Nonprofit Financial Statements

10 Essential Steps for Preparing Nonprofit Financial Statements

Nonprofit Financial Statements: Nonprofit organizations play a crucial role in society, addressing various needs and challenges across communities.

However, the backbone of every successful nonprofit lies in its transparency and accountability, especially regarding its financial health.

Financial statements are vital tools for nonprofits, providing stakeholders with insights into the organization’s fiscal responsibility and operational efficiency.

Here’s a comprehensive 10-step guide to preparing accurate and transparent nonprofit financial statements.

Crafting Clear and Compliant Nonprofit Financial Statements: A 10-Step Guide

1. Understand the Required Statements

Nonprofit financial statements differ from those of for-profit businesses. Typically, nonprofits must prepare:

  • Statement of Financial Position: Similar to a balance sheet, it displays assets, liabilities, and net assets.
  • Statement of Activities: Shows revenue, expenses, and changes in net assets.
  • Statement of Cash Flows: Outlines cash inflows and outflows.
  • Statement of Functional Expenses: Breaks down expenses by function and nature.

Understanding these requirements is the first step to compliance and transparency.

2. Gather Necessary Financial Information

Gathering all financial data for the fiscal year is a critical task that underpins the integrity of nonprofit financial statements.

This comprehensive process involves collecting detailed records of donations, grants, investments, and all categories of expenses.

Effective record-keeping and systematic organization are paramount, necessitating the use of robust accounting systems or software tailored for nonprofits.

Such tools not only streamline data compilation but also enhance accuracy by automating transaction recording and categorization.

Ensuring precision in this foundational step is crucial for transparent reporting and maintaining stakeholder trust in the organization’s financial health and stewardship.

3. Classify Revenue and Expenses

nonprofit financial statements

Accurately categorizing revenue into unrestricted, temporarily restricted, and permanently restricted funds is essential for clear nonprofit financial statements.

This classification not only delineates how funds can be utilized but also ensures compliance with donor intentions and regulatory requirements.

Unrestricted funds offer the greatest flexibility, used at the organization’s discretion. Temporarily restricted funds are earmarked for specific projects or time frames, necessitating careful tracking and reporting to ensure they’re used as intended.

Permanently restricted funds, often endowments, provide ongoing income for designated purposes.

Similarly, delineating expenses by their function—such as direct program services, fundraising activities, and administrative overhead—alongside their nature, including salaries, utilities, and office supplies, offers a transparent view of how resources are allocated.

This detailed classification underpins effective financial management, demonstrating an organization’s commitment to stewardship and accountability.

4. Use the Accrual Basis of Accounting

The accrual basis of accounting is highly recommended for nonprofits, as it records transactions at the moment revenues are earned or expenses are incurred, irrespective of cash movement.

This approach is crucial for these organizations, as it aligns revenue recognition with related expenses, offering a true reflection of financial health and operational effectiveness within a reporting period.

By adopting this method, you can ensure your nonprofit financial statements accurately reflect it’s economic activities, enhancing transparency and trust among donors, grantors, and stakeholders, thereby facilitating better decision-making and strategic planning.

5. Allocate Expenses

nonprofit financial statements

Nonprofits face the critical task of allocating expenses between program services and support services, a process vital for illustrating the organization’s commitment to its core mission.

This allocation is not just a financial reporting requirement; it serves as a transparent indicator of how the nonprofit prioritizes mission-related activities over administrative and fundraising costs.

Demonstrating that a significant portion of resources is funneled directly into program services reinforces the organization’s effectiveness and integrity in the eyes of donors, funders, and the public.

It underscores the nonprofit’s dedication to maximizing impact and efficiently using its funds to achieve its goals.

6. Prepare the Statement of Financial Position

Initiating the preparation of the Statement of Financial Position requires listing assets, starting with the most liquid assets like cash and receivables, which can be quickly converted into cash.

This is followed by less liquid assets such as property and equipment, which are vital for long-term operations but not readily convertible to cash. Subsequently, liabilities are cataloged, prioritizing them by their maturity dates, starting with obligations due in the near term.

This meticulous classification highlights the organization’s immediate financial obligations versus its capacity for long-term investment and operation.

The calculation that subtracts total liabilities from total assets yields the net assets, a critical figure representing the organization’s financial health and stability by showing the residual interest in assets after liabilities are settled.

7. Draft the Statement of Activities

This statement should outline all revenue streams and expenses, segmented by unrestricted, temporarily restricted, and permanently restricted categories. It shows the changes in net assets over the fiscal period, highlighting the organization’s financial health and growth.

8. Complete the Statement of Cash Flows

nonprofit financial statements

The Statement of Cash Flows categorizes cash activities into operating, investing, and financing activities. This statement is essential for showing how the organization generates and uses cash, providing insights into liquidity and financial flexibility.

9. Detail the Statement of Functional Expenses

This statement is unique to nonprofits and requires breaking down expenses by both function and nature. It’s critical for showing how much of the nonprofit’s spending is directed toward mission-related activities versus administrative and fundraising costs.

10. Review and Finalize

Prior to finalizing the nonprofit financial statements, it’s imperative to undertake a meticulous review process to guarantee both precision in the financial data and adherence to the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) specifically tailored for nonprofits.

This essential step ensures that the financial reporting accurately reflects the organization’s fiscal activities and complies with established accounting standards, enhancing the integrity of the financial information presented.

An internal review by the organization’s finance team can achieve this, but engaging an external auditor adds an additional layer of credibility, offering an independent verification of the nonprofit financial statements’ accuracy and compliance. This rigorous review process, whether internal or external, is crucial for building trust among donors, grantors, and other stakeholders.

After ensuring the nonprofit financial statements meet these stringent criteria, the organization can confidently finalize and disseminate them, providing a transparent account of its financial status and stewardship of resources.


Preparing clear and compliant nonprofit financial statements is a fundamental responsibility of nonprofit organizations. These documents not only fulfill legal and regulatory obligations but also build trust with donors, volunteers, and the communities served by providing transparent insights into the organization’s financial health and operational efficiency.

By following these ten steps, organizations can ensure their nonprofit financial statements accurately reflect their commitment to fiscal responsibility and mission-driven success.

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