Balancing the Mission Checkbook

Hit singles – Remixed


At the pace we’re all traveling it’s easy to forget what you said last week, much less a few months ago. It’s interesting, then, when we receive a comment on a past post and go back to re-read it. So much is happening and developing in the nonprofit world that I’m taking this week to update three topics.


In December 2007 I wrote about Transparency and Financial Information:

I would strongly suggest that nonprofit organizations make the effort to make usable financial information available on their website. The IRS 990 is already a public document, so it seems like the obvious tool for financial disclosure. However, I think we should go past the 990 to share better information, especially since everyone seems to agree that the current version of the IRS 990 is overly complex, confusing, and very difficult to use. A better solution would be having the audited financial statement easily available on the website.

Guidestar recently published The State of Nonprofit Transparency Report, which included these findings:

A high percentage (93 percent) of nonprofits are embracing the Internet to disclose information about their programs and services.

Only 13 percent posted their audited financial statements on their Web sites. The results of our survey show a reluctance to disclose audited financial statements publicly. Although not all nonprofits obtain audits of their financial statements, our survey sample reflects organizations of the size for which an audit is both prudent and a necessary tool for assessing management’s financial capabilities and the organization’s financial health.

Let’s hear it for more audits online!

Mergers and Strategic Collaborations

In June 2008 I suggested Speed Dating for Nonprofits:

No one would say that mergers are the right answer for every nonprofit, but if you do think that joining forces would make sense and help your organization maintain stable services, where do you find your mate? I think I’ve found the answer – speed dating for nonprofits! Speed dating is an organized event to help singles meet a number of people in one evening with the intent of finding one or two for an actual date.

I’m excited that MAP for Nonprofits and the MACC Alliance for Connected Communities have organized a Speed Dating event on May 20th to explore strategic partnerships.

Low-profit, Limited Liability Corporation (L3C)

And in May 2008 in Where For-Profit and Nonprofit Meet I was excited about the new hybrid Low-profit, Limited Liability Corporation (L3C) that had been adopted in Vermont.

The idea is to create businesses that can attract some private capital, bolster that with more patient philanthropic or socially motivated investment, and result in value to the community (jobs, housing, local revitalization) and a below-market return to investors. This structure is not a fit for every nonprofit, or even for every social enterprise. The L3C is all about raising capital, and when the need for capital is significant, this is worth considering.

This post continues to attract readers and questions. The most common confusion is about the fit for nonprofits that need subsidy (i.e. grants and contributions), rather than capital. The L3C is designed for capital but doesn’t offer any incentive for contributions. For more information, the experts on the L3C are Americans for Community Development. We’ll explain this new hybrid form at the May 14th meeting of the Social Enterprise Network.

Since the post was written several other states have adopted the model, with others in the legislative process. I’m hoping that Minnesota can get on the bandwagon in the next year.


Kate Barr believes that every nonprofit financial question relates to strategy, structure and mission impact. She enjoys interpreting financial information to find stories numbers can tell. She loves writing, teaching, and talking with interesting people.