Rules to Follow with a Nonprofit Bank Account and Frequently Asked Questions You Need Answered 2023

January 14, 2023 Business Banking
Rules to Follow with a Nonprofit Bank Account and Frequently Asked Questions You Need Answered 2023

Starting a nonprofit organization is an exciting and fulfilling endeavor, but it also comes with an added layer of complexity when it comes to money management. It doesn’t help that the banking world often seems like it has its own language – one that you might not quite understand yet, either.

Maintaining a nonprofit bank account is an essential aspect of managing the financial affairs of a nonprofit organization. However, nonprofits should follow several rules and best practices when managing their bank accounts. Don’t worry, though! In this blog, we will discuss the rules to follow with a nonprofit bank account, including the importance of keeping accurate records, using the account only for authorized purposes, following relevant laws and regulations, protecting the account from fraud, and more. We will also answer some frequently asked questions about nonprofit bank accounts, such as how to open one and what types of transactions can be made.

So pull up your comfiest chair and let's get started–you got this!

7 Essential Rules to Follow With A Nonprofit Bank Account

One of the most important rules to follow with a non-profit bank account is to ensure compliance with all relevant regulations. Nonprofits are subject to specific rules and regulations, such as requirements for financial reporting and record-keeping, and it's vital to ensure that the organization complies with these regulations to maintain its tax-exempt status.

These seven essential rules ensure that your nonprofit bank account remains compliant with all legal guidelines while maintaining its financial integrity.

  1. Maintain Accurate Records

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Keeping accurate and up-to-date records of all transactions made through the non-profit bank account is essential for many reasons. It helps to ensure that the organization's financial records are complete and accurate, which is necessary for maintaining the integrity of its financial management.

Accurate records can also help the organization track its spending and identify areas where it can save money or optimize its resources. Additionally, accurate financial records are important for demonstrating compliance with relevant regulations, such as financial reporting and record-keeping requirements.

  1. Use The Account Only For Authorized Purposes

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Nonprofits need to use their bank account only for authorized purposes related to the organization's mission and activities. This helps ensure that the organization's resources are being used appropriately and are aligned with its goals and objectives. Using the account for unauthorized purposes, such as personal expenses, can have severe consequences for the organization, including damaging its reputation and potentially violating its tax-exempt status.

Nonprofits should carefully track and document all transactions made through the account and use it only for business purposes. In addition, nonprofits should have clear policies to use the account and ensure that all authorized signatories understand and follow these policies. By using the account only for authorized purposes, nonprofits can help protect the integrity of their financial management and ensure that their resources are being used effectively.

  1. Follow All Relevant Laws And Regulations

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Non-profits are typically organized as tax-exempt organizations, and maintaining their tax-exempt status is essential for their operations. This may require following specific financial management rules, such as financial reporting and record-keeping requirements. In addition, non-profits may be subject to laws and regulations related to fundraisings, such as disclosure requirements or restrictions on the fundraising activities they can engage in.

By following all relevant laws and regulations, nonprofits can help ensure that they are in compliance with the requirements of their tax-exempt status and can avoid potential legal issues. Additionally, following the laws and regulations that apply to nonprofits can help protect the organization's integrity and demonstrate its commitment to responsible financial management.

  1. Follow Proper Accounting Practices

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Proper accounting practices are essential for non-profits in order to track and accurately report on the organization's financial activities. This includes classifying income and expenses correctly and reconciling the organization's bank account regularly.

Classifying income and expenses with precision allows the organization to understand where its money is coming from and where it is going. This information is critical for making informed decisions about the organization's financial management and reporting to stakeholders, such as donors and funding agencies.

Reconciling the organization's bank account involves comparing its bank statement to its internal records to ensure that all transactions have been accounted for and the records are accurate. This helps to identify and resolve any discrepancies that may exist, which is essential for maintaining the integrity of the organization's financial records.

