What is the difference between a balance sheet of a nonprofit organization and a for-profit business?

restricted net assets

If there are two things that cultural groups most need in the environment in which they now operate, and will operate for years to come, it is liquidity and adaptability. On the sample balance sheet on page 21 we see that at FYE ’08, CHP had nearly seven months of cash, while at FYE ’09, the amount dipped to about five months. In general, NFF encourages organizations to aim for a minimum of three months of cash at all times . For those producing and presenting riskier/less commercial fare, we suggest aiming for at least six months.

This represents spendable funds that the board of Pepys has added to endowment to establish a source of annual revenues available for restricted purposes. A statement of financial position or balance sheet of a nonprofit has three main parts. Statement of of Financial Activities reports revenue and expenses on activities by those with donor restrictions and without. Some detail on the changes in the net assets section of the NFP’s statement of financial position is reported in the NFP’s Statement of Activities. The for-profit corporation’s equity section has the heading Stockholders’ Equity.

100,000 of current operating funds for addition to or replacement of plant that will be needed under its capital budget plan. 500,000 in restricted gifts is not used for the designated purposes, the amount is returnable to the donors. One wonders whether this “loan” can be repaid, as it ultimately must be. The latter recognize such a future liability only when the goods or service is delivered and there is objective evidence of its value or when an outlay is fairly certain to be made, as in the case of contingencies.

Now, I’m not arguing for imposing the commercial accounting model on government. There is a fundamental distinction between governmental and commercial accounting. In governmental accounting, benefits do not necessarily flow in as revenues, so there is no inherent connection between revenues and expenses as there is in the commercial model. At the same time, government needs good measures of cost, and needs to integrate those cost measures with levels of taxation so that it and its citizens understand what is really happening at any point in time. Encumbrance accounting, in which all current commitments as well as liabilities are monitored regularly, could be a useful mode of reporting for businesses in difficult positions, such as in a bankruptcy reorganization.

Nonprofit Statement of Financial Position (or Balance Sheet)

It provides information about the overall financial health of your nonprofit. That’s because it shows the amount of flexibility you have in your funding to pay for additional operating expenses necessary for growth. The net assets represent the sum of all the annual surpluses or deficits that an organization has accumulated over its entire history. If it happened in your financial past, the balance sheet reflects it.

Other llc accounting added to Capital Fund are the capitalized events or transactions like Legacies, Entrance fees, and Membership fees. Some funds may be created other than Capital Fund, like Sports Fund, Building Fund, etc., to meet the specific requirement or the requirements of donors/contributors. Assets encompass resources such as cash, investments, equipment, and pledges receivable.

The balance sheet reports the organization’s assets, liabilities, and the difference between the amount of assets and liabilities as of the final instant of the accounting period. In the U.S., the amounts are based on generally accepted accounting principles . Since non-profit organizations don’t have “owners,” its balance sheet is referred to as a statement of financial position .


Indeed, without surplus revenue, a nonprofit can’t grow or scale its mission. And no organization can afford to ignore the financial realities of the world we live in. The not-for-profit organization’s equity section has the heading Net Assets.

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Nonprofit organizations may not be in business to make money, but they must still pay close attention to their finances to achieve their mission. Nonprofits, like all organizations, need to have enough money to pay salaries, run programs, purchase goods, or pay debts. Often nonprofits come under fire when they don’t have a good financial balance, have too much cash, have high expenses, or are not putting the right amount of money toward programs serving their mission.

  • Indeed, some aspects of fund accounting already appear in business accounting; FASB Statement 14, on reporting for segments of a business enterprise, is an example.
  • The statement of functional expenses serves as an indicator of how effectively the nonprofit is allocating funds toward advancing its mission.
  • Sector includes domestic hedge funds, private equity funds, and personal trusts.
  • Common revenue categories include earned revenue and donor contributions, while expenses are typically split into program and non-program expenses.

An NFP’s balance sheet also serves an important purpose when communicating with key stakeholders such as donors, grantmakers, and board members. A for-profit entity’s balance sheet includes retained earnings or owner’s equity . By contrast, a nonprofit doesn’t retain earnings; it uses them to support its mission. Instead, a nonprofit’s statement of financial position defines the difference between assets and liabilities as net assets. The set-up of the balance sheet and essential framework are largely the same in a for-profit and nonprofit business. However, basic terminology and account details are different based on the distinct difference in these business types.

Cash Flow Statements

If you’re looking for an easier way to get accurate and on-time financial reports, consider outsourcing your nonprofit bookkeeping and accounting to The Charity CFO. It is one of the essential financial statements that nonprofit founders need to know how to read. However, you can also use the next calculation to calculate the liquidity of your nonprofit.

Having a solid understanding of your nonprofit’s finances at any given time supports decision-making and planning. Start by downloading the Finance Unlocked for Nonprofits guide that includes practice activities, worksheets, and reflection questions. Find templates and other documents to help put what you learned into practice in the document vault. Keep on learning with other resources and upcoming workshops on nonprofit finance. Nonprofits occasionally fail to account for these restrictions and later encounter problems when they unintentionally use restricted funds for a different purpose.

