Association of Nonprofit Accountants and Finance Professionals Fund Accounting

fund accounting

Keeping an account of restricted funds is a part of responsibilities. This system relies on double-entry accounting, meaning that each event is recorded on two sides. The type of contribution determines in which bucket will be registered. The money will go into restricted or temporarily restricted funds if the donors have specific requests. If the organization can use it in any way, the resources will end up in the unrestricted bucket.

  • With these general principles in mind, let us take a look at Wellington Zoo’s annual report that highlights its fund accounting efforts.
  • The investor could have money in the fund for years or could withdraw cash next week.
  • By doing this, the unrestricted fund will show the funds available for current program use.
  • Hedge fund accountants provide accounting services and performance analysis to hedge funds.

This template provides a clear and organized way to present financial information, including revenues, expenses, and net change in financial position, by class, location, and project. These 501(C)(3) organizations are the primary type of organization discussed in matters of 3 Major Differences Between Government & Nonprofit Accounting. Those who repeat the mantra “accounting is black-and-white” are wrong because not all accounting is the same. It changes based on the industry in which the accountant operates. This is because the financial goals change per industry and therefore the management of those finances will also change.

Step 1: Turn on Class tracking

For example the garbage expense can’t tell you what the electricity expense spent and vice versa. But looking into the utility envelope (fund) can tell you how much you have left, and how much you spent on everything that left the envelope for all utilities. The importance of understanding these key areas — ie assets, revenues, liabilities and so on, can’t be stressed enough. To not understand them thoroughly, is akin to trying to do mathematical division when you haven’t learned addition, subtraction, and multiplication. This makes fund accounting much easier because you have a running list of every donation made to a specific fund, so you can check your accounting as you go.

Universities, religious institutions, elementary and secondary schools, private foundations, hospitals and charitable organizations are great places for accountants to find work in fund accountancy. Federal, state and local governments also retain accountants to manage tax revenues, administrative funds and the financial aspects of public service programs. The two most common types of funds that nonprofits use are unrestricted and restricted funds. Nonprofits can spend unrestricted funds in any way that supports its mission. However, restricted funds must be used for specified purposes or projects.

Objectives and General Practices of Fund Accountancy

They create the vision, manage high level conflicts, develop strategic plans for the organisation, and so on. This is the accountability piece that the for profit world misses. For profit systems, for the most part, have one money pot where money comes in and out. Not for profits have numerous pots (ie. General, Youth, and Building) of money, each with a fund designation, that allows money to come in and out of just that pot (fund). This is why we reworded the definition above to emphasizes this unique difference. All the money to pay for both of these came out of the same utility envelope (fund), but the amounts were recorded against different accounts — ie electricity and garbage.

fund accounting

All the organization’s cash may be kept in a single bank account and the receivables and payables are kept in the general fund. With a true fund accounting software system, you will be able to track the accountability of each fund. This type of nonprofit accounting plays an important role in demonstrating compliance. As a result, nonprofit organizations use fund accounting to show donors how the organization spends donor money on programs, fundraising, and administrative costs. In addition, nonprofits manage revenue using GAAP, or Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. GAAP guidelines were created by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB).


In order to record the expenses that use funds from a grant, you’ll need to create an expense category specific for cash and cash equivalents. For instance, a nonprofit organization may receive a donation in the amount of $5,000 that the donor states must be used to pay for a particular program before the end of the year. Grants are also considered temporarily restricted as they also have an expiration date.