Nonprofits have an obligation to act as responsible stewards in managing their financial resources. Nonprofits must comply with all legal financial requirements related to financial matters. They should adhere to sound accounting principles that ensure fiscal responsibility and build public trust. Nonprofits should use their financial resources to accomplish their missions in an effective, efficient manner and should establish clear policies and practices to regularly monitor how funds are used.
A nonprofit board member should clearly understand how to read and interpret financial statements and the audit or financial review reports. A nonprofit should keep complete, current, and accurate financial records with supporting documentation in a manner that complies with standard accounting practices from FASB or GASB. A nonprofit has a legal and ethical obligation to expend funds responsibly and must ensure that funds are dispensed according to the funders’ wishes and requirements.
Federal Tax Law Changes 2018
National Council of Nonprofits: Resources on How the New Federal Tax Law Impacts Charitable Nonprofits
Policies & Plans
|We have a board-approved lobbying expense policy and follow all procedures and filings required by law (if applicable). [Legal US, NE, IA]||X|
|We have a policy in accordance with federal law to handle, store, and destroy financial records and supporting documentation. [Legal US]||X|
|We have a whistle-blower protection policy in place that allows individuals to report financial misconduct without consequence for doing so. [Legal US]||X|
|We do not allow personal use of organizational funds or business credit cards. [Legal US]||X|
|We do not allow financial loans to staff or board members. [Legal NE, IA]||X|
|We have a board-approved investment plan that is in accordance with all legal requirements and is periodically reviewed and updated. [Legal]||X|
|We expend funds responsibly and ensure that funds are used according to funders wishes and requirements. [Legal]||X|
|We work towards diversifying our funding sources as much as possible in an effort to strengthen the organization's sustainability.||X|
|We do not consider bequests, planned gifts, or pledges when determining annual or program budgets, until the gift is actualized.||X|
|We ensure separation of specific financial duties as a system of checks and balances to the extent possible given the size of our organization.||X|
|We plan for a balanced budget. If a budget deficit occurs, the board is informed in a timely manner and participates in determining a plan to restore the budget to a balanced state.||X|
|We have contract management policies & procedures (bidding system, evaluation & monitoring tools) appropriate for the size and activities of our organization (if applicable).||X|
|We have a board-approved financial management policy that is periodically reviewed and updated.||X|
|We have a board-approved risk management plan that is periodically reviewed and updated.||X|
|We have a board-approved credit card policy for the organization.||X|
|We have a clear expense reimbursement policy for the organization.||X|
|We have a clear procurement and purchasing policy, including signature authority, for the organization.||X|
|We have appropriate internal controls and procedures to monitor and record assets received, held and expended.||X|
|We maintain a financial reserve equal to three to six months of operating expenses.||X|
|We project, monitor, and adjust cash flow as needed to ensure appropriate cash flow.||X|
Reporting & Oversight
|We have an annual audit, financial review, or compilation. (Audit required if received over $750,000 of federal money/grants.) [Legal US]||X|
|We clearly and appropriately categorize our donated funds as unrestricted or restricted in our financial statements and communications in accordance with the donor or grantor wishes/stipulations. [Legal US]||X|
|We comply with all financial reporting and tax laws, including withholding and payment of federal and state income taxes, Social Security payroll taxes and unrelated business tax reporting (if applicable). [Legal US]||X|
|Our annual tax returns and tax exemption documents are available to the public. [Legal US]||X|
|We qualify as a public charity either under the "public support test" or the "facts and circumstances test" or by qualifying as a supporting organization to another public charity. [Legal US]||X|
|We file our biennial report with the Secretary of State on time. [Legal NE, IA]||X|
|We have an independent audit committee on the board that does not share members with the finance committee.||X|
|Financial audits are approved by the board and certified by the Executive Director and CFO.||X|
|In the audit process, the auditor is given the opportunity to meet with the board separately from management and staff.||X|
|We keep complete, current, and accurate financial records with supporting documentation in a manner that complies with standard accounting practices from FASB or GASB.||X|
|Our financial reports include an accurate and consistent comparison of actual to budgeted revenue and expenses and identify and explain any significant variances.||X|
|Accounts receivable and billing procedures|
|Asset & cash management policies & procedures|
|Audit, financial review, or compilation|
|Board review & approval of budget|
|Board review & approval of tax filings & audits|
|Cash disbursements—accounts payable procedures|
|Chart of accounts|
|Credit card policy & procedures|
|Directors & officers liability insurance|
|File tax exemption on personal property of the organization. Check with your county to see if applicable. (i.e., Permissive Exemption in Douglas County, NE|
|Internal control procedures|
|Monthly financial statements with balance sheet|
|Procurement & purchasing policies|
Polices & Plans
- While each board must determine the appropriate budget needed to achieve its mission, various industry benchmarks provide target ranges of 65-80% of expenditures for programs, and 20-35% for administration, fundraising and evaluation. Consider your own industry benchmarks when determining this balance.
- Monitor the cost of managing multiple funding sources and the overall ratio of the benefit vs. services delivered. A $10,000 program grant that costs you $7,500 to manage may not be worth the investment of staff time.
- Before a crisis occurs, discuss contingency options for the event of a budget deficit. Investigate a line of credit, and determine which programs/services could be minimized or temporarily discontinued if cost-cutting measures are needed.
- In your annual fund development planning, develop a strategy to build a reserve fund to sustain your operations during low cash-flow months and to provide for program expansion and enhancements.
- Develop a policy and procedures regarding the acceptance and valuation of gifts of property to the organization.
Reporting & Oversight
- Frame financial reports with relevant data points for comparison. A simple monthly statement of revenue and expenditures means nothing if not put in the context of year to date projections vs. actual activity. Explain variances in a relative context as well: a variance of $10,000 is worth consideration and deliberation if it equals 30% of your total budget but demands less attention if it represents 3% of a line item. Accuracy is important, but numbers put in context are too.
- Ensure that your board members are trained to read and understand your financial statements. They are legally accountable for your organization’s finances and it is your mutual responsibility to make sure they can fully meet their obligations.
- If appropriate, identify a legal expert with nonprofit experience to help you investigate and understand the difference between fiscal agency and fiscal sponsorship before engaging in such a relationship.