Starting a bank account
You will probably need to start a bank account for your orchestra pretty early on, before you find yourself having to make a lot of monetary transactions. You should shop around the local banks to find one that offers free business checking accounts (different from a personal account) for nonprofits and community organizations. Some will offer the free account even if you have not yet obtained your official nonprofit status. Also see if you can get a debit card with the account; it comes in handy if you need to make online purchases.
Your bank will tell you what specific documents are required, but it will likely include the following:
- An Employer Identification Number (EIN)
- Some kind of organizational document, such as bylaws or articles of incorporation
- Minutes of one or more board meetings indicating which officers will have access to the account
- A physical address to associate with the account
The officers you want to be account signatories will have to show up together in person with their identification materials to fill out paperwork. If your meeting minutes don't explicitly state which officers will be account signatories, they might just allow you to write it in and sign it, which is what the RCO did.
The RCO decided that the President, Vice-President, and Treasurer should all be legal signatories with access to the bank account. One of our officers had had a bad experience in the past with another nonprofit in which the Treasurer was the only one with access to the account and banking records. The Treasurer failed to fill out some required IRS forms and then sort of disappeared, leaving the organization with an account they couldn't close and IRS paperwork they couldn't complete. We consequently decided that redundancy was a good thing.
You can open your bank account before obtaining your official 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. The account will be taxable until you obtain your nonprofit status, but unless you expect to be bringing in significant amounts of money, you will not have to pay very much tax. And, if you obtain your nonprofit status before the current tax year is over, you will not have to worry about taxes.
At the time of the RCO's first concert, we did not yet have a bank account. We collected donations at the door, and the Redlands High School Band Boosters very kindly allowed us to park our cash temporarily with them until we could establish our own account about two months later. When we got our account set up, they just wrote us a check for the amount we had collected. The RCO was ready to open an account in December, but we waited until January to avoid having any income during the previous tax year. We then got our nonprofit status later the same year.