Home > Financial Management
The Basics

The Free Management Library provides a quick broad overview of basic nonprofit accounting and financial management processes and terms.

This Small Business Administration website has a tutorial on the basics of bookkeeping and accounting. While it is not geared specifically to nonprofits, the site has a lot of material that is relevant.

This is a free online course for nonprofit leaders from the Free Management Library. It teaches how to understand the critical areas of financial management and build the basic systems and practices that are necessary in a healthy nonprofit.

The dynamic website of the Greater Washington Society of CPAs covers what you need to know and features a nice archive of stories on pertinent topics.


Created by the U.S. Small Business Administration, this website defines terms and practices that bookkeepers should understand and use.

This one is worth printing out and posting near your desk. The folks at the famous “Dummies” guides have written a helpful list of things to do in terms of bookkeeping and accounting on a weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual basis.

OMB’s website has a quick list of links to federal forms for anyone who receives funds from the federal government and the related circulars. Forms can be printed and then filed with the appropriate agency. 

Accounting Software

Helpful article covers some of the best tried and true software packages for small, medium and large nonprofits—and each entry has a live link.

“12 Products That Can Help Your Nonprofit Clients” reviews accounting and bookkeeping software for accountants working in the nonprofit realm.

This website says it has access to 1,025 software packages for nonprofits. Good for folks who know the kind they want as well as those who don’t; the site’s “matching service” helps the latter group drill down to what they need, based on the size and type of nonprofit.


The National Council of Nonprofits has created this Nonprofit Audit Guide© to provide charitable nonprofits with the tools they need to make informed decisions about independent audits.

Get the basic definition and outline of the process from the Internal Revenue Service.

Published by the Virginia Society for Certified Public Accountants, this seven-page guide presents the basics in an attractive, easy to understand manner.

An accountant explains three problems she’s encountered when auditing nonprofits.

The Foundation Center compiled a list of websites and information helpful to nonprofits as they prepare for audits.

The Free Management Library has created a thorough list that serves as a good template for nonprofits.

Capital Structure

The Nonprofit Finance Fund covers capitalization, "a plan for how the organization’s capital structure should be shaped to support a move from point A to B; what it will need to look like when it gets there; and how this differs from—and represents a risk to—its current structure (which may or may not be appropriate)."

This paper from the Nonprofit Finance Fund​ discusses the effect capital structure has on nonprofits. Understanding the impact of capitalization can help nonprofit managers and their donors plan for growth and change.

Managing Cash Flow

The Free Management Library covers preparing a cash flow statement, how to forecast the flow in the future, and other basics topics.

Helpful article from Blue Avocado defines warning signs for cash flow problems and gives the ratio a healthy nonprofit should strive for to make sure enough cash is on hand.

For a few tips on how to get the flow back in “cash flow,” read this article from Fieldstone Alliance.

Members of the Nonprofit Reserves Working Group outline what nonprofits should have in reserves to be financially stable.

Links and tips from Inc. Magazine cover everything from how you can make money by paying bills early to getting tools that help track progress and profits on specific projects.

Financial Statements

The Free Management Library explains the different types of statements and provides samples of each one. There is also a section that teaches readers how to understand the financial papers of other nonprofits.

The IRS website has links to the 990 federal forms nonprofits need and straightforward information on filling them out. You’ll be able to get information on the various tax rules that apply to nonprofits.

Income Tax Issues

The Virginia Society of CPAs provides an overview of the world of tax for small nonprofits. 

This glossary of sorts is good for anyone involved in “accounting for contributions received and contributions made.”

This is glossary of the terms and words used in financial statements for not-for-profits.

Planning and Budgeting

The Innovation Network offers an evaluation, planning, and budgeting Web tool that’s free for nonprofits user. Once you’ve entered the data, it can be preloaded into several common grant application formats.

This 17-page slideshow from the Community Law Center​ explains nonprofit budgeting in simple bullet points.

The Virginia Society of CPAs provides an overview on effective budgeting for small organizations.

Venture Philanthropy Partners funded this McKinsey study on how to build a group’s capacity effectively. It provides an important foundation for any system/process within an organization in line with the mission, strategy and priorities of the whole and with an understanding of the impacts on the other systems/processes within the organization.

The Free Management Library provides a basic checklist to assess financial management in nonprofit organizations.

Created by the San Francisco accounting firm of Burr Pilger Mayer, this comprehensive presentation helps you address financial problems and questions.

Training and Development

This site has great information on courses, coaching and books for anyone in the nonprofit world who would like to expand their knowledge.

The Foundation Center’s website lists a number of online courses on fundraising and proposal writing; some are free, and others range from $39 to $189. The site also has some free tutorials available in several languages.

The Free Management Library offers an assortment of free resources.

Raffa offers complimentary and fee-based training seminars in accounting, technology, human resources and more. The series of classes are specifically designed to keep you on top of the industry's leading trends, government regulations and new technologies.

Useful Publications

Many of the books, periodicals and other media that Jossey-Bass publishes are perfect for the nonprofit world. An imprint of John Wiley & Sons, Jossey-Bass’s roster of writers includes experts in leadership, business and nonprofits.

Online journal of ASAE, The Center for Association Leadership features articles on organization and management. 

Attractive web-zine carries “practical, provocative and fun food-for-thought for nonprofits.” Sponsored by the Compasspoint Nonprofit Services, Nonprofits’ Insurance Alliance, and the Alliance for Nonprofits for Insurance, Risk Retention Group, the Avocado is a nicely written freebie that comes out every third Tuesday.

Independent Sector has been publishing reports and guides for nonprofits and charities since 1980. Click on this link to access a number of good, free manuals on topics including governance, ethics and understanding the impact of the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act on nonprofits.

Volunteer Accountants

CVAS provides accounting services to small nonprofit organizations by matching accountants with organizations in need of accounting services. All accountants work on a volunteer basis, and offer their services free of charge to eligible nonprofits. They have a web-based tool for finding volunteer accountants in many U.S. states and in various countries.

Based in Philadelphia, this group says its goal is to “provide services to small and start up nonprofits so they can begin their organization and programs with accurate financial information from the very beginning.”
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