Within this section are the paid-in capital amounts for the shares of stock issued, the amount of retained earnings, and possibly some other items. Below you can see an example non profit balance sheet which you can download here for free. Generally, these assets are listed in order of the amount of time that it would take for them to become liquid assets. For example, cash is already liquid, so it’s listed first in the assets section.


Doing so runs the risk of upsetting donors and can cause issues with the audit process. To ensure accuracy, automate this process within your accounting system. A reliance on manual processes significantly increases the possibility of errors.

Statement of Activities

Meanwhile, long-term liabilities represent the obligations that can be paid over multiple years. Ready to dive deeper into this important nonprofit financial statement? Days cash on hand measures liquidity and estimates how many days of organizational expenses could be covered with current cash balances. The Form 990 is readily available on the internet to any member of the public for review including potential funders.

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In urging the universal adoption of certain nonprofit accounting practices, we do not mean to praise the state of the art as a whole; in both theory and practice it leaves much to be desired. Little theory lies behind accounting for nonprofits, particularly government organizations. The nomenclature is peculiar and inconsistent, and some fundamental issues, such as the recognition of depreciation, valuation of gifts in kind , and the standardization of reporting by municipalities, remain to be resolved. Moreover, combining activities of the restricted current fund and the endowment fund would obscure the difference between operating capital and permanent capital.


The remaining 30% or so of expenses are supporting expenses such as management and general or fundraising expenses. Categorizing expenses in this way allows the stakeholders of the nonprofit to determine how effectively the organization allocates its funds to support their programs. The team of nonprofit accounting experts at Smith and Howard serves museums, arts + culture institutions, galleries, and various organizations nationwide. A nonprofit entity issues a somewhat different set of financial statements than the statements produced by a for-profit entity. Whether nonprofit or for-profit SMB, the impact of inaccurate or late financial information can have a devastating effect on the organization’s long-term financial health.

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The trustees’ legal responsibility to secure the funds and keep them available for particular purposes does not always lapse once the money has been spent. If, for example, long ago they had received a gift for construction of a laboratory, the proceeds from the eventual sale of that structure may be unavailable for general purposes. A portion of the proceeds may have to be returned to the donor or reused for the original purpose in some manner. The Balance Sheet shows the actual value of Assets, Liabilities, and Capital Funds of the organisation. The surplus/deficit ascertained from Income and Expenditure A/c is added/deducted from the Capital Fund as the case may be.

Finance Unlocked for Nonprofits

On the Statement of Financial Position, your assets break down into current assets, fixed assets, and other assets. The balance sheet – also called the Statement of Financial Position – serves as a snapshot, providing the most comprehensive picture of an organization’s financial situation. Join us online for three days of speakers, workshops, and more invaluable content, and to connect with other board, staff, and volunteers from nonprofits from across the state.

Statement of Functional and Natural Expenses shows expenses by function (i.e., program, fundraising, and administrative) and nature (i.e., supplies, marketing, and salaries). Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business.

Even though nonprofits and small and medium-sized businesses utilize different financial reports, both types of organizations are similar in that they need cash to stay afloat. Cash flow statements for nonprofits are nearly identical to cash flow statements in the for-profit world. A cash flow statement for a nonprofit organization reports the amount of cash a company has on hand by factoring its operation costs, assets, and financing. When you first think of financial statements, your mind might jump to the standard balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements typically used by for-profit organizations. The funds of a nonprofit enterprise are like a collection of cookie jars in which resources for various purposes are stored. For nonprofit organizations, therefore, traditional corporate reporting is almost meaningless.

Finally, improving capitalization requires time, patience, and celebration of progress. It also requires funders to play a leadership role in using carrots and sticks to encourage and ensure that progress occurs. In 1979, for example, Chrysler Corporation announced that it needed billions of dollars for plant expansion and replacement and claimed it could not finance the investments without government assistance. Government organizations incorporate budgets into their financial statements because their purpose is to execute the budget created by the legislative branch.

The only voice in defense of current practices has come from the nonprofits themselves.7 But their arguments have been unpersuasive and the tide seems to be going against them. Nonprofit enterprises have financial structures that are different from those of businesses. But there is one other major difference, and it’s the issue of restricted funds.


That’s why it’s so important to manage grants and other restricted contributions carefully in your accounting system. In a nutshell, the liabilities section of your nonprofit statement of financial position sums up what your organization owes. For instance, this is where you’ll add expenses owed to your employees, vendors, and contractors, as well as any debt your organization may have as an entity.

However, this formula does not directly apply to nonprofit balance sheets, since they technically have no owners. Instead, nonprofits substitute net assets for equity and follow the formula of assets minus liabilities equal net assets, according to accountant and university professor Harold Averkamp. While the for-profit balance sheet shows how much the company is worth to owners if assets are sold and liabilities are paid off, the nonprofit statement shows how much the nonprofit would have available in assets. The assets section of your nonprofit balance sheet defines what your nonprofit owns. It includes items like your cash assets, accounts receivable, property and equipment investments, long-term receivables, prepaid expenses, and more.

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