Not-for-Profit GAAP 2001: Interpretation and Application of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles for Not-for-Profit Organizations / Edition 1

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A comprehensive accounting and financial reporting guide for use by not-for-profit organizations and their auditors in preparing financial statements in accordance with the generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP).
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Editorial Reviews

A reference guide for financial statement preparers and users, as well as for auditors of not-for-profit organizations. Focus is on distinguishing characteristics of not-for-profits and their financial accounting and reporting, accounting areas that are unique to not-for- profits, and general areas of accounting that are applicable to the accounting and financial reporting of not-for-profit organizations. There is specific coverage of accounting issues for different types of organizations. Includes many examples, sample forms, and a disclosure checklist. This 2001 edition reflects the latest standards and legislation. The authors are accountants in the private sector. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471397953
  • Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 2/1/2001
  • Series: GAAP for Governments Series
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 546
  • Product dimensions: 7.52 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.49 (d)

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Not-for-profit organizations represent a significant portion of the economy of the United States. Over one million of these organizations provide almost every conceivable type of service from education to politics, from health and welfare to country clubs, and from churches to research organizations. The number and importance of these organizations to the overall US economy continues to grow. The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) defines not-for-profit organizations by distinguishing them from profit organizations. It defines not-for-profit organizations as entities that possess the following characteristics not usually found in other organizations:

1. They receive contributions from significant resource providers who do not expect a commensurate or proportionate monetary return.
2. They operate for purposes other than to make a profit.
3. There is an absence of ownership interests like those of business enterprises.

NOTE: Item 1. above describes transactions that are sometimes called "nonexchange" transactions. In a typical contribution to a not-for-profit organization, the giver (donor) and the receiver (the not-for-profit organization) do not exchange items of equivalent value--the not-for-profit organization receives the majority of the value in the actual transaction. The donor compensates for this difference by obtaining value separate from the transaction, such as through a tax deduction that it is likely to receive, recognition, goodwill, or simply a good feeling about supporting a cause that the donor believes is worthwhile.

While not-for-profit organizations share many of the same accounting principles as commercial enterprises, their accounting and financial reporting is quite unique because the focus of financial reporting for not-for-profit organizations is not on the measurement of net income. Reflecting this, and other differences, the FASB has issued some pronouncements specifically affecting the accounting and financial reporting of not-for-profits. In addition, the application of the FASB's other accounting standards to not-for-profit organizations typically requires some modification for applying those standards to not-for-profit organizations.

Typically, not-for-profit organizations are controlled by boards of directors composed of individuals who generally volunteer their time. The size of not-for-profit organizations varies greatly. A small not-for-profit organization may have no paid staff; all functions may be performed by a governing board and volunteers. On the other hand, some not-for-profit organizations are quite large with hundreds or even thousands of employees, such as a university, a health-related research association, or a large cultural organization such as a museum. When a small, newly formed organization becomes large enough or complex enough in operation to require it, the board may delegate either limited or broad operating responsibility to a part-time or full-time paid executive. This executive may be given any one of many alternative titles--executive secretary, executive director, administrator, manager, etc. Regardless of the size of the not-for-profit organization, the board will usually appoint one of its own part-time volunteer members as treasurer. In most cases, the treasurer is second in importance only to the chairperson of the board because the ability of the organization to carry out its programs is based upon strong oversight and administration of its finances.

Every board member has a fiduciary responsibility for all of the affairs of the organization, including finances. While the treasurer may be charged with paying special attention to this area, this does not excuse any board member from exercising diligent oversight in the finance, as well as all other areas of operation.

NOTE: In many instances, the board member designated as treasurer is a businessperson who is active in both professional and community affairs and has only a limited amount of time to devote to the organization. Therefore, financial awareness from the rest of the board is necessary as is the appropriate development of a financial function within the organization that has the appropriate skill set given the size of the organization.

The treasurer has significant responsibilities, including the following:
1. Keeping financial records.
2. Preparing accurate and meaningful financial statements.
3. Budgeting and anticipating financial problems.
4. Safeguarding and managing the organization's financial assets.
5. Complying with federal and state reporting requirements.

While this list certainly is not all-inclusive, most of the financial problems the treasurer will face are associated with these five major areas.

Key Differences Between Not-for-Profit and Profit Organizations

One of the principal differences between not-for-profit and profit organizations is that they have different reasons for their existence. In oversimplified terms, it might be said that the ultimate objective of a commercial organization is to realize net profits for its owners through the provision of some product or performance of some service wanted by other people, whereas the ultimate objective of a not-for-profit organization is to meet some socially desirable need of the community or its members.

