Access to financial services as a starting non-profit (part 2)
One year ago, iMPACT direct started with its first prototype. As a starting initiative, we had troubles to get a bank account and access to other financial services.
One year later
We knew what was needed to be done to gain access: get at least our ANBI for public benefit organisations from the Dutch Tax Institution. Because banks, grants and Payment Service Providers (PSPs) for donation buttons all require an ANBI-status.
So, first thing on our list was to draw up an annual report and financial report, as soon as 2020 ended. And then to bring all paperwork in order for an application. 2nd of February we applied for CBF. An old note on their website made me think that I could apply for ANBI and CBF at the same time, but unfortunately that’s not yet the case. So, on 4th of February we also applied for our ANBI-status.
And ultimately, we received positive reactions in respectively 6 and 8 weeks’ time. We now have our CBF-acknowledgement as a professional and transparent good cause. It’s a Dutch Quality Label for non-profits to show to donors you are a trustworthy organisation to donate to. And a bit later we also received a commitment letter from ANBI.
Access to financial services
Time to celebrate, now that all financial doors must open for us, you would say?
Some did indeed: For partners who want to easily check our credibility, CBF is even better than ANBI (because they check more criteria, not just the financial and governance ones).
Potential interested grants do require ANBI-status, because it comes with tax benefits. And we still need to be some more patient for that (because we’re waiting for some more paperwork before we can actually show others our ANBI-document).
And guess what? The PSPs changed their onboarding criteria since a few months back: Last time Mollie rejected our application because we didn’t have an ANBI-status, now our application was rejected because they ‘temporarily don’t let anyone in from ‘my sector’’. Buckaroo now requires both CBF and ANBI.
Improvements to facilitate the work of civil society
So, that still leaves us waiting a little more. Last year it took us 7 weeks to access a bank account. Now we’re in a waiting room for another 3.5 month. And still counting.
So yes, I do have some more recommendations to actually facilitate civil society actors to start making the world a little better:
- In the Round Table on Access to Financial Services*, we were invited to present our case, last December. As a reaction to that, I heard a civil society colleague from an iNGO saying that these issues that we face are not theirs (they can have their personal case manager at Mollie). But if your mission is to have a strong and vibrant civil society (that’s what we want in international development, don’t we?), it must be also your mission to have smaller players having access to financial services, I suppose.
- I am hoping that this covenant between CBF and ANBI will develop — so that if you apply for CBF (which is faster and comes with personal contact — instead of chat robots or no means to contact at all — and advice to improve) you also get your ANBI-status, because both quality labels have the same basic criteria. It would have saved us so much time, energy and communications.
- The national rules against money laundering and financing terrorism don’t make a difference between €10 euros or €10 million euros. So, although we would be hardly capable of financing any terrorist activity with the little money we spend last year — regulations for a small starter are as strict as for a multinational. This makes the banks and PSPs over-controlling us — hearing ‘money transfers’ in combination with ‘Africa’ seem to trigger all alarm bells at all institutions we have been checked by so far — which seems like a waste of time and energy for them as well, if fighting terrorism and money laundering is the objective of all of this.
Where to go as a starting initiative?
During the Round Table the need was discussed to have a starter model at a variety of financial services. CBF could serve as an example: smaller organisations have less criteria to meet, but they will get tailor-made advice what to improve and it will be tracked over time. Ensuring quality and ease for starters.
For the rest: Bunq Bank helped us out greatly!
And for further tips, read part 1: https://impactdirect.medium.com/how-fin-tech-providers-impede-support-to-african-led-foundations-456ad0edb5e9
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
*The Round Table on Access to Financial Services is initiated by the Human Security Collective and includes the Ministry of Finance, several Dutch Banks and civil society actors.
See Human Security Collective’s work on access to financial services for civil society: https://www.hscollective.org/our-work/projects/de-risking-and-financial-inclusion/