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Financial Management for Churches and Nonprofits

Photo of woman holding an tablet that says "Finance"

Fall Class: September 4 - November 9, 2018

Spring Class: January 7 - March 11, 2019

Instructor: Dr. Jim Croft, Academic Director for Nonprofit Finance at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management Center for Nonprofit Management

The parables of Jesus make it clear that money should not be our master, but that we also must be capable of using it well. Often, this is a challenge for pastors and lay leaders, who have never received formal training in handling nuances, but are expected to run their congregation’s nuances.

The Financial Management for Churches and Nonprofits course was designed to remedy this problem. This 10-week online course was developed to support pastors and lay leaders who are tasked with overseeing their church's finances, but who may not have formal training in financial practices. We will explore the planning process for the operating, capital expenditure, and cash budgets. We will discuss the long-term financial planning process. The course will look at the importance of capital structure and investment policies that are aligned to the organization’s strategic objectives. All of these topics will be built on the foundation of nonprofit accounting, nonprofit financial statements, and financial policies. 

Course Objectives

Upon successful completion of the course, students will understand the following:

  • How to read and understand nonprofit financial statements
  • How to prepare an operating, capital expenditure, and cash budget
  • The importance of long-term financial planning.
  • The importance of management controls
  • Risk management and insurance

Course Structure

This is an online course, meaning that all of it will be presented on your computer. Once you have registered, you will receive information for where to find the course website and how to access it. Don’t worry if this is your first time taking a class online! The instructor has long historiy of teaching online and can help you all the way along.

The course has ten sessions, one each week for ten weeks. Seven sessions will involve reading in the text and interacting with information and exercises on the course website. Three of the sessions will be live webinars. This will give you an opportunity to speak directly with the instructor, ask questions, and make certain you are understanding everything you are learning during the other weeks. The webinars will be recorded, so you can watch them later. 

Course Schedule

Week 1

Financial Management in the Nonprofit Organization

In this session, we will review the characteristics of nonprofit organizations, including churches, and nonprofit financial management. The session will also include an introduction to nonprofit accounting and financial statements. 

Week 2

Financial Management in the Nonprofit Organization (Continued)

This session will continue the topic of nonprofit financial statements. The session will also discuss financial analysis and will introduce a few analytical tools used by nonprofit financial managers.

Week 3

Financial Management in the Nonprofit Organization

The third session, which will be a Webinar, continues the focus on nonprofit accounting and financial statements. In this session students will be able to ask questions and communicate with the instructor in real time.

Week 4

Long-term Financial Planning and Capital Budgeting

Managing growth is one reason nonprofit organizations need to plan. This session will focus on developing long-term financial plans for the nonprofit. In addition to the long-term plan, this session will discuss capital budgeting and how capital decision are made.

Week 5

Operating Budget and Cash Budgets

The budgeting process is important because it allocates resources, which in turn reveals the program preferences of the nonprofit organization. We have already presented the capital budget, so in this session, we will focus on the operating and cash budgets.

Week 6

Operating Budget and Cash Budgets

The budgeting process will continue to be the focus in week eight. Students will be given a budget case to work on this session, which will be discussed in week 7.

Week 7

Financial Planning and Budgets

Session seven will be the second Webinar of the program. In this session students will be able to ask questions and communicate with the instructor about long-term financial planning, operating, cash and capital budgets. The budget case introduced in Session 6 will be reviewed.

Week 8

Management Controls

Internal controls, and accountability for performance will be the topic for this session. The session will also explore ethical behavior, outside influences, and charity watchers.

Week 9

Operational Issues

Several operational issues will be the focus of this session, such as risk management, insurance, quality assurance, and the external audit.

Week 10


Capstone Session

This session will serve as a review of all the material presented in this course on Nonprofit Financial Management

Course Requirements


McLaughlin, T.A., Financial Basics for Nonprofit Managers (Fourth Edition). John Wiley & Sons: Hoboken, NJ. ISBN: 9781119061151


As a part of our Lilly Endowment Inc. grant, we have committed to thoroughly assess each of our program offerings. When you register for the course, you are affirming your commitment to complete four brief assessments for this course: 1) pre-course assessment, 2) post-course assessment, 3) post-course assessment six months after the course, and 4) post-course assessment one year after the course. The purpose of these assessments is to gauge your understanding of key course content prior to the course and directly following the course with the later post-course assessments determining if you are still using what you learned and what has been most helpful to you in your role. These assessments are essential to us and Lilly Endowment in determining the usefulness of this offering.

About the Instructor: Dr. Jim Croft

Dr. Jim CroftBefore joining Northwestern University as an academic director for nonprofit finance in the Kellogg School of Management’s Center for Nonprofit Management, Dr. Jim Croft served from 1984 to 2015 as executive vice president and chief financial officer for Chicago’s Field Museum. For several years he served concurrently as the museum’s chief development officer, managing the annual giving, major gifts, planned giving, and corporate and foundation giving programs. He was also responsible for a major capital campaign that successfully concluded in 2008.

Prior to joining the Museum, Croft held positions in social service administration as a community center executive director, finance officer, and chief business officer. In addition to his work at Northwestern, he teaches in the College of Business at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and is a senior fellow at McKendree University as well as a management consultant for several nonprofit organizations.

Recently Croft was appointed to the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s (FASB) Nonprofit Advisory Committee, which will work with FASB staff to revise the accounting standards used by all US nonprofits.

Croft is also a board member for such organizations as The Salvation Army, Great Lakes Advisors, LLC, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, and the Illinois Institutes of Independent Colleges and Universities.

He received a PhD from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, where his doctoral work focused on higher education leadership and nonprofit finance. Croft also studied business administration at the University of Nebraska–Kearney and Roosevelt University and holds a graduate degree in management from National Louis University.


Course Fee: $75* (fee includes a certificate of completion and 3.5 CEUs)

*Thanks to a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., we are able to offer this course at a significantly reduced rate from the normal course fee of $275.

Registration will open in June 2018. Sign-up using the form below to be notified when registration opens.


Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family – J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons J.K. Jr. and Eli – through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. The Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development. Lilly Endowment’s religion grant-making is designed to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians. It does this largely through initiatives to enhance and sustain the quality of ministry in American congregations and parishes. More information can be found at