unrestricted net assets

And the issue of restricted funds presents unique bookkeeping and accounting challenges for a nonprofit that a for-profit company doesn’t face. Nonprofits often receive donations or grants designated for a specific purpose–like a donation to a specific program or grant you have to spend within a calendar year. For example, a nonprofit is likely to have a separate general ledger account for each of its bank accounts. It may also have 50 general ledger accounts for each of its major programs, plus many accounts under its fundraising and management and general expense categories. By managing both types of funds effectively, organizations can navigate changing circumstances, ensure long-term financial sustainability, and fulfill their mission with impact and resilience.

These unrestricted net assets are also referred to as the operating reserves and represent the cumulative earnings over the life of the non-profit organizations. Fund accounting is a system of accounting created to help not-for-profit organizations and agencies manage streams of revenue designated for specific purposes. Having a diversified funding base that includes unrestricted assets provides stability and reduces dependence on external funding, thus safeguarding against potential financial disruptions. Organizations that effectively manage and leverage their unrestricted assets can navigate challenges, seize opportunities, and fulfill their mission with resilience and financial integrity. These assets, derived from various sources such as revenues, investment returns, and unrestricted donations, provide flexibility and autonomy in resource allocation. The notes at the back of the financial statements will include detailed information on the nature and amounts of restricted net assets.

Unrestricted Net Assets

That is, the assets may be used by the organization for general expenses or any legitimate expenditure. The first thing you may notice is that non-profits call their financial statements different names than for-profit companies. Unrestricted net assets are assets contributed by donors to a nonprofit entity that have no restrictions placed on their use. This is the most sought-after type of asset, since it can be used for administrative and fundraising activities.

unrestricted net assets

Donors, investors, and stakeholders often consider the level of net assets when evaluating an organization’s financial health and accountability. Unrestricted net assets serve as a financial cushion for organizations, providing the necessary resources to cover day-to-day operational expenses. Unrestricted net assets empower organizations with financial flexibility, enabling them to cover expenses, invest in new ventures, and build reserves. These funds are not bound by donor-designated purposes or external mandates, enabling the organization to utilize them to further its mission, support ongoing operations, or invest in future growth and sustainability. Now that you know the concept, look at your organization’s balance sheet again with fresh eyes. Keep in mind that, unfortunately, net assets is often not broken out properly in internally generated balance sheets.

What Is the Difference Between Unrestricted Net Assets and Restricted Net Assets?

The sum of these three classifications of net assets gives the total net assets for the non-profit. And, I can talk to my accountant all day long and still not be able to define those equity accounts properly in QBO. Take Cash + Unrestricted Investment + Accounts Receivable and [divide] by Current Accounts Payable + Current Accruals. If high, there may be too much in cash, some could be earning more if invested. If low, you may be in danger of a cash flow crisis, not enough cash to pay pressing bills. Perhaps the most commonly used financial indicator is a comparison of budgeted revenue to actual revenue, and budgeted expense to actual expense.

Unrestricted net assets are a crucial measure of an organization’s financial strength and accountability. Net assets with donor restrictions is due to the $40,000 in cash, all of which is from a restricted grant, and the $10,000 grant receivable. Perhaps you could sell the fixed assets to raise cash, but that may take time. Also it may not be desirable to sell the property and equipment your organization uses in its operations. Even if you did sell, you’ll likely get sale proceeds different than the $50,000 carrying value.


Whatever their source, they contribute to the overall financial health of the organization as part of its unrestricted net assets. Net assets on the balance sheet fall into several categories, including temporarily restricted, permanently restricted and unrestricted net assets. Permanently restricted net assets are funds contributed for a specific purpose.

That makes it easy for you to run fund-level reports to share with your benefactors. Program expenses (or program services expenses) are the amounts directly incurred by the nonprofit in carrying out its programs. For instance, if a nonprofit has three main programs, then each of the three programs will be listed along with each program’s expenses. The items that cause the changes in Net Assets are reported on the nonprofit’s statement of activities (to be discussed later). For example, imagine an organization that shows an operating deficit for the year of $20,000. In a small organization with few reserves, such a deficit may indeed indicate serious over-spending of failure to generate revenue.

Net Assets Classifications

It’s possible for fixed assets to have donor restrictions, for example a building that can only be used for a specific purpose, but in this example fixed assets are not restricted. Even if fixed assets are unrestricted, though, they are still not cash nor are they usually easily converted to cash (liquid). Permanently restricted assets often come in the form of a fund that must be maintained indefinitely, with the income generated by its investment to be used for a particular purpose. Calculate liquid unrestricted net assets or LUNA according to the diagram here, and divide this number by your monthly expense number to get Months of Liquid Unrestricted Net Assets.

  • Take Fundraising Expense and [divide] by Total Expense 
    If high, a large percentage of expenses are spent on fundraising efforts.
  • Temporarily restricted assets usually are donated for a particular purpose and must be used by a particular date, such as within one year.
  • In cases like these, the non-profit would recognize the donation as permanently restricted contribution revenues on the statement of activities and it would increase permanently restricted net assets on the balance sheet.
  • Nonprofit and government agencies receive money through donations or contributions and spend these funds to further their missions.
  • This flexibility strengthens their financial position and ensures their ability to thrive in the face of challenges and uncertainties.
  • Fund accounting is one of the popular accounting methods used by not-for-profit organizations for recording and reporting financial transactions.
  • Net assets without donor restrictions (unrestricted net assets) is the balance left in net assets after subtracting restricted net assets.

Having unrestricted assets allows organizations to pursue new initiatives and expand their programs. Unrestricted net assets play a vital role in demonstrating an organization’s financial transparency and accountability. Donors, investors, and stakeholders often evaluate an organization’s financial health by examining its net assets.

New Nonprofits

Organizations typically prefer donations of unrestricted net assets because they allow them maximum flexibility to spend as they see fit, whether for hiring additional personnel or expanding their services. A port authority of a city, for example, holds restricted assets in the form of lessee deposits. Another example of a restricted asset in a municipality is the proceeds from a revenue bond.

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