Managing and presenting financial information accurately is essential for any organization. For nonprofit entities the statement of functional expenses (often referred to as a SOFE) is not just crucial; it’s often mandatory. This statement provides a breakdown of how expenses are allocated across various functions within the organization, offering transparency and accountability to stakeholders.  In this blog post, we’ll delve into the details of a statement of functional expenses, explain why it’s important, and provide you with a comprehensive template to simplify the process.

What is a Statement of Functional Expenses?

Simply put, a statement of functional expenses offers a detailed view of how a nonprofit organization’s funds are allocated across different functional categories. Primarily used by nonprofits, this statement categorizes expenses to showcase the reasons behind the financial outflows, thereby aligning them with the mission and objectives of the organization.

The statement typically includes 3 main categories (though may differ depending on the structure of a nonprofit):

Program Services: Representing the heart of a nonprofit, this category details expenses directly tied to the primary activities or services undertaken to fulfill the organization’s mission.

Management and General: This category encompasses the foundational expenses that allow the nonprofit to function effectively. It encapsulates costs such as executive salaries, office rent, utilities, and other critical overheads that ensure the organization’s smooth operation.

Fundraising: As the lifeblood of most nonprofits, fundraising requires resources. This category lays out expenses involved in sourcing funds, from organizing events to donor outreach and promotional campaigns.

With this categorization, stakeholders, including donors, board members, and even the general public, gain a clearer picture of the organization’s financial operations. They can discern how their funds or contributions influence and drive the different facets of the nonprofit.

To further aid comprehension, the document typically includes supplementary notes. These annotations delve deeper into each category, elucidate the specifics of the programs, and illuminate the nature of the expenses, enabling a comprehensive understanding of the financial data.

In the U.S., this isn’t just a good-to-have; it’s a must. Nonprofit organizations are mandated by the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations to prepare and present a statement of functional expenses. This requirement upholds the principles of transparency, accountability, and exemplary financial stewardship in the nonprofit realm.

Who uses a Statement of Functional Expenses?

At any point in time, a stakeholder can ask for transparency and accessibility to a nonprofit’s financials. Having the statement ready allows for this to be done quickly and easily.

Donors and Grantors: Individuals, foundations, corporations, and the government are some of the main funders for nonprofits. Reviewing the statement gives them a transparent view of how their contributions drive the nonprofit’s various efforts.

Board Members: For those steering the nonprofit’s direction, the SOFE acts as a financial compass, ensuring informed decisions and effective organizational oversight.

Management and Leadership: Key figures like the CEO, CFO, and executive director harness the SOFE to gauge the financial efficiency of different activities. It’s a vital tool for strategic decision-making, budgeting, and program development.

Internal Stakeholders: Employees—especially those in finance, program development, and fundraising—rely on the statement to monitor expenses, ensuring resources target the organization’s mission and objectives.

Regulatory Agencies: Compliance with governmental financial regulations is non-negotiable for nonprofits. The SOFE provides these agencies with a deep dive into the nonprofit’s financial behaviors and allocations.

Auditors: Ensuring financial accuracy and compliance is an auditor’s mainstay. They use the SOFE as a key reference, ensuring expenses align with accounting standards.

General Public: Transparency fosters trust. By sharing their SOFE, nonprofits signal responsible financial management and adherence to ethical standards to the wider community.

Why use a Statement of Functional Expenses?

The statement of functional expenses is a critical tool for nonprofits, detailing their expenses across various functional categories. It provides an insightful lens into how an organization manages its finances, ensuring transparency, accountability, and strategic allocation of resources.

Building Trust through Transparency: The SOFE clarifies how nonprofits allocate their funds across different programs and functions. Such transparency can strengthen trust among stakeholders, from donors and board members to the general public.

Ensuring Accountability: With a clear breakdown of expenses, nonprofits can showcase their commitment to diligent financial management, ensuring every penny is spent in alignment with their mission.

Strengthening Donor Relations: Donors and grantors, before investing, often seek clarity on financial allocations. The SOFE aids in this, highlighting how their contributions would further the organization’s goals.

Strategic Decision-Making and Board Oversight: Nonprofit leaders harness the SOFE to make impactful choices about resource distribution and program strategies. Simultaneously, it grants the board a panoramic view of financial health, enabling them to fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities effectively.

Meeting Compliance and Enhancing Grant Applications: Regulatory bodies demand meticulous financial reporting. The SOFE not only ensures compliance but can also be a pivotal component in grant applications, showcasing the organization’s financial prudence.

Engaging with Stakeholders: From staff and volunteers to beneficiaries, nonprofits engage with a myriad of stakeholders. The SOFE acts as a lucid, organized medium to disseminate financial data.

Historical Analysis for Improved Outcomes: By comparing SOFEs over the years, nonprofits can discern spending trends, evaluate program success, and recalibrate for enhanced financial performance.

Bolstering Public Perception: In an era where transparency is paramount, openly sharing financial breakdowns through the SOFE can elevate a nonprofit’s image, drawing supporters and collaborators who prize accountability.

Expense Types Included in the Statement of Functional Expenses

Each statement of financial expenses should have various categories of financial outflows a nonprofit incurs. These categories, such as salaries and benefits, occupancy and utilities, and professional fees, provide a detailed breakdown of how the organization allocates its funds. This categorization ensures transparency and allows stakeholders to understand the financial activities related to a nonprofit’s mission and objectives.

Salaries and Benefits: This encompasses the compensation provided to employees. It includes those directly involved in delivering programs, those in administrative roles, and those engaged in fundraising activities.

Occupancy and Utilities: All costs associated with maintaining and running a physical space fall under this category. It includes expenses such as rent, electricity, water, and other facility-related charges.

