Definition of unrestricted net assets

What are unallocated net assets?

Unrestricted net assets are donations to non-profit organizations that have no strings attached. That is, the assets can be used by the organization for general expenses or any legitimate expense.

Key points to remember

  • Unrestricted net assets are donations to nonprofit organizations that can be used for general expenses or any other legitimate purpose of the nonprofit organization.
  • Temporarily restricted net assets are usually assigned by the donor to a specific program or project and must be used within a specified time frame.
  • Permanently restricted net assets are often sums of money to be invested in perpetuity, with the proceeds available for a specific purpose.

Most donations are unrestricted net assets. However, a donor may choose to classify the donation as temporarily restricted net assets or even permanently restricted net assets, thus establishing rules for the use of the donation.

Understanding unallocated net assets

Organizations generally prefer donations of unallocated net assets because they allow them maximum flexibility to spend as they see fit, whether to hire additional staff or expand their services.

A restricted net asset can even be a burden on the organization that receives it. For example, an organization dedicated to animal rescue may receive a limited donation to spend on crocodile care and feeding. If the organization does not have facilities or qualified personnel dedicated to crocodiles, it may be required to spend more than the donated amount in order to fulfill the conditions of the bequest.

Watch groups like Charity Navigator and help donors choose a worthy cause for their assets, restricted or not.

However, the possibility of restricting a gift to a non-profit organisation can be a powerful incentive. Another animal lover may want to be sure that a gift will only be used to save cats from slaughter shelters, and never for mundane administrative purposes.

Temporary or permanent gifts

Temporarily restricted assets are usually given for a particular purpose and must be used on a particular date, for example within a year. An example could be a donation to the Red Cross for emergency aid delivered to Puerto Rico after a hurricane.

Permanently restricted assets often come in the form of a fund that must be maintained indefinitely, with the income generated by its investment to be used for specific purposes. Scholarship funds are often created as assets with permanent restrictions.

Besides, donations to museums art, artifacts and other valuables often come with restrictions, which may include a ban on the sale of donated assets.

Declaration of unallocated net assets

Nonprofit organizations in the United States produce a statement of financial position that is equivalent to the balance sheet kept by a business. Unrestricted net assets, temporarily restricted net assets and permanently restricted net assets are all listed in this statement.

IRS Form 990 is a template for creating the statement of financial position as well as a separate statement of activities, which is similar to an income statement.

Nonprofit performance monitoring

A legitimate and well-run nonprofit organization will provide 990 forms, annual reports, and audit reports to potential donors for review.

These documents are also viewed by watch groups, which provide ratings and reviews of charities and shed a harsh light on nonprofits that disproportionately spend on staff salaries or marketing activities instead. than on their stated goals. Some of the watch groups include:

  • Charity browser uses a number-based scoring system in its assessments of over 9,000 nonprofit groups.
  •, managed by the Better Business Bureau, accredits charities that meet its standards
  • CharityWatch rates charities on an A to F scale and includes financial information about charities.

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