How Nonprofits Allocate Fundraising Expenses

Nonprofits allocate fundraising expenses to ensure accurate financial reporting and transparent communication about the costs associated with raising funds to support their mission. Allocating fundraising expenses involves attributing these costs to specific fundraising activities or campaigns based on a reasonable and consistent methodology. Here’s how nonprofits typically allocate fundraising expenses:

  1. Direct vs. Indirect Expenses:
    • Direct fundraising expenses are costs directly tied to a specific fundraising activity or campaign. Examples include printing flyers for an event or postage for a direct mail campaign. These expenses are easily allocated to a particular fundraising effort.
    • Indirect fundraising expenses are costs that benefit multiple fundraising activities or the organization as a whole. Examples include staff salaries for fundraising personnel, rent for the office space, and utilities. Indirect expenses need to be allocated among various fundraising activities.
  2. Allocation Methods:
    • Nonprofits use various allocation methods to distribute indirect fundraising expenses to specific activities. Common methods include:
      • Proportional Allocation: Allocate expenses based on the proportion of funds raised by each activity.
      • Activity-Based Allocation: Allocate expenses based on the specific resources used by each fundraising activity, such as staff time or square footage of office space.
      • Equal Allocation: Distribute expenses equally among all fundraising activities.
      • Time Allocation: Allocate expenses based on the amount of time dedicated to each fundraising activity by staff members.
      • Cost Hierarchy: Assign expenses to a primary fundraising activity and allocate remaining costs based on a predetermined hierarchy.
  3. Documentation and Recordkeeping:
    • Maintain detailed records of all fundraising expenses, including invoices, receipts, and documentation of activities. Clear documentation supports accurate allocation and transparent reporting.
  4. Budgeting:
    • Develop fundraising budgets that estimate the costs associated with each fundraising activity. Budgeting helps guide resource allocation and supports accurate expense allocation during reporting.
  5. Consistency:
    • Use a consistent allocation method across fiscal years to ensure comparability and accuracy in financial reporting. Changes in allocation methods should be explained and justified.
  6. Transparency in Reporting:
    • Nonprofits provide transparent reporting of fundraising expenses in financial statements, annual reports, and other communications. Clearly indicate the allocation methodology used and provide a breakdown of direct and indirect expenses.
  7. Board Oversight:
    • Involve the board of directors in the review and approval of fundraising budgets and allocation methods. The board’s oversight ensures responsible financial management.
  8. Compliance with Regulations:
    • Adhere to accounting standards and regulatory guidelines for reporting fundraising expenses, especially for organizations subject to specific reporting requirements.
  9. Program Efficiency Assessment:
    • Evaluate the efficiency of fundraising activities by comparing the costs incurred to the funds raised. This assessment helps determine the effectiveness of different fundraising approaches.
  10. Communication with Donors and Supporters:
    • When communicating with donors and supporters, nonprofits can provide information about how fundraising expenses are allocated to demonstrate responsible use of donated funds.
  11. Auditor Review:
    • During financial audits or reviews, fundraising expense allocation methods and practices may be examined to ensure compliance and accuracy.

By implementing clear and consistent allocation methods, nonprofits can accurately reflect the costs of fundraising activities in their financial statements and provide a transparent view of how resources are utilized to raise funds and support their mission.

Caroline Grimm

Caroline Grimm is an accounting educator and a small business enthusiast. She holds Masters and Bachelor degrees in Business Administration. She is the author of 13 books and the creator of Accounting How To YouTube channel and blog. For more information visit:

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