Revers Board Fellows: The Ins and Outs of Nonprofit Accounting

Posted on Wed, September 18, 2013 by Carole Gaudet.

by Hanna Smith, Center for Business & Society Program Administrator

The Revers Board Fellows program, now in its tenth year, is a program that brings together Tuck School of Business students with local nonprofits. These second-year Tuck students participate as non-voting board members and become involved in the local community, apply their business skills, and learn directly about organizational governance. The nonprofits benefit from the addition of new members with business acumen. The Revers Board Fellows program is overseen by the Center for Business & Society who sources the nonprofits, matches fellows and nonprofits, and develops education sessions to ensure the students have the resources and knowledge to serve the nonprofit to the best of their ability.

This year 12 nonprofits are participating in the program, with nineteen second-year students serving as board fellows. These 19 fellows jumped into their new roles in May 2013. While many fellows were away during the summer, they continued their board responsibilities from afar and dialed into conference lines to stay updated. 

On September 16, 2013, the Center for Business & Society hosted its first education session to help the Tuck students in their role of board members. Associate Faculty Director John Vogel led a discussion on ‘Nonprofit Accounting 101’ which consisted of reading the balance sheets, income statement, and budgets of a sample nonprofit. He explained that revenue is often earmarked or restricted to a particular program or fund depending on the donor’s intent. While a restricted $10,000 grant may increase total revenue, it does not help pay personnel, overheard, etc. 

Professor Vogel also discussed gauging the cycle for revenue and expenses. Looking at a year to date budget, he noted, isn’t necessarily a good indication of an organization’s financial sustainability. For instance, any given month might be unusually high in revenue and low in expenses. This single indicator would be very positive, but looking at the entire year and having projections for large cash flow items will determine a more detailed and realistic view of the organization’s financial situation.

After the session, the board fellows shared information about their respective organization’s mission and programs and the board project they will specifically be working on. Many of the fellows mentioned working on finance related projects and stated that understanding the budgets will be the first step to moving forward with their project! 

Next month, the Revers Board Fellows meet with Erin Tunnicliffe, Executive Director of Development at the Tuck School of Business to learn about nonprofit fundraising.