By following proper accounting practices, nonprofits can ensure that their financial management is transparent, accurate, and compliant with relevant laws and regulations. 
  1. Protect the Account From Fraud

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Fraud can seriously threaten non-profits, compromising the organization's financial resources and damaging its reputation. Nonprofit businesses should take the following precautions to protect their bank accounts from fraud:

  1. Use Strong Passwords

Nonprofits should use strong and unique bank account passwords and not reuse passwords across different accounts. Strong passwords should be at least 14 characters long and should include a combination of letters, numbers, and special symbols.

  1. Regularly Reviewing Account Activity

Nonprofits should regularly review their bank account activity to ensure that all transactions are legitimate. This can help to identify and prevent fraudulent activity, such as unauthorized withdrawals or suspicious purchases.

  1. Not Sharing Account Information With Unauthorized Individuals

Non-profits should be careful not to share their bank account information with unauthorized individuals, which can increase the risk of fraud. This includes not sharing passwords or other login credentials and not providing account information in response to unsolicited requests.

By taking these and other steps to protect their bank accounts from fraud, nonprofits can help to safeguard their financial resources and maintain the trust of their stakeholders. 
  1. Communicate With the Bank

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Maintaining open lines of communication with the bank allows them to address any issues or concerns related to their bank account and keep the bank informed of any changes or developments. This includes discussing any special needs or requirements that the organization may have, such as the need for additional security measures or the ability to process large volumes of transactions.

Open lines of communication with the bank can also help resolve any problems with the organization's account, such as technical issues or discrepancies in account activity. Nonprofits should have a good working relationship with their bank, as this can help ensure that their financial needs are met, and issues are addressed promptly and effectively.

Overall, regular communication with their bank helps ensure that the organization's financial management is efficient and issues are addressed promptly.
  1. Review Account Fees and Charges

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Periodically reviewing the fees and charges associated with their bank accounts is vital for nonprofits to ensure they get the best value for their money. Some common types of fees and charges that may be associated with nonprofit bank accounts include: 1. Monthly Maintenance Fees: Many banks charge a monthly fee to maintain a checking or savings account. This fee is often waived if the organization maintains a certain minimum balance in the account, but it can still be significant if it has a low average balance. 2. Transaction Fees: Some banks charge fees for certain types of transactions, such as using an ATM or making a wire transfer. It is important for nonprofits to be aware of these fees and to consider whether they are necessary for the organization's operations. 3. Interest Charges: If a nonprofit has a line of credit or a loan with the bank, it may be charged interest on the outstanding balance. Nonprofits should carefully review the terms of any credit or loan agreements to understand the interest charges that may be applied.

By periodically reviewing the fees and charges associated with their bank accounts, nonprofits can ensure that they are paying a reasonable amount for the services they are receiving. This can help optimize the organization's financial resources and ensure they are being used effectively.

Conclusion

Maintaining a nonprofit bank account is essential for any organization dedicated to serving the public good. By adhering to the rules and best practices outlined above and being aware of the frequently asked questions related to nonprofit bank accounts, you can ensure that your organization's financial affairs are managed effectively and in compliance with all relevant laws and regulations.

Frequently Asked Questions About Non-profit Bank Accounts

How do I open a nonprofit bank account?

To open a nonprofit bank account, you will typically need to follow these steps:

  1. Choose a Bank: First, you will need to choose a bank that offers accounts specifically designed for nonprofits. Many banks offer unique features and services for nonprofit organizations, such as waived or reduced fees, specialized lending options, and tailored online banking tools.

  2. Submit Necessary Documentation: You must provide the bank with documentation proving your organization's tax-exempt status, such as a copy of your IRS determination letter. Depending on the bank's requirements, you may also need to provide other documentation, such as articles of incorporation or bylaws.

  3. Complete an Application: You will need to complete an application for a nonprofit bank account, which will typically require you to provide information about your organization, such as its name, purpose, and contact information. You can complete the application online or in person at a bank branch.

