Understanding Nonprofit Financial Statements And The Form 990

Instead, nonprofits seek to earn revenue to support their program activities which are related to their mission. The mission is the key driver for nonprofits, not a return of profit to its shareholders. (See the article entitled “Mission Matters” on page 14.) Financial statements are key components in revealing the financial health of an organization whether nonprofit or for-profit. A nonprofit’s financial information can get quite complicated, but if you understand the basics, you can glean vital information from the financial statements and related disclosures. Read the income statement, also known as the statement of activities, to analyze the organization’s income and expenses for the period. Keep this information in mind when reading other financial statements to get a clearer picture of the income statement’s implications. The statement of financial position reports the assets, liabilities, and what’s left over after liabilities are subtracted from assets—net assets—as of a set point in time be it the end of a month, quarter or year..

understanding nonprofit financial statements

Governments use modified accrual accounting for their statements and include reconciliations explaining how they made the switch from cash-basis accounting to the modified accrual basis they report in. Government and nonprofit organizations aren’t interested in making money, so they use an accounting system called fund accounting. Fund accounting essentially groups financial data together into funds or accounts that share a similar purpose. This way, the organization has a better idea of what resources it has available to complete a specific task. Fund accounting is typically not a topic enjoyed by people who are used to the concepts of for-profit accounting.

Analyze Cash Flow The Easy Way

Board members are trustees of their organization’s assets and must ensure the organization is well managed. For example, a nonprofit is likely to have a separate general ledger account for each of its bank accounts. It may also have 50 general ledger accounts for each of its major programs, plus many accounts under its fundraising and management and general expense categories. The number of accounts in a nonprofit’s general ledger could range from 30 to 1,000 or more. The number of accounts depends on the number of programs that the nonprofit has, the types of revenues it earns, and the level of detail required for planning and control of the organization. For example, when we talked about assets we mentioned cash, but where is this cash coming from?

Page 5 includes other IRS compliance considerations and will alert the IRS to other forms that may be required to be filed such as 1099s or W-2s. Page 2 of the Form reports on the mission and programs of the Organization for the year. This is the first opportunity for the Organization to tell its story to those reading it. As the Form 990 is available for public inspection it is important for the 990 to be used as a marketing tool for the Organization rather than just a required form to be filed each year. Personal finance is all about managing your personal budget and how best to invest your money to realize your goals. Dummies has always stood for taking on complex concepts and making them easy to understand. Dummies helps everyone be more knowledgeable and confident in applying what they know.

What is a strong balance sheet?

The balance sheet is one of the fundamental financial statements. … A strong balance sheet indicates a company is liquid, which means it has enough cash on hand to handle its liabilities. Having a large amount of cash is not the only determining factor when deciding whether a balance sheet is strong.

They may also fail to properly disclose the “fund balance” by restriction; however, this is usually corrected on the audited financial statements prepared by the external auditing firm. The answer to the question is a complex one, but each individual statement is equally important especially when used in conjunction with the footnotes. However; before we jump into explaining why each statement is important we must first understand why nonprofit organizations are different from their for-profit brethren. Nonprofits are not owned by shareholders nor do they intend to earn profit to distribute back to shareholders.

Financial Statements Of Nonprofits

We should be looking at internally prepared financial statements at least quarterly, per the Standards for Excellence Institute®, which provides guidance on best practices. We should be reviewing the audit and seeing the IRS Form 990 before it is filed. The footnotes or disclosures are just as important as the individual statements. The information in the footnotes allows the reader to obtain more information so they can truly understand the numbers in the various statements. The footnotes provide the accounting policies utilized in preparing the financial statements as well as information about the components of the numbers presented in the financial statements. The footnotes are critical to understanding the statements and should be read in detail.

  • If you happen to try to reconcile an organization’s financial statements with its IRS Form 990, there can be even more confusion as unrealized gains and losses are not included as income or loss on the IRS Form 990.
  • Not-for-profit net assets are classified based upon donor restrictions as unrestricted, temporarily restricted, or permanently restricted.
  • The same fundamental ideas apply for nonprofit accounting as governmental accounting—the goal is to have annual expenditures end up very close to annual revenues.
  • Instead the amounts show as a release of restriction with the qualifying expenses showing as a change in net assets without donor restrictions.
  • As best practices and BoardSource tell us, providing oversight is one of the board’s three key roles.
  • Chances are you have heard of an income statement before because they are vital to for-profit companies.
  • These revenues and expenses are broken down into the “Without Donor Restrictions” and “With Donor Restrictions” classifications that were referred to earlier for the statement of financial position.

Operating activities are the revenues and expenses from operating your nonprofit. For example, the cost to pay salaries, revenue from contributions, and purchase of office supplies. Now moving to the right side of the balance sheet equation, we have liabilities. Liabilities include things like accounts payable , debt , and grants payable . As best practices and BoardSource tell us, providing oversight is one of the board’s three key roles.

