Nonprofit Financial Statements: Understanding How To Use Nonprofit Financial Documents

10 Minute Read

Nonprofit Income Financial Statements: Understanding the Statement of Activities



Imagine a non-profit organization is like a big garden. The non-profit income statement is a map that shows where the water (money) flows in the garden. It's a bit different from a for-profit garden, where the goal is to grow as many fruits (profits) as possible. In this nonprofit garden, the water is used to keep the plants (programs and services) healthy and growing.

This map, also known as the statement of financial position, shows how much water comes in from rain (donations and grants) and goes out through hoses (expenses like administrative costs). It helps us see if there's enough water left over (unrestricted net assets or equity) to keep the garden thriving. By adding and subtracting all the water used, nonprofit accounting gives everyone a clear picture of the garden's financial activities.

What Are Nonprofit Income Financial Statements?

Nonprofit financial statements are like the health checkups that organizations go through every year. They're special reports that help everyone understand how well the nonprofit is doing with its money. Let's dig into what these statements are, why they're important, and what goes into them.

Definition of Nonprofit Financial Statements

Nonprofit financial statements are reports that show what an organization owns (assets), what it owes (liabilities), and how it uses its funds. Unlike for-profit businesses, these statements focus more on how money is used to achieve the organization's goals. For example, the Form 990 is a type of report that nonprofits submit to the IRS every fiscal year. It gives a clear picture of the organization’s financial activities over a specific time.

Importance of Financial Statements for Nonprofits

These financial statements help nonprofits show they’re using their money wisely. They also help the organization to better understand its financial health and make smart decisions. Plus, financial statements ensure that the nonprofit follows the rules (like GAAP, which are the accounting standards). This is important for keeping the trust of donors, members, and the government.

Key Components of Nonprofit Financial Statements

The main parts of nonprofit financial statements include the statement of financial position (similar to a balance sheet in for-profit businesses), the nonprofit statement of activities (like an income statement but focusing on change in net assets), and a breakdown of functional expenses. This last part, functional expenses, is a financial statement that shows how money is spent on different areas, like programs or administration.

These statements also list assets like cash and equipment, current liabilities (like accounts payable), and funds that are temporarily restricted for certain uses. They include salaries and other costs to show exactly where the money goes, helping everyone understand the financial health of the nonprofit.

Want to stay on top of your nonprofit's finances? Download our FREE balance sheet template for Excel here.

What are the key components of a nonprofit income statement?

Why Is the Statement of Activities Important?

The Statement of Activities is like the scoreboard for a nonprofit organization. It shows how well the organization is playing its game of supporting its mission with the resources it has. Let's find out what this statement is all about, how it's different from what businesses use, and why it's key to understanding a nonprofit's financial health.

Explanation of the Statement of Activities

The Statement of Activities is one of the four statements that nonprofit organizations must include in their financial reports. Think of it as a detailed story of how the organization earns and spends money to support its mission. It shows all the money coming in (like donations and grants) and going out (like costs for programs and grants to other organizations). This statement helps everyone understand the organization’s financial activities, including what your organization owns (assets) and what it owes (liabilities).

How the Statement of Activities Differs from an Income Statement

While a business uses an income statement, known as a profit and loss statement, to rate its financial performance, a nonprofit's statement of activities is different. It doesn’t just show profit and loss but focuses on changes in net assets. These include assets without donor restrictions and those with restrictions based on the donor's wishes. This way, the statement of activities gives a broader view of how money is used to further the nonprofit’s mission rather than just looking at profit.

Understanding Net Assets in the Statement of Activities

Net assets in the statement of activities are like the fuel gauge in a car. They show how much fuel (or financial resources) the nonprofit has to keep running its programs. Net assets are divided into without donor restrictions (free to use for any purpose) and with restrictions (must be used as the donor wishes). Watching how these net assets change over time helps organizations and their supporters see how well the nonprofit is managing its resources and investing in activities that support its mission. This insight is crucial for maintaining and improving the organization’s financial health.

Relationship Between Different Financial Statements

Just like puzzle pieces fit together to show a bigger picture, different financial statements connect to give a full view of a nonprofit's financial health. Let’s explore how these pieces, like the statement of activities, balance sheet, statement of functional expenses, and statement of cash flow, fit together to help nonprofits make informed decisions.

Connecting the Statement of Activities with the Balance Sheet

The statement of activities is like a storybook that tells us about the organization's income and expenses over time, ending with net assets. These net assets represent what the nonprofit truly owns after all its bills are paid. The balance sheet, on the other hand, is like a snapshot, showing at a single moment in time what the organization owns and what it owes, in order of liquidity (how quickly something can be converted into cash). The ending net assets from the statement of activities show up on the balance sheet, linking these two documents and providing a full picture of financial health.

Exploring How the Statement of Activities and Statement of Functional Expenses Relate

While the statement of activities gives an overall view of financial performance by showing total expenses from total revenue, the statement of functional expenses breaks those numbers down. It details how much is spent on specific areas like programs, administration, and fundraising. This detailed breakdown allows you to see exactly where the money goes, making it easier to record revenue and expenses in a way that shows the true cost of achieving the nonprofit’s mission. Together, these statements help paint a clearer picture of how resources are used.

