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How to Master Accounting for Nonprofits

Whether you’re running a fledgling charity or a larger not-for-profit organisation, there’s no denying the importance of understanding accounting fundamentals. In order to continue to pursue your cause and operate effectively, it’s essential to implement an accounting structure that works - but it can be hard to know where to begin when it comes to money matters.

Today, we’re taking a look at some simple, actionable accounting tips - giving you a (just about) jargon-free guide to the world of accounting for nonprofit organisations.


Understand tax exemption

Charities are subject to a number of welcome tax reliefs, and understanding what you won’t need to pay and why is an important first step. If your organisation is recognised by HMRC, you’ll be eligible for these reliefs - as long as the money in question is being used to support your cause. Gift Aid can also helpful, allowing you to claim back tax which has been deducted - for example, on donations and bank interest.

‘Charitable expenditure’ is the term used for any income used for charitable purposes, and frees you from paying tax on:

  • Donations
  • Rental or investment income
  • Profits on trading
  • Profits on assets that are sold or disposed of, e.g. property or shares
  • Property bought

Track and record meticulously

In spite of adhering to an accounting structure unlike that of enterprises, nonprofits are still privy to audits. For this reason, it’s vital that you not only regularly review various aspects of your accounting, but also keep a thorough record of any financial statements and ensure that you’re always audit-ready. Guaranteeing that reports are always accurate and up-to-date will also give you peace of mind when the time comes to present updates to your board of directors, donors and/or key stakeholders.


Pursue training opportunities

If you’re interested in handling your accounting within the organisation on a long-term basis, it can be hugely beneficial to explore the range of training courses available. If you're in a public sector environment it's vital that you keep up-to-date with latest regulations, so you'll need to acquaint yourself with financial management guidelines like International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) and take an IPSAS training course. If you want to understand the crucial differences between IPSAS and IFRS there are a broad range of professional courses out there to help you get to grips with reporting structures and what they mean for you.


Fundraise actively

Take advantage of any and all opportunities to raise additional income for your organisation - seeking out any grants for which you may be eligible, as well as taking a proactive approach to fundraising.

With no less than 10,000 trusts in place to provide grants for not-for-profit organisations across the UK, distributing a total of £2 billion each year, finding extra funding doesn’t have to be difficult. If you can demonstrate a need for (and ability to make proper use of) a grant, you may be able to access funding to launch your organisation, cover overheads, finance equipment and much more.


Utilise online tools

Wondering how to streamline and simplify the accounting process for your organisation? There’s an app for that. As the world-renowned App Store continues to expand and evolve, more and more software developers are creating innovative, user-friendly applications designed solely to take the hassle out of accounting for nonprofits.

From sharing data on donations and expenses with your stakeholders to accessing real-time updates on cash flow, invoices and expenses at the touch of a button, these apps make understanding and tracking your accounts easier than ever before. You may also find that you’re entitled to an exclusive discount on your software of choice, simply for being a not-for-profit organisation.


Page last edited Aug 12, 2019 History

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