The financial statements to be reviewed by management and the board should include comparisons to budget and prior periods when applicable. These internal reports used for management of the organization and fiscal oversight by the board may look different than those that are used for external purposes. Program and development directors should also be reviewing financial statements for their programs or grants on an ongoing basis throughout the year and comparing to budget or other expectations. After your review of a NBO’s financial statements, it is essential to determine whether you feel that the organization is treating your money prudently. If you find a nonprofit organization with exorbitant operating expenses, don’t give it your money. In the case of government, hold your politicians and governmental employees responsible for their actions.

In our personal lives we tend to think of depreciation as what happens as our cars get older. In accrual accounting, depreciation is allocating the cost of a capital purchase (think computers, furniture, a new roof—most expensive physical or technological purchases) over its useful life. Your accountant will help you determine the useful life, and it’s really about accounting versus how long the item will actually last. Because of depreciation, though, you will not recognize all $9,000 as an expense that year. Instead, the expense will be spread over the computers’ useful lives, say three years. Depreciation expense is shown on your statement of activities and accumulated depreciation is shown on your statement of financial position.

Understanding Nonprofit Financial Statements

The direct method shows in the operating activities section the inflows and outflows related to cash flows provided by and used in operating activities. The indirect method starts with the change in net assets, followed by additions to or subtractions related to changes in the statement of financial positon to adjust the change in net assets to a cash basis. The first section of the cash flow statement is cash provided by or used in operating activities, which shows the cash flows in and out of the nonprofit in relation to its mission-related operation. The second section, cash flows from investing activities, shows cash the nonprofit received from or spent on its capital investments. The third section, financing activities, shows the inflows and outflows of cash related to the nonprofit’s borrowing activities, which is also listed on the statement of financial position. The final and last section is the supplemental information which presents cash paid for income taxes and interest and the non-cash transactions.

Read the balance sheet, also known as the statement of financial position, to get an in-depth look into the organization’s assets. Take notice of the organization’s total liabilities, and compare it against its cash and liquid assets. As a rule, a nonprofit organization should not be accumulating large amounts of debt, since the organization is not likely to conduct profit-generating business activities to repay loans. Most of a nonprofit’s liquid assets should come from donations, grants and investment income. Management and board members should be reviewing financial statements on a regular basis throughout the year. The timing may be dependent on the activity of the organization, but typically monthly reviews are recommended.

How To Analyze Your Nonprofit Email Marketing Statistics

These classifications are somewhat self-explanatory in that net assets without donor restrictions means that the entity may use those net assets for any program or administrative costs, and they may be used at any time. Net assets with donor restriction are restricted by the donor to be used only for a specific purpose or during a future period. Net assets with donor restrictions would also include amounts to be held in perpetuity as required by the donor. Any board designated amounts or endowments would be classified as without donor restriction since the board is able to change those designations at any time.

understanding nonprofit financial statements

The nonprofit balance sheet is also commonly referred to as a statement of financial position or statement of financial condition. This statement is based on the accounting formula, assets equal liabilities plus net assets. This equation is mirrored on a for-profit balance sheet; however, net assets are replaced with owners’ equity.

As opposed to an Income Statement which shows a profit or loss, the Statement of Activities instead shows a positive or negative change in each net asset fund. In the example above, you will see that the amount of temporarily restricted revenue collected during the reporting period was less than the expenses incurred using temporarily restricted funding .

What is a good liquidity ratio for a nonprofit?

A ratio of 1 – 2 generally indicates an organization has adequate liquid funds to pay its current obligations without selling inventory. Organizational liquidity funds indicator equals expendable net assets divided by average monthly total expenses.

If possible, each report fits on one page to make them as approachable as possible for Board members. Financing activities are earnings and expenses from financial activities such as interest earned from savings, or interest paid on loans. Pages 8-11 are the financial information and should agree to the information provided on the statements discussed earlier in this article with a few adjustments for 990 purposes. A listing of the titles of the general ledger accounts is known as the chart of accounts. David Ingram has written for multiple publications since 2009, including “The Houston Chronicle” and online at Business.com. As a small-business owner, Ingram regularly confronts modern issues in management, marketing, finance and business law. Investing activities would include things like interest earned on investments, purchase of long term investments, and payments on long term investments like buildings, land, or equipment.


When the money is earned, say in this case the new fiscal year, the revenue is recognized. Andy Smith is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®), licensed realtor and educator with over 35 years of diverse financial management experience. He is an expert on personal finance, corporate finance and real estate and has assisted thousands of clients in meeting their financial goals over his career.

These schedules are lettered A through R and should be attached if indicated here. Click here for a free Balance Sheet and Income Statement kit with examples and practice exercises.

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