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Topic Area Guide

The tools and templates on StrongNonprofits.org can help your organization with many of the strategic and operational responsibilities of nonprofit financial management. Below is a guide to “suites” of tools that can be combined to assist in managing key areas of nonprofit finance, including:

  • Building your organization’s budget
  • Preparing for the audit
  • Financial reporting
  • Strategic decision making

Building Your Organization’s Budget

Begin building your organization’s budget by getting an overview of a strategic and collaborative budget process in this 30-minute webinar presentation. Then use (and customize) this calendar to map out process steps and deadlines.

Your primary tool for developing an organization-wide budget is the program-based budget builder, a template for budgeting expenses and revenues by program/activity area. Managers of individual programs can use another template to plan for the costs associated with delivering their individual programs and services.

If you have uncertainty about how much income you can expect for the year, this revenue planning tool will allow you to calculate and plan for best, moderate and worst case scenarios.

Knowing when to expect income and expenses is also critical to effective financial management, so don’t forget to translate the budget into a calendar of receipts and payments with a cash flow projection tool.

Preparing for the Audit

First be sure that you have an auditor who is knowledgeable about nonprofit finance and accounting and can offer you good business advice. Use this handbook for auditor selection to be sure that you are getting good value from your audit, and not just compliance.

An efficient audit requires an up-to-date and “closed” set of books and records. Ensure that everything is in place for a clean and quick audit by checking off the activities in the financial close process. Also be sure that your temporarily restricted net assets analysis and fixed asset schedule are accurate and current.

Understanding what your audited financials tell you—and the public—is critical for communicating your organization’s financial story. This webinar walks through a set of audited financials and explains what the numbers mean.

Financial Reporting

Accurate financial reporting requires that your organization’s accounting records are up to date, so use this financial closing checklist to ensure that you have taken all of the steps necessary to complete and close the books.

In addition to the detail on standard financial reports, dashboards are an effective way to illustrate key performance indicators and to focus attention on drivers of programmatic and financial results. This template offers a flexible platform for developing a simple dashboard across a range of business areas.

Financial reports tell us what happened in the past, but good management and decision-making also benefit from insight into what is projected to happen in the future. This financial forecasting template will help you project where your organization will wind up at the end of the year based on what has happened to date and assumptions about what will happen going forward.

Strategic Decision Making

Knowing your financial history and position is critical background information in any strategic planning process; it helps to set the parameters of what is feasible and where you may need to focus attention and action. This financial health analysis tool presents 3-4 years of operating results and balance sheet metrics in graphs to illustrate your organization’s recent financial trends.

Financial considerations should always be factored into major strategic decisions for a nonprofit organization; the “matrix map” provides an effective framework for considering programmatic as well as financial results in strategic planning and decision making. This article describes how to incorporate a long-term financial perspective on strategic decisions and scenario planning.

The question of whether to expand programming or respond to a new funding opportunity is one with major strategic and financial implications; this opportunity assessment tool provides a framework for asking and discussing the key questions involved with adding or expanding programming.