Utilizing the Statement of Activities Alongside the Statement of Cash Flow

The statement of cash flow shows how cash moves in and out of the nonprofit during the same period covered by the statement of activities. While the statement of activities includes all types of income and expenses, the statement of cash flow focuses on actual cash inflows and outflows, including payments on long-term investments like buildings. This statement is crucial for understanding the organization's liquidity and its ability to cover short-term needs.

By analyzing both the statement of activities and the statement of cash flow, nonprofits can better manage their cash resources, ensuring they have enough to support their mission and make payments on liabilities, including things like car loans and mortgages. Together, these financial statements provide the data needed to navigate financial challenges and opportunities, helping organizations like Charity Navigator and GuideStar use gross receipts and other financial metrics to rate a nonprofit's performance and reliability.

Challenges Faced in Nonprofit Financial Reporting

Nonprofit financial reporting is like navigating through a maze. There are many turns and corners, such as understanding liabilities, managing donor restrictions, and addressing fundraising activities. These reports are crucial tools that help nonprofits steer in the right direction, ensuring they make informed decisions and maintain transparency. Let’s explore these challenges and how nonprofits can tackle them effectively.

Understanding Liabilities in Nonprofit Financial Statements

Liabilities in a nonprofit's financial statements are like the backpack of obligations the organization carries. They categorize what the nonprofit organization owes, such as loans or bills that need to be paid. These can include things like car loans and mortgages. Understanding these liabilities is crucial because it helps the organization see how much of its assets are truly available for its mission. This understanding allows nonprofits to ensure their financial health and stability over time.

Effectively Managing Donor Restrictions in Financial Reporting

Managing donor restrictions is like juggling. Nonprofits need to keep the balls in the air, ensuring they respect the wishes of their donors while also meeting the organization’s needs. These restrictions can make it challenging to categorize revenue and expenses correctly in financial statements. It's important for nonprofits to include a statement that clearly shows how these funds are being used to support their mission. This helps maintain trust with donors and can also assist organizations in planning their investing activities and using their assets wisely.

Addressing Fundraising and Financing Activities in Nonprofit Financial Statements

Fundraising and financing activities are essential chapters in the story of a nonprofit's financial journey. They need to record revenue and expenses from these activities accurately to give a clear picture of the organization’s financial status. This includes everything from cash inflows and outflows related to fundraising events to payments on long-term investments like buildings. Financial statements help nonprofits rate their organization’s income and net assets, providing a detailed look at how these activities impact the overall financial health of the organization.

By navigating these challenges with care and precision, nonprofits can ensure their financial statements accurately reflect their financial activities. This not only aids in making informed decisions but also bolsters the organization’s credibility and transparency, making it easier for potential donors and evaluators like Charity Navigator and Guidestar to assess the organization’s worthiness and effectiveness.

Best Practices for Maintaining Nonprofit Financial Statements

Keeping clear and accurate financial statements is like making sure the lights are on in a nonprofit organization. It guides the way, showing where the organization is going and what obstacles might be ahead. Let’s explore how nonprofits can shine a light on their financial health and keep everything in check.

Ensuring Accuracy and Transparency in Financial Reporting for Nonprofits

Accuracy and transparency in financial reporting are like the foundation of a house. They need to be strong and reliable, or everything built on them might crumble. For nonprofits, this means making sure that the organization’s net assets are clearly shown and explained. Net assets represent what the organization owns and what it owes, sorted in order of liquidity, or how easily they can be turned into cash. Being transparent about these figures allows everyone to see the organization’s financial health, helping to make informed decisions and maintain trust with donors, regulators like Charity Navigator and Guidestar, and the public.

Strategies for Tracking and Reporting Operating Activities in Financial Statements

For nonprofits, tracking and reporting operating activities are key to understanding how cash moves through the organization. This involves recording revenue and expenses from both the current and previous periods to show how the organization’s net assets have changed. By using gross receipts to record revenue and detailing cash inflows and outflows, including payments on long-term investments like buildings, nonprofits can offer a clear picture of their financial activities. This transparency not only helps in making strategic decisions but also ensures that liabilities, such as car loans and mortgages, are accounted for. Keeping these records accurate and up-to-date allows a nonprofit to better understand its financial standing, making it easier to plan for the future and demonstrate its value and effectiveness to both current and potential supporters.

Want to stay on top of your nonprofit's income? Download our FREE income statement template for Excel here.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Non-Profit Income Statement: A report that shows how much money a charity or non-profit organization made and spent. It's like a summary of the organization's money activity for a certain period.
  2. Donations: Money or gifts given to the non-profit by people or companies. This is usually the main way non-profits make money, and it's shown on the income statement.
  3. Grants: Special funds given by the government or other organizations to help support the non-profit's projects. These are also a big part of the income statement.
  4. Expenses: All the money a non-profit spends to work on its mission, like paying employees, buying supplies, or organizing events. The income statement shows these details.
  5. Net Income: The money left over after all expenses are paid. For non-profits, this money goes back into their projects, not to owners or shareholders. The income statement shows if the organization made more money than it spent.

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March 28, 2024


Antonio Del Cueto, CPA

Antonio Del Cueto, CPA


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