December 18, 2019
The Importance of Understanding Your Nonprofit's Cash Flow
Understanding the concept of the “business model” for your nonprofit has become a more integral component to maintaining organization sustainability within the nonprofit sector. Nonprofit leaders, grant makers and stakeholders want more insight behind the business and financial foundation of how a nonprofit organization is able to deliver according to their mission drive initiatives.
When discussing the nonprofit business model, often times it will include topics such as, cost to deliver services, mix of sources of funding, and key drives of financial results. Discussions around the financial stability and sustainability, more times than not, focus on the overall health of the balance sheet and operating results of a nonprofit. While each of these are essential components to have a better understanding of an organization’s finances and business model, these types of conversations can lose sight of a critical part of any business—the day-to-day operations. For example, the way a nonprofit organization does business can have a major impact on cash flow.
Cash flow is the net amount of cash and cash-equivalents being transferred into and out of a business. At the most fundamental level, a nonprofit’s ability to create value for shareholders in determined by its ability to generate positive cash flows, or more specifically, maximize long-term free cash flow. Managing cash flow is primarily consisted of questions: when will we pay our staff; when is this bill due and when will this grant payment come in? While there are variety of nonprofit business models, each one has a particular bearing on these types of questions.
A nonprofit business model has two main components: what kinds of programs and services nonprofits deliver, and how they are funded. Each of these components have implications on organizational cash flow that should be understood in order to have effective financial planning.
Below are a few helpful strategies to use when addressing cash flow issues:
1) Understand where funding is coming from: Each type of income stream can have certain implications and challenges for cash flow, so if a business model is built primarily around one type of funding, you will need to understand and plan for those implications and challenges.
2) How to balance cash going in and out: In order to meet operating cash needs in the absence of adequate cash reserves, a nonprofit can turn to a line of credit to meet the temporary imbalance between available cash and expenses due. Credit lines, when used responsibility, can be a useful and vital tool for cash flow management.
3) How to manage cash across your organization: While it may be impossible to ensure that cash is coming into the organization exactly on time and on target to keep things on autopilot, it is possible to plan for those times when it isn’t, and make decisions to be sure that bills and staff are paid on time.
Being informed, strategic, and collaborative in cash flow management can help to ensure that a nonprofit’s long-term strategy isn’t hindered by avoidable and short-term obstacles.
For more information on this topic, please reference this article: https://www.propelnonprofits.org/resources/managing-cash-flow/