What are Unrestricted Net Assets?

Unrestricted Net Assets

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Unrestricted Net Assets

Unrestricted net assets refer to the portion of a nonprofit organization’s net assets that is neither permanently restricted nor temporarily restricted by donor-imposed stipulations. In other words, these are resources that the nonprofit’s management is free to use in any way that supports the organization’s mission. This category of assets provides the organization with the financial flexibility to fund day-to-day operations, invest in new programs, maintain existing programs, cover administrative costs, and respond to unexpected situations or opportunities.


Unrestricted net assets can include:

  • Cash and Cash Equivalents: Money that is readily available for use.
  • Investments: Stocks, bonds, or other financial instruments that can be easily converted to cash.
  • Tangible Assets: Property, equipment, and other physical assets that can be used in operations or sold.
  • Receivables: Money that is owed to the organization and is expected to be received in the near future.


Unrestricted net assets are crucial for several reasons:

  • Financial Stability: A healthy level of unrestricted net assets can provide a financial cushion for the organization in times of decreased funding or unexpected expenses.
  • Operational Flexibility: These assets allow the organization to adapt to new challenges or to seize emerging opportunities without the need for new, specifically-targeted donations.
  • Sustainability: The availability of unrestricted funds can help ensure the long-term sustainability of the organization, allowing it to plan effectively for the future.
  • Donor Attraction: A strong balance of unrestricted net assets may also make the organization more attractive to potential donors, as it suggests prudent financial management and stability.

Financial Reporting:

In financial statements, nonprofits typically categorize their net assets into three main categories: unrestricted, temporarily restricted, and permanently restricted. Each category must be reported separately to provide a clear picture of the organization’s financial health and how its resources are allocated.

Example of Unrestricted Net Assets

Let’s consider a fictional example to illustrate the concept of unrestricted net assets in a nonprofit organization.


  • GoodHeart Charity is a nonprofit organization that focuses on feeding the homeless, providing educational resources for underprivileged kids, and supporting local community health initiatives.
  • Their financial situation at the end of the year is as follows:
    • Cash: $100,000
    • Investments: $150,000
    • Buildings and Equipment (Tangible Assets): $200,000
    • Accounts Receivable: $20,000
    • Temporarily Restricted Funds: $50,000 (for a specific food drive project next year)
    • Permanently Restricted Endowment: $100,000 (to generate income for future projects)

Calculating Unrestricted Net Assets:

To calculate the unrestricted net assets for GoodHeart Charity, we first determine their total assets and then subtract any restricted assets.

  • Total Assets = Cash + Investments + Buildings and Equipment + Accounts Receivable = $100,000 + $150,000 + $200,000 + $20,000 = $470,000
  • Total Restricted Assets = Temporarily Restricted Funds + Permanently Restricted Endowment = $50,000 + $100,000 = $150,000
  • Unrestricted Net Assets = Total Assets – Total Restricted Assets = $470,000 – $150,000 = $320,000


  • GoodHeart Charity has $320,000 in unrestricted net assets at the end of the year. This is the amount they can freely use to operate the charity, fund various initiatives, cover administrative costs, or save for future opportunities and emergencies.
  • The organization could use these unrestricted funds to invest in a new community health project, upgrade their IT systems, hire more staff, or improve existing programs.
  • A healthy level of unrestricted net assets makes the charity more resilient against financial uncertainties and better positioned to respond to new challenges and opportunities.

In summary, the unrestricted net assets provide GoodHeart Charity with the financial flexibility they need to fulfill their mission effectively and adapt to changing circumstances.

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