Like any organization, a not-for-profit organization should have sufficient resources to carry out its objectives. However, there is no real need or justification for "making a profit" (having an excess of revenue over expenses for a year) or having an excess of assets over liabilities at the end of a year beyond that which is needed to provide a reasonable cushion or reserve against a rainy day or to be able to take advantage of an unexpected opportunity. While a prudent board of a not-for-profit organization should plan to provide for the future, the principal objective of the board is to ensure fulfillment of the programmatic functions for which the organization was founded. A surplus or profit, per se, is only incidental.

Instead of profit, many not-for-profit organizations are concerned with the size of their cash and investment balances. They can continue to exist only so long as they have sufficient cash resources to provide for their programs. Thus the financial statements of not-for-profit organizations often emphasize the liquid financial resources of the organization. Commercial organizations are also very much concerned with cash, but if they are profitable they will probably be able to finance their cash needs through loans or from investors. Their principal concern is profitability and this means that commercial accounting emphasizes the matching of revenues and costs.

The nature of most not-for-profit organizations' operations are that they receive most of their revenues from contributions (rather than receiving fees for services). This means of receiving revenues gives a not-for-profit organization an important fiduciary responsibility for the funds that it receives. This responsibility is why donors to a not-for-profit organization are significant users of the financial statements of not-for-profit organizations.

NOTE: For example, if a customer goes into a hardware store and buys a gallon of paint for $20, the customer really isn't concerned with what the hardware store does with the $20 or how it controls and accounts for the money. On the other hand, when a donor puts a $5 bill in a cash collection canister for the local children's soccer league, the donor is very interested in knowing that the $5 actually gets to the soccer league, that most of the $5 is spent on soccer programs instead of administrative costs, and that the $5 is spent conservatively and appropriately (i. e., not on gourmet coffee for the league's board meetings). Many of the financial reporting principles and practices that are described throughout this book are aimed at meeting some of these very basic, but very important, needs of donors to not-for-profit organizations.

Not-for-profit organizations also usually have a responsibility to account for specific funds that they have received. This responsibility includes accounting for certain specific funds that have been given for use in a particular project, for a particular constituency or for a specified period of time. Emphasis must also be placed on accountability and stewardship of these specific resources in addition to the general fiduciary aspects discussed above.

NOTE: Many times, not-for-profit organizations receive from donors gifts that are restricted for a specific purpose. This would sometimes require segregation of these funds in separate accounts and special financial reporting procedures.

In commercial or business enterprises, there is no such thing as a "pledge" or a contribution. If the business is legally owed money, that amount is recorded as an account receivable. A pledge to a not-for-profit organization may or may not be legally enforceable, or even if technically enforceable, the organization may (for public relations reasons) have a policy of not taking legal action to attempt to enforce unpaid pledges because they know from experience that they will collect them. This represents another accounting and financial reporting challenge for not-for- profit organizations.

Resource Use Consideration

The fundamental purposes for the existence of not-for-profit organizations have a significant impact on how these organizations use their available resources and compete for new resources in the marketplace. For example, in a competitive labor market, not-for-profit organizations may find it difficult to allocate resources to at-tract and retain the necessary talent needed to effectively manage their operations. There are no stock option plans or performance share programs that are available to commercial enterprises to compensate a not-for-profit organization's staff. In addition, application of new technology is costly to implement and yet, in many cases, essential for existence. These factors may create a resource gap between not-for-profit organizations and commercial enterprises, particularly with smaller not-for-profit organizations.

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Table of Contents

Authoritative Accounting Pronouncements.
Basic Structure of a Not-for-Profit Organization.
Cash Versus Accrual Basic Accounting.
Statement of Financial Position.
Statement of Activities.
Statement of Cash Flows.
Other Financial Statement Issues.
Fund Accounting.
Net Assets.
Contributions, Pledges, and Noncash Contributions.
Affiliated Organizations.
Split-Interest Agreements.
Fund-Raising and Joint Costs.
Functional Reporting.
Accounting for Specific Types of Not-for-Profits.
Importance of Budgets to a Not-for-Profit.
Principal Federal and State Tax Reporting and Regulatory Requirements.
Current Assets and Current Liabilities.
Long-Lived Assets, Depreciation, and Impairment.
Intangible Assets.
Business Combinations.
Accounting for Pensions and Postretirement Benefits.
Long-Term Debt and Restructuring Troubled Debt.
Accounting Changes.
Accounting for Leases.
Financial Instruments.
Capitalization of Interest Costs.
Appendix: Disclosure Checklist.
2001 Self-Study CPE Program.
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