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Nonprofit Accounting Basics: How to Customize QuickBooks for Your Needs

QuickBooks is one of the most popular online accounting software programs available to nonprofits. QuickBooks is easy to use, yet has many features that are relevant for nonprofit bookkeeping. While there is a specific version of QuickBooks for nonprofits, QuickBooks Premier NonProfit the standard version of QuickBooks costs less and can easily be adapted to suit nonprofit organizations. Customizing QuickBooks for nonprofit accounting is simple and mainly involves changing a few terms in the menus.

The Basics of Customizing QuickBooks for Nonprofits

Nonprofits can use the cloud accounting version of QuickBooks, QuickBooks Online, or the standalone QuickBooks software. QuickBooks provides simple, step-by-step instructions for customizing the program to suit nonprofit organizations. However, much of the process can be accomplished with just a couple of clicks:

  1. From the drop down list for “company industry,” select “Nonprofit.”
  2. From the drop down list for “company type,” again select “Nonprofit.”

This action renames several of the basic menu items to better suit the bookkeeping and accounting functions for nonprofit organizations. For example, the menu item “customer” is renamed “donor;” the menu item “invoice” is renamed “pledge;” and the menu item “profit and loss” is replaced with “statement of activity.”

All of the above changes, and any other menu item changes, can also be done or edited at a later time. For example, the newly renamed menu item “statement of activity” may later be amended to “statement of financial actions.”

Further Customization of QuickBooks for Nonprofits

There are several other ways that nonprofit organizations can customize QuickBooks to better facilitate tracking and compiling data. One common step is to categorize donors, clients, and members of the nonprofit organization by type, location, or by specific services they provide for the organization or its clients. In addition, many nonprofits especially those who depend extensively on the work of volunteers often find it helpful to track volunteers separately by entering them under the “other names list” menu item.

Special attention should also be paid when dealing with non-monetary donations such as goods or services. Donated goods should be recorded at fair value at the time of receipt, as either revenue or inventory. Donated services should also be recorded as revenue, at the value relative to what it would reasonably cost the nonprofit organization to purchase these services. Journal entries are generally considered the best means of recording donated goods and services.

One particularly helpful QuickBooks feature to activate is the audit trail. Turning on the audit trail tracks all transactions and data changes. It also shows the individual who entered the transaction or data changes, which helps to protect the integrity of the organization’s data.

Entering and properly categorizing each transaction including donations, grants, expenses, and program activity for clients, helps nonprofits to easily create a complete database. It also helps to easily generate helpful reports for the organization’s management or donors, or for tax purposes. As well, each report itself can easily be customized to suit a particular purpose.

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