Understanding Financial Reporting for Not-for-Profit Organizations: The Accounting Trinity

Management, donors, lenders and regulators all rely on not-for-profit entities’ financial statements to tell the organizations’ stories. While many individuals come face-to-face with financial information daily, much of it, when presented in financial statement format, is not intuitive or self-explanatory.

This article is the second in a series intended to help non-profit stakeholders better understand financial statements in order to make intelligent use of the information. The first article, Financial Statement Basics, reviewed the three primary financial statements:  the Statement of Financial Position, the Statement of Activities and the Statement of Cash Flows.

Next, we will look more closely at this “accounting trinity,” examining the relationships between statements and the process of capturing financial data and producing statements.

The Accounting Trinity

The three primary financial statements constitute the organization’s center of gravity.  They are a three-ring circus.  The Statement of Activity draws the most attention, but you need to watch in all three places!

How do the statements interact?  The Statement of Financial Position is the sum total of all Statements of Activities over the life of the organization.  The Statement of Activities and the Statement of Cash Flows report very similar information.  The Statement of Activities reflects current-period activity on an accrual basis (income recorded when earned and expenses recorded when committed).  The Statement of Cash Flows reflects how cash was created or used during the current period.  The Statements of Activities and Cash Flows are formatted very differently, however.

Items to look for and consider on every financial statement include:

  • Is there enough cash?
  • Are receivables/payables growing?
  • What’s the bottom line?
  • What are administrative expenses?
  • What are functional expenses?
  • Which numbers are estimated?

Read the rest of the article, which covers Internal Controls and Governance here.

Categories:
Tags:
SC
10/20/13 8:02 PM

More Blog Entries

03/22/24

Although nonprofits usually have exemptions from paying taxes, they must still file tax returns each year. Nonprofits file certain forms,...

03/18/24

One area where costs can quickly add up is recruitment. Finding the right talent for your organization is vital, but...

03/08/24

Question: Can I limit the number of times an employee makes changes to their W-4? Answer: No. IRS guidance states that an...

Terms Of Use

Privacy Policy and Terms of Use

UST maintains a secure site. This means that information we obtain from you in the process of enrolling is protected and cannot be viewed by others. Information about your agency is provided to our various service providers once you enroll in UST for the purpose of providing you with the best possible service. Your information will never be sold or rented to other entities that are not affiliated with UST. Agencies that are actively enrolled in UST are listed for review by other agencies, UST’s sponsors and potential participants, but no information specific to your agency can be reviewed by anyone not affiliated with UST and not otherwise engaged in providing services to you except as required by law or valid legal process.

Your use of this site and the provision of basic information constitute your consent for UST to use the information supplied.

UST may collect generic information about overall website traffic, and use other analytical information and tools to help us improve our website and provide the best possible information and service. As you browse UST’s website, cookies may also be placed on your computer so that we can better understand what information our visitors are most interested in, and to help direct you to other relevant information. These cookies do not collect personal information such as your name, email, postal address or phone number. To opt out of some of these cookies, click here. If you are a Twitter user, and prefer not to have Twitter ad content tailored to you, learn more here.

Further, our website may contain links to other sites. Anytime you connect to another website, their respective privacy policy will apply and UST is not responsible for the privacy practices of others.

This Privacy Policy and the Terms of Use for our site is subject to change.

Privacy Policy

Privacy Policy and Terms of Use

UST maintains a secure site. This means that information we obtain from you in the process of enrolling is protected and cannot be viewed by others. Information about your agency is provided to our various service providers once you enroll in UST for the purpose of providing you with the best possible service. Your information will never be sold or rented to other entities that are not affiliated with UST. Agencies that are actively enrolled in UST are listed for review by other agencies, UST’s sponsors and potential participants, but no information specific to your agency can be reviewed by anyone not affiliated with UST and not otherwise engaged in providing services to you except as required by law or valid legal process.

Your use of this site and the provision of basic information constitute your consent for UST to use the information supplied.

UST may collect generic information about overall website traffic, and use other analytical information and tools to help us improve our website and provide the best possible information and service. As you browse UST’s website, cookies may also be placed on your computer so that we can better understand what information our visitors are most interested in, and to help direct you to other relevant information. These cookies do not collect personal information such as your name, email, postal address or phone number. To opt out of some of these cookies, click here. If you are a Twitter user, and prefer not to have Twitter ad content tailored to you, learn more here.

Further, our website may contain links to other sites. Anytime you connect to another website, their respective privacy policy will apply and UST is not responsible for the privacy practices of others.

This Privacy Policy and the Terms of Use for our site is subject to change.