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Whole Organization Budgeting: A Collaborative Approach for Nonprofits CLA CliftonLarsonAllen

nonprofit budgeting process

A nonprofit operating budget is different than the capital budget, and it plays an important role in budgeting for nonprofit organizations. Your capital budget includes projects that have an ongoing impact on your operations. A capital budget is also used to plan for major expenses like construction costs and other big, one-time expenses that take more than a fiscal year to fund.

Next, your nonprofit’s revenues and expenses should be forecasted for the year based on the information that has been gathered in the previous step. Overall, good budget planning requires knowledgeable board directors, a solid planning process and the tools to complete the job successfully. All board directors should have a good understanding of the purpose of the budget and their responsibility for developing a good working budget that supports the mission and that will lead the organization to sustainability. Lastly, it’s rare that nonprofits have unlimited funds, so they need to be realistic and thoughtful about setting restrictions on what they can spend money on.

Budgeting for Nonprofit Organizations: The Board’s Guide

Good budgets assure donors that the nonprofit is actively overseeing the budget process. Simplifying the budget can help a nonprofit organization achieve financial health by providing a useful tool for understanding the context and developing a process. A bookkeeper can help with the complicated parts of the budget, and it’s important to monitor the budget throughout the year. Tips to help social good organizations streamline and improve the annual budgeting process. At its most basic, a good budgeting workflow is a balance of the people who can make informed decisions, technology to manage the data, and documented processes for redundancy.

nonprofit budgeting process

Part of stewarding your resources well is showing your donors and supporters how you are using what you’ve been given. But stewarding those resources does not mean your expense budget should remain at zero. It’s perfectly fine for your nonprofit to spend money to help achieve your mission and other strategic goals along the way, so don’t be afraid for your budget to reflect that necessity. Even after your nonprofit budget is created, reviewed and approved, there is much more to consider, especially when it comes to how your budget will influence your organization’s financial management and reporting. Budgeting for nonprofit organizations takes a bit of time, but planning your budget is too important to make the mistake of rushing through it.

Why do You Need Capital Budgeting for Your Nonprofit?

Comparing budget vs. actual results allows you to stay on top of variances and make changes as needed. In December, 2017, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued changes for simplifying classification of nonprofit net assets. While the nonprofit budget is not subject to these standards, it will be easier if these changes are implemented to remain consistent moving forward. To summarize, contributed revenue, such as donations, contributions and grants, are simply classified as contributed revenue with or without restrictions. A nonprofit budget represents what your nonprofit expects to spend (expenses) and earn (revenue) over a specified time period. Budgets are useful for projecting how much money you will need for a major initiative, for example, buying a facility, hiring a new employee, etc.

nonprofit budgeting process

Example, if a university is looking to raise funds to build a new library, an organization may donate the required funds in exchange for naming the building after their founder. The net present value of an item is the difference between what the item is currently worth vs. what the item will be worth in the future. A key feature of net present value is that money in the future is worth less than money in the bank today. The opportunity costs of delaying this planning can be high and potentially damaging. Simple, just erase the salaries in the first two columns and what is left is time and effort allocations.


Boards should analyze variances and consider if there will be any impact on the upcoming budget. This is also a prime opportunity to clarify the annual goals from the strategic plan. By involving staff and board members in the budgeting process, organizations create a comprehensive financial plan that is aligned with their organization’s goals and mission. This ensures that budgets are set and updated regularly, with deadlines and milestones set to track progress. Furthermore, by getting input from everyone involved in the budgeting process, the budget reflects the true needs of the company. Nonprofits must disclose certain financial information to the public in order to gain trust and support from the public.

Further, the information presented or linked to on this website is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for purposes of avoiding tax penalties that may be imposed on any taxpayer. Monthly subsidies for public housing and low-income housing aid would be at risk. The Federal Housing Administration would continue to back insured mortgages, and Ginnie Mae would continue to back the secondary mortgage market.

If an organization that held summer camps was forced to close its camps due to COVID-19, a budget-to-actual report showing summer revenue significantly less than budgeted would not be helpful. Second, both historical data and the current environment should be considered as a frame of reference when developing the budget. The two primary components of a budget are income and revenue, and many subcategories fall under the umbrella of each. Strictly Necessary Cookie should be enabled at all times so that we can save your preferences for cookie settings. Budgeting provides a means of informing managers of how well they are performing in meeting targets they have set. The process gets managers to consider how conditions may change and what steps they need to take, while also allowing managers to understand how to address problems when they arise.

  • “A government shutdown could impact everything from food safety to cancer research to Head Start programs for children,” President Biden said on Saturday.
  • The budget paints a clear picture of how much cash is coming in and how much is going out.
  • A nonprofit budget represents what your nonprofit expects to spend (expenses) and earn (revenue) over a specified time period.
  • According to MarketWatch, two-thirds of financial experts now expect a U.S. recession by the end of 2020.
  • Curtis graduated summa cum laude from St. Olaf College with majors in women’s studies and religion.

It is important the full team has access to both past financial reports and year-end projections as a reference point for planning. When budgeting, nonprofits sometimes make the mistake of forgetting to account for in-kind donations or volunteer hours. Consider segregating staff expenses as it usually comprises anywhere from 60% to 90% of an organization’s budget. Nonprofit organizations continually grapple with maintaining and improving their operations, especially in today’s volatile economy and a rapidly changing world. They must constantly strive for sustainability, and an essential part of that quest is proper budgeting. Warren Averett is a top accounting firm providing audit, tax, accounting and consulting services to companies across the Southeast.

Step 2: Understand your organization’s current financial status

Once you have your budget, compare the predicted numbers to the actual figures every month in order to look for differences and establish why they occurred. When your organization is not in line with the budget, you should look at “why,” and what factors you can control or change. This is where the budget becomes an effective management and operations tool for your organization. This allows for a better overview, budgeting for nonprofits more speedy addressing of any potential issues, more nimble management of the staff and volunteers, and a more informed everyday decision-making process. For example, if you have it in your plan to buy new computers for your staff or to build a new website, create a separate budget for those projects. If you’re creating a budget for the first time, create as reasonable a list as possible of expenses.

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