Financial Success for Nonprofits


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  • online
  • on demand



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Who should attend

  • CEOs and executive directors without a formal finance background
  • Leaders, administrators, and new board members
  • Decision-making program staff
  • Lawyers who serve the nonprofit sector

About the course

The nonprofit world is changing fast. While competition for donors and clients heats up, organizations are being asked to focus on results. Because of this, demand is high in the nonprofit sector for financial leadership.

The Financial Success for Nonprofits Certificate prepares nonprofit leaders and aspiring leaders to focus on mission while achieving financial sustainability. Whether you’re working at a well-established nonprofit or a startup, Professor Grasso’s experience as a nonprofit leader prepares you to use financial statements and ratios, establish board governance and strategic leadership, raise funds and generate alternative revenue sources, and make strategic programmatic changes.


Assessing Nonprofits using Financial Statements and Ratios

Nonprofit organizations may not be in business to make money, but they must still pay close attention to their finances to achieve their mission. Nonprofits, like all organizations, need to have enough money to pay salaries, run programs, purchase goods, or pay debts. Often nonprofits come under fire when they don’t have a good financial balance, have too much cash, have high expenses, or are not putting the right amount of money toward programs serving their mission. Tracking the financial health of a nonprofit is not only the responsibility of the chief financial officer but also of its administrators, board members, directors, and key program staff. It's the responsibility of the entire organization to engage in the process and secure the organization’s ongoing financial health.
In this course, Professor Grasso draws on a wealth of first-hand experience with nonprofit management to give you a guided tour through the structure and interpretation of typical nonprofit financial statements. Professor Grasso will walk you through reading and interpreting financial statements including an income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement. Using financial ratios, he will show you how to analyze the health of an organization by analyzing its cash reserves, debt burden, and expenses. You will practice calculating 10 different ratios and interpreting their results. And Professor Grasso will provide you with guidance on how to adjust your organization’s strategy based on those results.

As you move through the course, carefully-crafted tools and activities will guide you in applying what you learn about financial assessment and management to the specifics of your own nonprofit organization.

Determining Appropriate Budgeting, Debt Financing, and Cash Flow

Today, with increasing competition, it’s more important than ever that nonprofits create realistic and manageable budgets. Budgets that draw on both the unique history of the organization and funding sources willing to support them in meeting their mission. However, this alone is not enough. Your organization’s budgets and planning must be designed to handle variance based on market changes. Increasingly, nonprofits need to think about their competition, how to compete, or even how to partner with outside groups to become more successful.

In this course, Professor Joseph Grasso walks you through the budgeting process. He covers the main elements of a budget and the different types of budgets. You'll then see how Porter’s Five Forces and other analytical frameworks can be used to make budgeting and financing decisions.

As you move through the course, tools geared toward use on the job and carefully crafted activities will help you apply budgeting, debt management, and cash flow concepts and principles to your own nonprofit situation.

The course Assessing Nonprofits using Financial Statements and Ratios is required to be completed prior to starting this course.

Fundraising and Revenue Generation

Often when you think of nonprofits, you don’t think about revenue generation. But nonprofits, not unlike for-profits, need to generate a certain amount of revenue to run their organizations. Often that revenue generation happens through fundraising efforts. However, there are many other options.

It’s important to remember that nonprofits are mission-driven organizations. While they do need to stay mission focused, they also need to bring in money to achieve their missions. This course will cover the basics of fundraising, lobbying, grant writing, working with community and family foundations, and using social networking, marketing, and branding, all in efforts to bring in more revenue. Professor Grasso will share models of fundraising, approaches to other funding, and strategies for organizational communication.

The courses Assessing Nonprofits using Financial Statements and Ratios and Determining Appropriate Budgeting, Debt Financing, and Cash Flow are required to be completed prior to starting this course.

Strategically Governing the Organization

Whether you’re starting a new nonprofit or leading a well-established one, it’s important to have refined and planned strategic governance. Organizations follow a lifecycle pattern that is predictable. But some organizations fail, while others thrive. Often the deciding factor is their governance structure and members.

In this course Professor Grasso, a seasoned nonprofit leader and board member, will share insights into governance at all stages of an organization's life cycle. You’ll have a chance to examine the creation of a board and governance structure, evaluate the mix of an active board, and refine the management of an organization using RAPID decision making. You’ll also explore avoiding and leading through organizational decline and even rebirth into a stronger and better nonprofit.

These courses are required to be completed prior to starting this course:

  • Assessing Nonprofits using Financial Statements and Ratios
  • Determining Appropriate Budgeting, Debt Financing, and Cash Flow
  • Fundraising and Revenue Generation

Key course takeaways

  • Use accounting statements and financial analysis to assess the financial strength of your organization
  • Maintain the financial health and equilibrium of an organization through appropriate use of budgeting, financing and cash-flow management
  • Obtain financial backing and community support through fundraising and alternative revenue sources
  • Build, manage, and lead organizational governance through the lifecycle of the organization

What you'll earn

  • Financial Success for Nonprofits Certificate from Cornell College of Human Ecology
  • 32 Professional Development Hours (PDHs)


Joe Grasso

He has 25 years of financial and managerial experience in the private, public, and non-profit sectors. In addition to his administrative responsibilities, Grasso has regularly taught resident graduate and undergraduate ILR courses on campus in Ithaca and continuing education/extension courses for...

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Financial Success for Nonprofits at eCornell

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