The World of Nonprofit Accounting: A Comprehensive Guide

July 1, 2023

The World of Nonprofit Accounting: A Comprehensive Guide

nonprofit accounting

Brief Overview of Nonprofit Accounting

Nonprofit organizations work towards addressing social issues and providing essential services to their communities rather than earning a profit for personal gain, as the name suggests. However, their financial management is significantly different from that of profit-making organizations. 

So, organizations need to understand the unique principles and practices of nonprofit accounting to maintain transparency and compliance and make informed financial decisions.

Importance of Understanding Nonprofit Accounting for Organizations

Nonprofit accounting is much more than simply balancing the books. It includes various regulations, reporting requirements, and specific financial strategies nonprofits must follow to survive and grow. A thorough understanding of nonprofit accounting can help organizations to ensure their financial health and stability, build trust with stakeholders, and make informed decisions to maximize their impact.

Introduction to the Count, an Accounting Firm Specializing In Nonprofit Finance

We at The Count are your trusted partner for expert financial guidance in the nonprofit sector. Our team comprises finance professionals with tons of experience in nonprofit accounting. We understand the unique challenges and intricacies of nonprofit accounting, and we are passionate about serving this sector.

At The Count, we empower nonprofit organizations to navigate financial responsibilities confidently and clearly. Hence, this comprehensive guide will explore the fundamental principles, reporting requirements, and best practices.

Fund Accounting: Restricted, Temporarily Restricted, and Unrestricted Funds

Fund accounting includes classifying funds into different categories based on the restrictions on their use. The three main types of funds in nonprofit accounting are as follows:

Restricted funds: These funds have specific restrictions imposed on them by the donors. They may specify how the firm should use the funds. Nonprofit organizations are obligated to follow these restrictions.

Temporarily restricted funds: Temporarily banned funds have time-based restrictions imposed by donors, but it becomes unrestricted once conditions or time requirements are complete.

Unrestricted funds: Unrestricted funds do not have any restrictions by the donors. These funds can be used however the organization wants.

The Non-Distribution Constraint

The nonprofit organization should put any extra revenue generated back into the organization to support its mission. Nonprofits cannot distribute profits or surplus funds to individuals or shareholders but instead use them for charitable and social purposes.

The Role of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)

Nonprofit accounting follows Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), providing nonprofit accountants a uniform financial reporting framework. GAAP ensures consistency, comparability, and transparency in nonprofit financial statements.

Nonprofit organizations must follow the GAAP guidelines when preparing their financial statements. These rules cover different areas like recognizing their income, categorizing their expenses, determining the value of their assets and debts, and disclosure requirements. 

Key Financial Statements in Nonprofit Accounting

Nonprofit Budget: This plan has financial data that shows expected income and expenses for a specific period, helping nonprofits manage their finances and make informed decisions.

Financial Position (Balance Sheet): This Statement shows the organization’s assets, liabilities, and net assets at a given time, providing an overview of its financial position.

(Income Statement) Statement of Activities: This Statement summarizes the revenues and expenses over a specific period, understanding whether the nonprofit had a surplus or deficit.

Statement of Functional Expenses: This Statement breaks down the organization’s costs by making categories, such as program services, management, and fundraising, showing how to allocate funds.

Cash Flow Statements: This Statement tracks the organization’s cash inflows and outflows during a period, revealing its ability to generate and use cash properly.

Form 990: This is a tax form that nonprofits must file annually with the Internal Revenue Service in the United States. It is annual tax form that provides detailed information about the organization’s activities, finances, and compliance with tax regulations.

Best Practices for Nonprofit Accounting

The Importance of Overhead Expenses: It’s crucial to understand and adequately allocate overhead expenses, like administrative costs, because they are necessary for the organization’s smooth operation.

Refer Budgets: Regularly referencing your budget helps nonprofits track their progress, identify discrepancies, and adjust as needed.

Establishing Internal Controls: Practices like division of duties and proper documentation help prevent errors, fraud, and misuse of funds.

Conducting Regular Audits: Regular financial audits, conducted by professionals, ensure that the organization’s financial statements are accurate, reliable, and legal.

Utilizing Specialized Nonprofit Accounting Software: This software can streamline financial management processes, track donations, keep bank accounts, produce reports, and improve overall efficiency.

Deciding Between Hiring In-House or Outsourcing Nonprofit Accounting

Considerations for Expanding Executive Responsibilities

When deciding between in-house or outsourcing accounting firms, nonprofits should consider whether their current executive team has the expertise and capacity to take on additional responsibilities related to financial management.

Hiring a Full-Time Accountant

Nonprofits may hire a full-time accountant as an in-house staff member. So this provides higher support and allows for more direct management of financial operations. 

Outsourcing Accounting Needs Expert Firms like The Count

This option provides access to experienced professionals who are well-versed in the right nonprofit accounting software. Outsourcing can be cost-effective, removing the need for full-time staff and allowing nonprofits to focus on their primary mission.

Why Choose the Count for Your Nonprofit Accounting Needs

By choosing The Count, you gain access to our team of experts specializing in nonprofit accounting. They possess the knowledge and experience to tackle the financial challenges and regulations relating to nonprofits.

The Count works towards creating robust internal controls for your organization. We help safeguard your organization’s financial reliability and maintain transparency.

The Count also provides access to QuickBooks, a widely used and trusted accounting software tailored for nonprofit organizations. QuickBooks simplifies accounting, makes it easy to get donations, and offers easy expense sorting, detailed budget tracking and expanded capacity, increased protection, and much more.


Organizations must understand nonprofit accounting to maintain transparency, fulfill legal obligations, and make informed financial decisions. Hence, if you seek expert support, consider outsourcing to The Count, our trusted firm specializing in nonprofit finance. 

Additional Resources

Working with a nonprofit accountant: What to expect

When working with a nonprofit accountant, they can provide professional expertise and guidance in managing your organization’s finances. They will help you with financial statement preparation, accounting program budgeting, and decision-making.

About The Count

The Count offers specialized accounting services tailored for nonprofits. We provide bookkeeping, taxation, audits bank reconciliation, cash flow management and payroll solutions.

Other Helpful Nonprofit Accounting Articles and Resources


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