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Treasurer's role

Who’s responsible? | All the committee members share responsibility for the money. The treasurer can be seen as a focus for that responsibility, but the rest of the committee should not ignore the finances. Regular financial reports should be prepared for presentation to the committee and understood by all of the committee. The term ‘trustee’ means someone who is being trusted with charitable money. To fulfil that responsibility you must be able to understand the budget and reports which compare expenditure with the budget and forecast future financial position. It is a collective responsibility. See the Training section of CASH-ONLINE for courses on these subjects.

The treasurer | The treasurer has to make sure that things are done and done on time – which may be different from actually doing them. Book-keeping and many other tasks can be undertaken by paid staff and freelance workers. Many small organisations will not be able to pay for the work to be done, so the treasurer may have to undertake a variety of the tasks on a voluntary basis.

The budget | All voluntary organisations should have a budget. It is often drawn up by members of staff in consultation with the treasurer. In organisations with no staff the treasurer will normally draw up a draft budget in consultation with key committee members. The process can involve many policy issues. Allocating funds to one activity may mean there are less resources for another activity. An annual budget should be approved by the committee (and minuted) before the start of each year. Its main purpose is to show whether the organisation can afford things, taking reserves into account.

Bills & banking | A treasurer would normally be a cheque signatory along with several committee members. Two people sign each cheque. The treasurer would not necessarily sign all cheques or be involved in posting the cheques to suppliers or banking cheques received. The organisation should have a file for unpaid bills, a file of paid bills with a cheque requisition slip attached to each bill, and a file containing letters from funders and details of payments received.

Book-keeping | Whilst the budget has major policy implications, book-keeping is a routine but vital task which is frequently undertaken by an employee or freelance worker. The treasurer’s job is to ensure that the book-keeper is up to the job both in quality and speed. Someone such as the treasurer should check every quarter that an accurate bank reconciliation has been done.

Management accounts | Management committees need to know if they are:

  • Over spending and running out of money.
  • If income and expenditure are roughly as planned.
  • Whether large surpluses are building up which might weaken future fundraising.

At least each quarter there should be a comparison between actual income and expenditure and what was budgeted showing the variance (difference) between the two. The treasurer, a volunteer, a book-keeper or finance worker might produce this report. The treasurer normally presents it to the committee. It is important that all trustees have a good understanding of this report. It is their main financial management tool.

Payroll | We recommend that small charities use a payroll service to calculate PAYE, National Insurance and to issue payslips. The charity can then write out the cheques to the employees and pay the Inland Revenue. This service normally costs between £4.00 and £5.50 per slip. Some treasurers undertake this task and sometimes it is be done by a finance worker.

An annual return has to be submitted by the 19 May each year and a P9D declaring expenses for employees earning less than £8,500 or a P11D for employees earning over should be sent in by 6 of June) This can also be done by a payroll bureau. Charity staff don’t benefit personally from expenses, so should be eligible for an exemption of tax on expenses. Apply to the H M Revenue & Customs.

People with earnings less than £104.52 a week – including volunteers receiving a round sum allowance i.e. £5 a day expenses – should be asked to sign a P46, or be taxed. The treasurer should check that this is happening.

What skills? | The treasurer needs to be able to take an overview of the finances (are they on target or not?), have a feel as to where the organisation is going over the next few years and have ideas for how it will be financed.

The treasurer should:

  • Have a strong commitment to the organisation.
  • Have the ability to develop a financial routine and stick to it.
  • Have a willingness to listen and learn.
  • Have the ability to explain figures to other people.
  • Be able to add up and use a simple calculator.
  • Be able to think about the future as well as the present.

How much time? | The treasurer of a small voluntary organisation with a turnover of up to £20,000 will probably spend four hours on treasurer tasks a month – plus committee meetings. Treasurers of larger organisations are likely to be able to delegate tasks to staff and freelance book-keepers, so the time commitment is often the same – 4 hours a month plus meetings. If the treasurer is involved in writing funding applications, this will increase the time.

Recruitment | Treasurers have a significant influence on policy and should try to stay with the organisation for at least three years. Training up an existing committee member is often the best way to find a treasurer.

Advertisements in newspapers, and mailshots to accountancy firms, colleges and businesses may identify suitable people. Volunteer Bureaux and Community Accountancy Projects like CASH can sometimes help. You should always take up references.

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Last updated: Mon, Mar 31 2008 - 04:09:32 PM

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