  4. Fund the Account: Once your account has been approved, you need to fund it by making an initial deposit. Some banks may have minimum deposit requirements for nonprofit accounts.

  5. Start Using the Account: Once your account is set up and funded, you can use it for the organization's financial transactions, like making deposits, paying bills, and processing transactions.

    Nonprofits should carefully review the terms and conditions of the account, as well as any fees and charges associated with it, before opening a nonprofit bank account. This will help you choose the right bank for your organization's needs and ensure you get the best value for your money.

Can I use a personal bank account for my nonprofit?

Using a personal bank account for a nonprofit organization is generally not advisable. There are a few reasons why this is the case:

  1. Confusion Around Financial Transactions: Using a personal bank account for a nonprofit can create confusion around financial transactions, as it may be difficult to distinguish between personal and organizational funds. This can make it challenging to accurately track the organization's financial activity and make it more difficult to report the organization's financial status to stakeholders, such as donors and funding agencies.

  2. Limited Protection and Security: Personal bank accounts typically do not offer the same level of protection and security as dedicated nonprofit bank accounts. Nonprofit bank accounts may offer specialized features and services not available with personal accounts, such as fraud protection and insurance. This can leave the organization's financial resources vulnerable to loss or misuse.

  3. Legal and Regulatory Issues: Using a personal bank account for a nonprofit may also raise legal and regulatory issues. In some cases, it may be considered inappropriate to co-mingle personal and organizational funds, and it could also breach compliance laws and regulations.

    Overall, it is generally better for a nonprofit to use a dedicated bank account rather than a personal account. This helps ensure that the organization's financial management is transparent, accurate, and compliant with relevant laws and regulations.

What types of transactions can I make with my nonprofit bank account?

Nonprofit bank accounts can be used for a variety of transactions related to the organization's mission and activities. Some common types of transactions that you can make with a nonprofit bank account include the following:

  1. Paying Bills: Nonprofits often have bills to pay, such as rent, utilities, insurance, and employee salaries. A nonprofit bank account can be used to pay these bills, either by writing checks or by making electronic payments.
  2. Accepting Donations: Nonprofits rely on donations to support their operations and further their mission. A nonprofit bank account can be used to accept donations from donors, either by accepting cash or checks or by processing online donations through a payment gateway.
  3. Making Charitable Disbursements: Nonprofits may also make charitable disbursements, i.e., payments made to other organizations or individuals to further the nonprofit's mission. A nonprofit bank account can be used to make these disbursements, either by writing checks or by making electronic payments.
  4. Investing Funds: Nonprofit businesses may also have funds they wish to invest to generate additional income. A nonprofit bank account can be used to invest these funds in various financial instruments, such as stocks, bonds, or mutual funds.

How do I ensure that my nonprofit bank account is in compliance with laws and regulations?

To ensure compliance with laws and regulations, nonprofits should keep accurate records of all transactions made through the bank account, follow proper accounting practices, and consult with legal and financial advisors as needed.

Can I have a credit card linked to my nonprofit bank account?

A nonprofit can have a credit card linked to its bank account, depending on the specific bank and the organization's credit history. Some banks may offer credit card options specifically designed for nonprofit organizations, while others may require the organization to apply for a traditional credit card.

Nonprofit organizations must carefully review the terms and conditions of any credit card offers, as well as any fees and charges that may be associated with it, before accepting. Nonprofits should also consider whether a credit card is necessary for the organization's operations and whether it is a financially responsible decision.

How do I protect my nonprofit bank account from fraud?

To keep a nonprofit bank account secure, organizations should implement strong passwords and frequently review account activity. Sharing account information with unauthorized individuals should also be avoided. Nonprofits should also be aware of common scams, such as phishing attacks, and take necessary precautions, such as using security software and verifying the identity of anyone requesting sensitive information. To further protect against fraud, organizations can consult with legal and financial advisors.

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