What are nonprofit accounting jobs?
Accounting jobs for nonprofit organizations come in a variety of titles—Accounting Specialist, Financial Analyst, Finance Assistant, Director of Finance, and Finance Manager, just to name a few.
And while the designation “nonprofit” may throw you off, these organizations have payrolls, audits, and finances to manage, so they’re often on the lookout for talented professionals who are able to crunch the numbers and keep accurate records.
Here’s what you need to know about nonprofit finance and accounting jobs.
Nonprofit accounting job descriptions
Job descriptions generally include:
- Overseeing all aspects of accounting and finance.
- Investigating and reconciling discrepancies in accounts receivable and payable, as well as payroll.
- Preparing and making bank deposits, as well as preparing statements for review.
- Auditing purchase orders and invoices.
- Maintaining accurate records, including journals, ledgers, receipts, and invoices.
- Ensuring compliance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).
- Managing HR policies and procedures.
- Overseeing onboarding, compensation, and benefits for all staff.
Given their unique status, nonprofit organizations have many additional finance considerations that are specific to the sector and may introduce complexities that for-profit organizations don’t have to worry about. This includes hiring independent auditors, navigating tax-exempt status and compliance requirements, keeping track of donor restrictions and grant regulations, and more. That’s why any finance position for a social-impact organization may also require sector-specific expertise.
For more insight on the social-impact sector, check out Idealist’s Career Advice blog, where we cover everything from the job search and resume preparation to tips for self-care and career development.
Degree requirements for nonprofit accounting
Need to have
- Bachelor of science in accounting or finance. As the handlers of finances, accountants have a lot of responsibility and need experience and education in the field. Although equivalent experience can do the trick, a bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance is typically a baseline requirement for most positions.
- Nonprofit accounting or finance experience. In particular, nonprofits often want candidates with experience or specialization in the field. If you’re a current accounting student or recent graduate interested in joining the nonprofit sector, accounting internships with social-impact organizations are a great way to learn the ins and outs of what makes nonprofit accounting unique.
Nice to have
- Master of science in accounting or finance. For more senior positions at nonprofit organizations, a graduate degree in accounting or finance could certainly help you get noticed by a potential employer—especially if you don’t have much practical experience in the sector.
- Certifications. There are a variety of online and in-person accreditations you can take to supplement your skill set, both before and during your career. The Certified Nonprofit Accounting Professional (CNAP) program, for example, is a highly-regarded training for those looking to take their credentials to the next level.
Required skills for nonprofit accounting
Expectations vary based on the specific position and the needs of the hiring organization, but if you’re looking at finance or accounting jobs in the nonprofit sector, you’re likely to encounter these requirements:
- A related bachelor’s degree as well as work history and previous experience in finance, accounting, or business administration.
- Proficiency in Excel, G Suite, QuickBooks, constituent relationship management (CRM) software, and time-tracking and expense software.
- Knowledge of nonprofit organizational and financial operations and protocols.
- Technological savvy and comfort navigating and learning new technology systems.
- Strong organizational, interpersonal, and communication skills.
- The ability to manage multiple spreadsheets and large amounts of data.
- Skill in examining, developing, reengineering, and recommending finance, IT, HR, and other operations policies and procedures.
- A demonstrated commitment to the social-impact sector with a passion for the mission of the organization to which you’re applying.
Nonprofit accounting job salary ranges
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median annual salary for accountants and auditors, including nonprofit professionals, was $73,560 as of May 2020. This means that half of accountants and auditors made more than this amount, and the other half made less. Median income gives you an idea of where the “middle” is in terms of compensation for this particular position.
Based on Idealist’s salary survey data, starting salaries for accounting and finance positions in the nonprofit sector range from $26,000 to $120,000, with the median salary being $56,531. Keep in mind, however, that accounting and finance is a very large field. Specific positions such as Accounting Coordinator or Finance Director will have different ranges and median salaries depending on skills, experience, and location.
Work environment and schedule for nonprofit accounting jobs
These roles tend to be full time, and depending on the season and the size of the organization, may work longer hours. It’s a lot of responsibility, but there’s also plenty of reward. Knowing that you’re an integral part of an organization’s infrastructure makes you an asset, and the experience you gain on the job is invaluable to your professional development.
Accounting can sometimes get a bad rap as being dry, numbers-driven work, but as the point person for an organization’s finances—from payroll and donation management to asset oversight—you will have a hand in every aspect of an organization’s success. If you’re a person with the right acumen, you’re likely to thrive in a nonprofit setting, especially if your values align with your employer’s mission.