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Money Matters: Understanding your organization's financial situation

By Catherine Beltmann

Nothing seems to intimidate or inspire fear in more nonprofit employees than the thought of having to read their organization’s financial statements–well except for those of us who actually know how to make those numbers make sense. At last week’s Emerging Leaders Network Lunch, we—with the help of Michael Anderson from Nonprofit Assistance Fund (NAF)—turned fiscal fear into projected growth.

I started working for the Citizens League in 2008, and only a month after being hired I found out—along with the rest of our staff—that an audit done by our new accounting firm had uncovered a deficit. It showed our expenses for the year would exceed projected income. How did we stray from the shallow end to deep financial waters? As it turns out, we’d done a really good job of raising restricted funds, but had not raised enough unrestricted funds to help cover general expenses. Our new firm determined that the financial statements we were using didn’t allow us to appropriately track our restricted and unrestricted balances.

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