Cheat Sheet

Nonprofit Bookkeeping & Accounting For Dummies

To stay organized and on top of your nonprofit’s bookkeeping and accounting responsibilities, complete tasks that need to be done daily, weekly, quarterly, and yearly. Keep necessary financial information up-to-date so you’re prepared to submit paperwork to the government and to the people involved in your nonprofit organization who plan your budget.

Weekly Reminders for Your Nonprofit Organization

To ensure your nonprofit’s daily activities are completed, organize a weekly to-do list and prioritize the tasks so the important ones are done first and other jobs are scheduled around them. Managing your nonprofit means sticking to your plan to stay organized and run efficiently. Apply these guidelines to your nonprofit’s weekly plan:

  • Set up daily priorities. Knowing what you need to accomplish each day allows you to take care of the most pressing matters.

  • Surround yourself with professional staff. Surrounding yourself with professionals eliminates the pettiness of daily office drama! Professionals are self-motivated and focused on doing their jobs, and they require minimum supervision.

  • Keep your goals before you. To maintain a clear vision, keep your eyes on the prize. Post your vision or your goals in a place where they’re visible to you every day.

  • Manage your time by planning and scheduling your daily activities. Be mindful of distractions that pull you away from completing your tasks.

  • Stay out of politics. Avoiding politics at work protects your nonprofit’s status.

Monthly Budgeting Tasks for Your Nonprofit Organization

As a director or manager of a nonprofit, you require monthly budget assessments to track and manage your nonprofit’s finances. Monthly meetings, which should happen after a cost-benefit analysis, should involve your finance committee, budget staff, and/or budget task force. These meetings should go over management efficiency and include these items:

  • Review budget projections and compare the projected budget to actual results. To ensure that you have revenues to take care of expenses, evaluate what happened the previous month and what the impact will be on future months. Make adjustments to future planned actions based on your actual results to date.

  • Trim the fat from your budget. Analyze every line item and look for ways to cut costs.

  • Seek ways to cut variable costs. To do so, change them to fixed costs or eliminate them altogether.

  • Meet with your budget task group to analyze every cost and get rid of unnecessary ones. Consider everything that will keep you efficient without compromising program quality.

  • Submit grant proposals and contracts to stabilize your funding streams. Be aggressive in seizing funding opportunities to sustain and expand your organization’s existing programs while adding new ones.

  • Search your local newspaper for new businesses in your area that may support your cause. Find out what their areas of interest are and talk to them about working together.

  • Look for ways to collaborate with other nonprofits in your community. Form partnerships with larger nonprofits for fundraising activities.

Quarterly Accounting Reminders for Your Nonprofit Organization

To analyze the financial health of your nonprofit organization, the board of directors needs quarterly financial statements, which monitor the flow of revenue. Likewise, for taxes, grants, and contracts, quarterly reports are required by federal and state government organizations. Make sure to take care of the following nonprofit accounting tasks:

  • Report payroll taxes to the IRS at the end of the quarter by submitting Form 941. The Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes are funds for the payment of old-age, survivors, and medical benefits. Employers must pay 7.65 percent of an employee’s gross salary to the IRS.

  • Prepare quarterly financial statements for your board of directors. Your board needs to know your financial status to plan future activities and to offset potential financial problems.

  • Complete quarterly financial status reports for government grants and contracts. The government expects you to track all expenditures and submit a report of what you have spent and how much you have left according to your records.

  • Complete quarterly progress reports for government grants and contracts. Quarterly progress reports indicate performance results in terms of numbers. They evaluate your progress by comparing what you expected to accomplish with what actually happened.

  • Meet with your board of directors. Your board must meet at least four times a year to fulfill federal and state requirements.

Annual Reminders for Your Nonprofit Business

Running a nonprofit requires that you annually prepare and submit paperwork to your employees, the Board of Directors, the Social Security Administration, and the IRS. Each year, you should evaluate your nonprofit’s progress, go over your strategic plan, and celebrate the year’s successes. This list represents tasks you should complete yearly:

  • Submit Form 990, Annual Information Report, to the IRS. This form is where you report all financial activities to the IRS. It reveals your financial strengths and weaknesses, sources of income, and how you’re spending your funds. This information helps the government determine whether you’re engaging in activities that could cause you to jeopardize your tax-exempt status.

  • Submit annual payroll reports to the Social Security Administration, IRS, and your employees. Form 941 is due no later than January 31. W-2s, W-3s, and 1099s must be handled properly.

  • Contact a CPA to audit your financial statements. Having audited records is like getting a professional second opinion about the validity of your financial health. It adds credibility to your record-keeping and accounting practices.

  • Celebrate your success and hard work with your staff and board members by having an annual office party. Reward everyone for a job well done.

  • Organize your budget task force for the next year. Single out the analytical minds or penny-pinchers on your staff and board. These folks will make up your budget task force, which assesses all budget costs and does a benefit analysis of each line item.

  • Organize a proposal development team for the next year. Find three people who are organized, enjoy reading technical stuff, and are willing to write. Then organize them into your proposal development team to research, develop, and submit grant applications and contracts for your organization.

  • Prepare for your annual board meeting by re-evaluating your organization’s goals. Cross out goals you’ve met and develop new goals for the upcoming year.

  • Declutter your office files and prepare for the next year. Getting rid of the clutter frees your mind and saves time. It’s important that you know where things are and can put your hands on them when needed.

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