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MLD-401M: Financial Management in Public and Nonprofit Organizations

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Harvard Kennedy School

MLD-401M: Financial Management in Public and Nonprofit Organizations

Description: This module provides students with an understanding of nonprofit and public financial statements including familiarity with accounting terminology and accounting principles for different types of nonprofit and public organizations. A key focus of the course is reading and understanding financial statements including management concepts of working capital, fixed asset, and debt management. Students will gain a working knowledge of basic financial management tools including cost analysis and behavior, break-even analysis, financial ratios and benchmarking tools, and other techniques used in nonprofit and public organizations. Through problem sets and case studies, the concepts and tools will be applied to assess financial viability, debt capacity, and operating performance of nonprofit and governmental entities. This introductory course is designed for students with no prior experience or training in accounting or finance and serves as a prerequisite for upper-level courses in financial management. 

Faculty Ann Thornburg

Source: At (accessed 25 February 2013)


Teaching Topics Addressed in this Course, Organized by Public Management Subject

 Decision Sciences for Public Management

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 Evaluation and Performance Measurement

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 Strategy and Structure for Public Management

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Additional Course Description in Syllabus

This course assumes no knowledge of financial management and reporting and there are no prerequisites for this course. If you already have experience in reading and understanding financial statements and accounting, this course is not appropriate for you. Accounting does not require mathematical skill – though students who enjoy quantitative and analytical problem solving will find the course content more rewarding.

Reference Materials

Thomas A. McLaughlin, Streetsmart Financial Basics for Nonprofit Managers, New York, John Wiley and Sons, 2007

Warren Ruppel, Not-for-Profit Accounting Made Easy (second edition), New York, John Wiley and Sons, 2007

Warren Ruppel, Governmental Accounting Made Easy, New York, John Wiley and Sons, 2005

Michael H. Granof, Government and Nor-For Profit Accounting – Concepts and Practices (fifth edition), New York, John Wiley and Sons, 2007

Wilson, Kattelus and Reck, Accounting for Governmental and Nonprofit Entities (14th Edition), New York, McGraw Hill Irwin, 2007

Jeanne Bell Peters and Elizabeth Schaffer, Financial Leadership for Nonprofit Executives, Amherst R Wilder Foundation, Saint Paul, Minnesota, 2005

Commentary by the Atlas editors: The class titles and expanatory bullets for this course provide excellent topic titles for the Atlas subject Budgeting and Financial Management. They are:

Structure of Financial Statements

Cash and Accrual Accounting Methods

Accounting for Major Balance Sheet and Revenue & Expense Items

Footnote Disclosures

Understanding Nonprofit Financial Statements

Accounting for Fixed Assets and Debt

Working Capital and Balance Sheet Management

Endowment and Investment Accounting

Financial Statement Analysis of Nonprofits

Ratio Analysis

Benchmarking Analysis

Statement of Functional Expenses

Government Financial Statements and Accounting Principles

Governmental Public Reporting

Budgeting in Nonprofit Organizations

    Page created by: Ian Clark, last updated 25 February 2013. The content presented on this page, except in the Commentary, is drawn directly from the source(s) cited above, and consists of direct quotations or close paraphrases.



    MLD-401MB Syllabus Spring 2013, Anne Thornburg.pdfMLD-401MB Syllabus Spring 2013, Anne Thornburg

    Important Notices
    © University of Toronto 2008
    School of Public Policy and Governance