This is the 5th of 10 articles on Sundays that look at the 990s to understand what is happening to nonprofits in general and give you some data for your own nonprofit. Today, the focus is on the ability of companies to make payroll. Is your next paycheck safe?

I advocate for nonprofits to set a 10% surplus target. Greg Crabtree has the same advice for privately owned companies.  We are both worried about the bills that accumulate while waiting for cash to settle them.

  • For companies that make a product, the operating cycle begins when inventory has to be purchased or built. Bills have to be paid. A sale occurs, but cash still may not appear until merchandise is shipped and the cash is transferred. The entire period has to be financed.
  • For nonprofits, late payments by government can create a cash lag of months or years. Meanwhile, payroll has to be paid.

The largest nonprofit in the study so far, Children’s Village, has an Accounts Receivable of 27% of Revenue and only 3 days of its next payroll on hand in unrestricted cash. There are 1,319 people on staff!

In a study of 14 nonprofits of various sizes ($1 million – $85 million revenue), 7 nonprofits showed a decline in the ability to make payroll over 4 years. The worst performer was over 2 months in cash arrears on payroll.232_2895318

What can nonprofits do?

  1. They borrow from their restricted funds with the promise to repay
  2. They borrow from prepaid tuition and fees or prepaid money on government contracts
  3. They finance up to 75% of the collectible cash from government with a line of credit at a bank
  4. They blend methods and simply tell staff that payroll will be late.

Any company with less than two payrolls in the bank in cash is putting the wellbeing of families in jeopardy who depend on regular checks. Richard Reeves tells us that jobs that pay less than $120,000 face an increasingly expensive middle class lifestyle with more and more income insecurity.

Nonprofits have missions to do good – and that includes generous treatment of staff.

Calculate your own cash for payrolls from your 990:

  • Copy the number from Page 1, line 15 and divide by 26 to find the Cash for One Payroll.
  • Copy the numbers from Page 11, lines 1 and 2, to discover total Cash on Hand at End of Year.
    • Subtract from the Cash on Hand, restricted assets on page 11, lines 28 and 29 to find Unrestricted Cash.
  • Divide Unrestricted Cash by Cash for One Payroll.

If you have 4 payrolls in the bank, you have time to maneuver if bad days arrive. If you have less and less payrolls in the bank, you need to make a plan. Scaling Up business coaching creates a plan in 90 days, a quick win in the 2nd quarter and a 20% growth in revenue in the 2nd year.  We’re here for you!

 

 

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