To err is human, but your not-for-profit’s supporters, not to mention the IRS, may be less than forgiving if errors affect your financial books. Fortunately, if you attend to accounting details, you can avoid these common pitfalls:
1. Failing to follow accounting procedures. Even the smallest nonprofit should set formal, documented and detailed procedures for managing financial and bookkeeping chores. Your process should include all aspects of managing your organization’s money — how to accept,
What would happen if one of your not-for-profit’s key people suddenly quit or had to go on long-term disability? Would you be able to conduct business as usual? To prevent a critical function from possibly coming to a standstill, consider cross-training staff.
Cross-training personnel means that you teach them how to do one another’s jobs. That way, if one staffer is unavailable, another can jump in and do the job.
Declining donations, dues, grants or sponsorship funds may lead to not-for-profit budget deficits. But you can reduce the risk of cash flow crunches by making relatively minor changes to your cash management practices.
The sooner your organization accumulates cash, the better your cash flow. For example, consider moving your fundraising calendar ahead. By sending an appeal in July rather than November, your nonprofit may receive significant cash in late summer.
Your not-for-profit can’t generally reimburse employees for business expenses tax-free just because staffers submit expense records. However, you can if you have a properly executed accountable plan. Under such a plan, reimbursement payments will be free from federal income and employment taxes for recipient employees and not subject to withholding from their paychecks. Additionally, your organization benefits because the reimbursements aren’t subject to the employer’s portion of federal employment taxes.
Follow the rules
Like many business owners, you might also own highly appreciated business or investment real estate. Fortunately, there’s an effective tax planning strategy at your disposal: the Section 1031 “like kind” exchange. It can help you defer capital gains tax on appreciated property indefinitely.
How it works
Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code allows you to defer gains on real or personal property used in a business or held for investment if,
Most not-for-profits are intensely focused on present needs — not the possibility that disaster will strike sometime in the distant future. Yet it’s critical that all organizations have a formal continuity plan to guide them should a natural or manmade disaster disrupt operations.
You likely already have many of the necessary processes in place — such as safely evacuating your office or backing up data.
If your not-for-profit solicits funds online — or uses other fundraising methods that cross state boundaries — it may need to register in multiple jurisdictions. We’ve answered some commonly asked questions.
My charity receives occasional contributions from out-of-state donors. Do I need to register with those states? Yes, but only if you’re actually asking for donations in those states. The critical activity is soliciting, not accepting, funds.
If your not-for-profit has too much work and not enough staff to go around, consider outsourcing your human resources function. It could give your internal team more time to spend on other core duties, mission-driven programs and strategic plans.
Benefits and drawbacks
Labor-intensive responsibilities such as recruiting, training, benefits planning and administration, compliance monitoring, leave management, and performance reviews can all be outsourced. Transferring all or some of these responsibilities to the right outside party can vault your organization to a higher level of professionalism and efficiency in those areas.
Bylaws are the rules and principles that define your not-for-profit’s governing structure. Your board and staff need to be familiar with exactly what the bylaws contain — and what they don’t. If they’re incomplete or don’t reflect the organization’s current mission, revising them is critical.
What do they contain?
Your bylaws might cover such topics as the:
• Broad charitable purpose of your organization,
• Size and function of your board,
In recent years, the IRS has increased its scrutiny — including actual audits — of not-for-profits. Do you know what to do if your organization receives an audit letter?
What is an audit?
An audit begins with the initial contact from the IRS and continues until a closing letter is issued. Before closing an audit, an officer of your nonprofit, your CPA and the IRS agent will discuss the agent’s conclusions at a closing conference.