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6 Steps to Streamline Your Accounting: A Guide for Nonprofits

Posted by Devika Hastak

April 27, 2024

Amidst the relentless rise in inflation, soaring operational costs, and dwindling funding, the nonprofit sector is grappling with significant challenges. A 2024 report on the state of the nonprofit sector revealed that the two most pressing issues are escalating operational costs and a dearth of finances. Given their reliance on external funding, nonprofits must urgently fortify their financial management and accounting practices to weather these turbulent times. Whether you’re in the process of establishing a new nonprofit organization (NPO) or overhauling the operations of an existing one, there are several straightforward steps you can take to address these challenges.

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Financial tracking and reporting are crucial to a nonprofit’s success since these organizations must prove that their funding is being utilized in an impactful way. By adopting a streamlined approach to NPO finance, you can optimize operations, boost your credibility, increase your funding, and continue making impactful contributions to society. Let’s examine how you can benefit from streamlining your nonprofit accounting and the six steps.

Benefits of Streamlined Accounting

Nonprofits, despite their primary mission of benefiting the public, often face heightened scrutiny over their financial management. One of the key differentiators between nonprofit and for-profit accounting is the inherent complexity of the former. Moreover, in today’s fiercely competitive fundraising landscape, nonprofits must strive to stand out. Streamlining nonprofit accounting offers numerous advantages, simplifying accounting processes while bolstering your organization’s operations, image, and ultimately, funding capabilities.

Streamlined accounting not only makes your financial reporting more reliable and transparent but also plays a pivotal role in enhancing your organization’s credibility and impact. Well-organized, detailed, and informative financial documents support internal decision-making and demonstrate good governance to both internal and external stakeholders. This is particularly crucial in today’s landscape, where it’s essential to convince donors, grantors, and regulatory bodies of your trustworthiness and worthiness of support. If your financial information highlights that your funds are being utilized effectively, it significantly improves your chances of securing additional funds.

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Nonprofits, despite operating on tight budgets, can take control of their financial management with streamlined accounting. This approach empowers you to do more with less, sustainably. By leveraging automation and digital software, you can optimize your accounting processes, reduce human error, and free up your staff to focus on operations that have a significant impact on your organization’s overall success.

A streamlined approach to accounting will also enhance your fiscal planning efforts and ensure that your organization can sustainably continue its admirable work for years to come. Nonprofits often have to track and report on multiple funds, such as endowments, operating funds, and capital project funds. Some principles of streamlined accounting, such as fund accounting, can help nonprofits be more organized with their short- and long-term financial planning and forecasting. 

Now that we’ve highlighted the benefits of streamlined accounting for nonprofits let’s explore the six ways you can start this process. 

6 Ways to Streamline Nonprofit Accounting

Sound financial management and accounting will equip your organization with the efficiency, agility, and resilience required to navigate the challenges that nonprofits face today. Once you have familiarized yourself with some best practices for NPO finance, here are some ways to level up your accounting processes:

1. Iron Out Your Policies and Procedures

Establishing standardized processes across the organization will provide your employees with a clear roadmap of your accounting processes. This will optimize workflows by ensuring everyone knows how to conduct their tasks. It will also help you keep accurate track of your funds, projects, and spending, simplifying the reporting process when it comes time to update internal and external stakeholders. 

2. Ensure GAAP Compliance

Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, or GAAP, are internationally recognized guidelines that ensure companies report financial information clearly and consistently. They provide investors, donors, and other interested parties with all the information they need to evaluate companies and organizations and make informed investment or funding decisions. A finance and accounting outsourcing firm specializing in nonprofit business services can help you design your accounting processes in line with GAAP standards to establish greater credibility and trust with your stakeholders. 

3. Automate Where Possible

Use our current tech-powered times to your advantage and automate your accounting processes as much as possible. By utilizing centralized software, you can save time, streamline workflows, reduce duplication, and minimize human error. Targeted integration of technology that automates data entry, generates reports and budgets, manages cash flows, and allocates resources will be very beneficial. It will help with tracking and reporting, strategic planning, regulatory compliance, and fundraising.

4. Be Agile With Your Budget

Building your organization’s resilience to change and uncertainty is a key benefit of agile budgeting. By forecasting and undertaking regular budget reviews, you can adapt your budget to unforeseen circumstances, bolster your strategic planning efforts, and enhance your nonprofit’s financial sustainability. This ensures that your organization can continue functioning efficiently and working towards its mission, even in the face of delayed grant processes or external factors affecting your fund sources.

5. Practice Fund Accounting 

Since most nonprofit organizations have multiple fund sources with varying protocols attached to each, fund accounting will help streamline and optimize your accounting processes. Nonprofits commonly use fund accounting to segregate funds into different categories, such as restricted and unrestricted. This method helps allocate, track, and report on funds efficiently per donor guidelines and organizational goals.

6. Outsource Your Accounting 

Working with experts specializing in outsourced accounting for nonprofits can help you save costs, access the latest technology, and protect yourself during challenging economic times. Finance and accounting outsourcing takes care of all your back-office tasks, freeing up time for you to focus on core activities. You can also get support from experts familiar with legally compliant accounting for nonprofits, making your financial tracking and reporting more efficient and impactful.

In Conclusion

The nonprofit sector is especially vulnerable in today’s economic climate, where many of us are still reeling from the aftereffects of the COVID-19 pandemic. With increased competition for funding, these organizations must fight tooth and nail to demonstrate their impact and utilize their funds efficiently. By streamlining their accounting or working with a firm that offers outsourced accounting for nonprofits, these organizations can improve their operations, enhance their funding capabilities, and build long-term sustainability.

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Want to know more about streamlining your nonprofit accounting? Since 2006, Escalon has helped thousands of startups and nonprofit organizations optimize their operations with our back-office solutions for accounting, bookkeeping, taxes, HR, payroll, insurance, and recruiting — and we can help yours, too. Talk to an expert today.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only. Escalon and its affiliates are not providing tax, legal, or accounting advice in this article. If you would like to engage with Escalon, please get in touch with us here.


Devika Hastak
Devika Hastak

Devika Hastak is a dynamic content writer who is passionate about using the power of the written word to promote knowledge sharing and drive business success. She is adept at crafting compelling content tailored to client objectives and successfully executing SEO strategies that significantly impact brand awareness and lead generation. When she’s not wielding her digital pen, you can find her conducting culinary experiments in the kitchen or enjoying a good laugh with her family and friends.

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