Fiscal hosting for COVID-19 community groups

We’re providing a platform to help community groups and collectives who have formed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, easily receive donations and pay expenses via opencollective.com.

Most grassroots groups won’t have a bank account or legal entity set up to manage funds. Many individuals and organisations are uncomfortable, or unable, to make donations to a private account.

Financial admin can be fraught and time consuming, but is essential to the effective running and longevity of any group.

Open Collective allows organisations like us to fiscally “host” groups. When a group or collective has a “fiscal host”, it means that they’re able to use their host’s business bank account to manage incoming and outgoing funds. Groups can transact financially without needing to legally incorporate.

The Open Collective platform itself is simple to use and makes every transaction transparent, and therefore accountable. After years working with grassroots groups and as an incubator for fledgling social movements it is the best we’ve seen for this purpose. Everyone can see clearly what money has come in, and where it has been paid.

Setting up your Collective

Simply email us on opencollective@thesocialchangeagency.org to register your interest.

We’ll then schedule a 30min video call to answer all your questions and assist you in getting your group or Collective up and running on the site.

Before these calls, make sure to browse the FAQs to get a good overview of what’s involved. You might also want to check out the Open Collective platform itself to get a feel for it. But don’t worry, will help you get set up!

And there’s more good news. The first 50 groups to sign up will receive a £100 donation from the Changing Ideas Foundation.

Two more things to consider:

  • You’ll need three people to become ‘administrators’. These people can always be changed later. More info on that here.
    We’ll add top tips on how to make these kinds of decisions to this page shortly, in the meantime, if you’d like advice just ask us.
  • You’ll also want to agree an expenses policy amongst your group. This is what you will and won’t spend money on as a group.
    Read some guidance on this here, including examples of the expense policies used by other groups on Open Collective.

You can also register for the following video calls where we will run you through the platform:

Every Monday, 7pm GMT – click here
Every Wednesday, 6:30pm GMT – click here
Every Friday, 12pm noon GMT – click here

Why should community groups and collectives use fiscal hosting?

Most community or mutual aid groups won’t have a bank account, but will need to handle money. Whether donations, groceries or gas meters. Managing this can quickly become an admin headache.

Using a private bank account, whether attached to a platform like Kickstarter, or to transfer payments directly is never a good idea.  The lack of transparency can lead to arguments, fall-outs or even exploitation.  Plus all the burden falls to the one account holder, which isn’t sustainable.  Using a personal bank account also means formal organisations or NGOs who might want to donate cannot due to legal reasons.

On the other hand, creating a dedicated bank account is tricky for many quickly formed groups who are not a registered charity or business.  Registering as either can be a lengthy process, and neither legal status accurately describes the function of a mutual aid or community group.

Having a fiscal host bypasses both of these options and the Open Collective platform itself makes all incomings (like donations) and outgoings (like shopping expenses) visible, so clear and accountable to the whole group.  The responsibility for signing off expenses can also be shared among group members.

Using us as a fiscal host on Open Collective serves a specific, but significant function, which we hope will give groups the support they need to focus on other pressing issues.

Our work on this project is generously supported by the Lankelly Chase Foundation and the Changing Ideas Foundation.

“Pretty quickly we found that many of our elderly residents were either in financial distress or had cash but were unable to access it. This account enabled us to raise charitable funds to directly assist those in the first category and to provide a float for those that were in the second. It has also enabled us to minimise the handling of cash. Our volunteers pay for groceries and we reimburse them via online banking and the resident reimburses us. This really helps to limit the threat of passing the virus to the vulnerable people we’re helping.

The Social Change Agency were extremely fast and responsive. It took a matter of days and one phone call for us to be up and running. I can’t imagine any other traditional banking mechanism that would have been able to deliver that for us.”

Jodie, Kensington Mutual Aid Area 3

“With multiple volunteers coming together so quickly we found ourselves having to build so many things very quickly. An issue we highlighted right at the offset was how we would safely manage finances and The Social Change Agency’s platform through Open Collective gave us an instant solution to that problem.”

Ben Taylor, admin of Croydon Covid-19 Mutual Aid