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Setting up a Group Bank Account

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A bank account is an incredibly valuable resource for your group. You will be able to securely keep track of your funds, be able to accept checks to your group’s name, and more professionally and efficiently pay for events and supplies as they are needed. However, the process of setting one up can be daunting.

Check with your office of student activities about procedures
Your campus might offer accounts for student groups (or even require that your group have an account through the school!). If not, you will have more liberty to shop around and find the option that fits your group best. Some banks will give you awesome incentives, like a bonus for opening a new account. Credit unions can also be useful, and local ones are typically excited to work with student groups. Regardless, check with your office of student activities. They will know the rules and might be able to clue you in to the best options.

If your university doesn’t have an avenue for campus groups to get a bank account through the school, you will need to dedicate some time to shop around and compare the options available to you. Ask student life representatives and leaders of other campus organizations what they recommend, and what their experiences have been. There are a lot of regional and local banks out there that may have great account plans that would work for your group. You will need to do some homework and compare what is available.

As you are looking around for different options for your bank account, there are some specifics that you will want to keep an eye out for:

501(c)(3) requirements
Unless your group has specifically applied for 501(c)(3) nonprofit status (either with the IRS or through SSA National), you will need to find an account plan that doesn’t require it. It may take some digging around, but accounts exist that are catered to “unincorporated entities” or “community organizations” without official nonprofit status. The process of getting 501(c)(3) status can be relatively laborious, but the accounts available to you will oftentimes be better. If you aren’t dealing with a significant quantity of funds, applying for nonprofit status may not make sense for your group. It is also worth noting that you must already have an established bank account to apply for group tax exemption through SSA National. This means that you must have a regular bank account before receiving nonprofit status, and can convert or switch to a nonprofit account only after receiving group exemption.

Minimum balance / monthly charges
Many accounts will require that a minimum balance be maintained in the account, or a small monthly fee will be charged from the balance. Depending on your group’s financial situation, you will want to look for options with low minimum balance requirements as well as low fees for not meeting the minimum balance month-to-month.

Transition planning
Keep in mind that your group’s bank account will need to be transitioned to new incoming officers on potentially very short notice. You will need to know exactly what that process will entail from the moment you open the account, and have the process documented for future leaders. You should seriously consider the ease of account transition when deciding on which bank to open an account with.

Who has access to the account
Find out how many people can have access to the account, and who all will have what powers over the account. You will want to decide ahead of time which of your officers will be able to make withdrawals, and have a contingency plan in case any of them need to be removed from the account. Give your advisor access to the account, since their involvement with your group may have more continuity than that of individual officers year-to-year.

Opening balance
You will need to know how much money is required to open the account (it will act as your starting balance for the account). Often the amount you receive for an SSA project grant or to fund for a speaker will fulfill this requirement, but you can also use cash from a recent fundraiser or a donation from an individual.

Required documents / information
Typically, banks will require multiple forms of ID for anyone who will be connected to the account, as well as your organization’s bylaws or meeting minutes, and potentially an Employee Identification Number from the IRS (these are very easy to get and will not cost you anything. They can be acquired online in a couple of minutes). Make sure that your advisor and all officers that are to be on the account have access to the documents needed to be added onto it.

Document procedures and train officers
Train your officers on the proper procedure for handling money in the bank account, and create a set of bylaws to govern handling of money. The treasurer of your club will obviously handle the majority of this, but all officers should have a basic grasp of the system. Remember to document your procedure for future generations. It will be very important that you have smooth leadership transitions to avoid losing control of your bank account. Be sure to go over the Leadership Transition Planning resource to ensure future financial stability.

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Following are two examples of accounts available at PNC Bank as of May 2014.
Note that one requires 501(c)(3) status, and one does not.

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General Requirements for PNC Business Basic Checking Account Opening

Monthly Account Maintenance Fee: None when $1,500 average monthly collected balance is maintained. Otherwise, charge is $12.00

Account Features:

  • No charge for up to 300 items based on the aggregated volume of deposits, deposited items, paid items, and ACH credits and debits received ($.50 for each item over 300)
  • $1000 Cash over the counter at no charge
  • 25% discount on checks from Harland Clark
  • Free Global ATM Usage
  • Free Check Card
  • Free Online Banking

Requirements to Open

Account Initiator Information:

  • Name
  • Residence Address (PO Box is not acceptable) Note: The branch address may NOT be used as the customer's address
  • EIN/SSN
  • Date of Birth
  • Two forms of ID
    • Drivers License
    • Employee ID
    • State Issued Photo ID
    • Photo School ID
    • Major Credit Card
    • Vehicle Registration
  • Telephone Number
  • Employer

Documentation Requirements:

  • Copy of Bylaws
  • Copy of Meeting Minutes

Other Opening Requirements:

  • $100 Opening deposit (Not a fee)

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General Requirements for PNC Business Non-Profit Checking

Monthly Account Maintenance Fee: No account maintenance fee or minimum monthly balance requirements

Account Features:

  • No charge for up to 500 items based on the aggregated volume of deposits, deposited items, paid items, and ACH credits and debits received ($.25 for each item over 300)
  • $5000 Cash over the counter at no charge
  • Free Checks
  • Free Global ATM Usage
  • Free Check Card
  • Free Online Banking

Requirements to Open

Account Initiator Information:

  • Name
  • Residence Address (PO Box is not acceptable) Note: The branch address may NOT be used as the customer's address
  • EIN/SSN
  • Date of Birth
  • Two forms of ID
    • Drivers License
    • Employee ID
    • State Issued Photo ID
    • Photo School ID
    • Major Credit Card
    • Vehicle Registration
  • Telephone Number
  • Employer

Documentation Requirements:

  • Copy of Bylaws
  • Copy of Meeting Minutes
  • Copy of 501(c)(3) Documentation

Other Opening Requirements:

  • $100 Opening deposit (Not a fee)

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