Supplies and Materials: This category accounts for items consumed in the day-to-day operations of the organization. It covers program-specific materials, routine office supplies, and any other essential consumables.

Professional Fees: These are fees paid for specialized services. Examples include legal advice, accounting services, external consulting, and any other professional expertise sought by the organization.

Advertising and Promotion: All expenses aimed at enhancing the organization’s visibility and promoting its cause are included here. This includes costs associated with marketing campaigns, creation of promotional materials, and public relations initiatives.

Other Expenses: This is a catch-all category for any expenses that don’t fit clearly into the previously mentioned categories. It ensures that all financial outflows are captured in the statement.

Creating a Statement of Functional Expenses: A Template

A statement of functional expenses requires a clear layout and structured presentation to ensure its effectiveness and ease of interpretation. The goal is to get the right information to the right individuals in a quick, succinct manner. To simplify the process, here’s a template that you can follow:

Statement of Functional Expenses

Expense Categories

Program Services

Management and General


Total Expenses

Salaries and Benefits $[Amount] $[Amount] $[Amount] $[Amount]
Occupancy & Utilities $[Amount] $[Amount] $[Amount] $[Amount]
Supplies & Materials $[Amount] $[Amount] $[Amount] $[Amount]
Professional Fees $[Amount] $[Amount] $[Amount] $[Amount]
Marketing $[Amount] $[Amount] $[Amount] $[Amount]
Other Expenses $[Amount] $[Amount] $[Amount] $[Amount]
Total by Function $[Total Program Services] $[Total Management and General] $[Total Fundraising] $[Grand Total]

Instructions for Using the Template:

Expense Categories: List all major expense categories relevant to your organization. The categories provided above are common to many nonprofits, but be sure to tailor this section to your specific needs.

Fill in Amounts: For each expense category, distribute the associated costs among the three functional categories. Ensure all expenses are accounted for and correctly allocated.

Total by Function: Sum the expenses for each functional category. Ensure that the figures align with your detailed financial records.

Grand Total: This will be the cumulative total of all your expenses for the year. Ensure that this amount matches your other financial statements.

Notes: Always include a notes section at the end of your statement. This area provides an opportunity to give context, clarify any unusual expenses, or provide additional information that stakeholders might find useful.

Best Practices for Preparing and Presenting the Statement of Functional Expenses

While the statement serves as a critical financial reflection of a nonprofit’s operations, its effectiveness hinges on the practices adopted during its creation and dissemination. By adhering to recognized best practices, nonprofits can ensure clarity, and accuracy, and foster a deeper trust with stakeholders.

Statement of Functional Expenses Best Practices

  1. Detailed Documentation: Maintain meticulous records of all expenses. The accuracy of your document starts at the ground level with diligent bookkeeping. Ensure that all invoices, receipts, and financial statements are organized and accessible.
  2. Regular Reviews: Periodically review your expenses to ensure they’re categorized correctly. Misallocations can lead to skewed perceptions of how funds are being utilized.
  3. Stay Updated on Regulations: Financial reporting requirements can evolve. Regularly check for updates on standards set by governing bodies like the IRS or Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) to ensure compliance.
  4. Transparency is Key: Always aim for clarity and transparency. If certain expenses require additional context, provide accompanying notes or explanations.
  5. Collaborate with Professionals: Engage with professional accountants or auditors when preparing your statement of functional expenses. Their expertise can ensure accuracy and compliance with the latest accounting standards.
  6. Consistent Presentation: Ensure consistency in how you present data year after year. This consistency aids stakeholders in making year-over-year comparisons and discerning financial trends.
  7. Leverage Technology: Consider using financial software tailored for nonprofits. These tools often come with built-in templates and features that can simplify the preparation of the statement of functional expenses.
  8. Educate Stakeholders: Ensure that board members, donors, and other key stakeholders understand how to interpret it. Hosting informational sessions or workshops can enhance their ability to derive insights from the statement.
  9. Iterative Refinement: After presenting your statement of functional expenses, gather feedback. Use this feedback to make continuous improvements in subsequent statements.
  10. Public Accessibility: Similar to your Form 990, consider making your statement of functional expenses publicly accessible, either through your organization’s website or annual reports. This openness can enhance public trust and position your organization as transparent and accountable.

By adhering to these best practices, nonprofits can ensure their statement of functional Expenses is a genuine reflection of their financial operations, fostering trust and understanding among all stakeholders.


The statement of functional expenses stands as an essential instrument in the financial toolkit of nonprofit organizations. Beyond its primary function of detailing expenses, it plays an instrumental role in cultivating trust and establishing open communication with stakeholders. When crafted meticulously and transparently, this statement becomes a testament to an organization’s commitment to its mission and its accountability to those it serves.

While the provided template offers a standardized approach, it’s imperative to recognize that each nonprofit is distinct. Customizing the template to fit the nuances of your organization’s operations and expenses is crucial. As with all financial documents, collaboration with financial experts within your organization is key to ensuring not just compliance but also the clarity and precision of information.

For a deeper dive into nonprofit financial management and other insights, keep an eye on our upcoming blog posts.

Need help creating a Statement of Functional Expenses? We’re here to help!

Tyler Wilcox, CPA

Tyler’s extensive background in accounting, tax, and financial consulting set the foundation for Velu’s outsourced accounting solutions for nonprofits and small businesses. As a fractional CFO, he goes beyond routine duties, guiding organizations with strategic insights for sound financial decisions. Velu’s services address the unique challenges faced by nonprofits and small businesses, fostering sustainable growth. Tyler places great emphasis on meticulous attention to detail in financial record-keeping, implementing efficient systems to ensure transparency and streamline operations.

Learn more about Tyler and the Velu team on our About Us page. We’re excited to connect with you!