses are expenses incurred as a result of a person volunteering.  Not everyone can cover their own expenses when they volunteer. Paying expenses means volunteering is open to more people, including those from disadvantaged communities.  Remember to pay volunteers for any expenses they may incur. This could include:

  • fuel or mileage costs (standard 45p per mile)
  • food and drink taken while volunteering
  • hygiene items, such as disinfectant, plastic gloves or hand sanitiser

Having an expenses policy will help you be consistent over what is and is not an expense. NCVO’s guidance on writing an expense policy can help with this. If you are setting up a community group, you should still develop an expenses policy.

To pay volunteers you can:

  • ask them to spend the money, keep receipts and return them so you can pay them back based on actual expenditure
  • give them money upfront, tell them to get a receipt and return any change

Make sure you keep a record of amounts paid, to whom and when. If volunteers are unable to confirm that they have received money, take screenshots or photos of conversations with them where they confirm they have received reimbursement.  For more information read the NCVO volunteer expenses guidance.