Trends & Insights

What baseball can teach finance leaders about nonprofit financial management 

Discover what baseball and accounting have in common and explore how the right nonprofit financial management solution can help your organization advance its mission.

In many places, the first signs of spring have started to arrive. Songbirds are returning and the grass is greening up as spring flowers get ready to bloom.  

With these hints of spring in the air, it’s great to have baseball season up and running.  

The first Major League Baseball (MLB) game was on March 20, 2024, when the LA Dodgers faced the San Diego Padres in Seoul, South Korea. But this season really kicks into gear on March 28, 2024 for Opening Day when all 30 MLB teams get in the action. 

More than any other sport, baseball is a game of measurements and statistics.  

Although it may be ‘all about the number’, in the end, it’s really about people.  

In this way, nonprofit finance teams and baseball have a lot in common. 

In this article, we thought it would be fun to look at 7 rules baseball can give you for better nonprofit financial management.  

We also examine 4 things baseball and accounting have in common and explore how the right nonprofit financial management solution can help your organization advance its mission and perform at the top of your game. 

4 shared foundations of baseball and accounting 

Your first thought might be that baseball and nonprofit accounting seem quite different.  

The sport is filled with action and excitement, while accounting and finance involve attention to detail along with far too many pivot tables and days spent reporting.  

But in broad strokes, baseball and accounting share some surprising similarities. 

1. Rules and regulations 

Baseball has rules and regulations covering every detail of how the game is played and how players must comport themselves.  

Nonprofits must adhere to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) set by FASB for accounting procedures, reporting, financial statements, and audits.  

2. Teamwork 

In both baseball and nonprofit financial management, it takes a team working together to create a win.  

Good leadership and the ability to maximize efficiency and productivity are essential to achieving team objectives. 

3. Data analysis 

Both baseball and nonprofit financial management rely on good data analysis.  

Baseball player performance is tracked down to every swing, hit, and run.  

Nonprofit finance leaders need to measure and analyze financial key performance indicators (KPIs) as well as program outcome metrics in order to guide the organization’s operations.  

The right accounting system can automate data gathering and metrics. 

4. Precision 

Precision is key in both baseball and accounting.  

A one-second pause in a swing may make the difference between a strike and a hit.  

In accounting, one wrong formula in a spreadsheet can spread errors across your reporting negatively impacting your organization.  

That’s why nonprofit finance teams are better off when they move away from manual spreadsheets and use robust and automated financial management automation instead. 

7 baseball pointers to apply for excellence in nonprofit financial management 

When it comes to optimizing performance and striving for excellence, baseball has something to teach everyone.  

And because it shares common traits with finance and accounting, as a nonprofit finance leader, you can apply these seven truths from baseball to level up operations and accelerate mission success. 

1. Watch out for rule changes 

In baseball and accounting, changes in the rules can have a big impact on playing today’s game as well as planning your organization’s future strategy.  

Having a financial management solution designed for nonprofits with a vendor that stays on top of GAAP compliance changes helps to ensure your organization doesn’t get caught off guard by a rule change. 

2. For the best view of the game, sit higher in the ballpark 

There’s a reason the clubhouse box seats aren’t at ground level. To take in the whole game and see all of the players working together, you need to go higher and elevate your view.  

Similarly, a nonprofit financial management solution with role-based dashboards can provide a customized, real-time view of financial and operational performance to help you gather the full picture and make data-driven decisions. 

3. Work hard to avoid slumps 

Sooner or later, most players go through a slump that lowers their batting average. It can be a stressful time and higher anxiety usually doesn’t improve things.  

Proactive players can take the initiative to avoid slumps by putting in extra batting practice and maintaining a positive mindset.  

Most nonprofits will go through a period of disappointing fundraising results. Revenue slumps place stress on organizations.  

Take a proactive approach by continuously working to attract new donors and win new grants.  

A nonprofit financial solution with grant management capabilities will track expenses, report milestones, and reimburse grants accurately, keeping you in compliance with grant requirements.  

4. Make the fans feel special 

Nothing beats a great day at the ballpark.  

Memories are made, hot dogs are eaten, and your favorite player hits a home run.  

MLB works hard to create memorable experiences for fans who come to the games in person. Fan appreciation days and meet the player events help fans feel like part of the team.  

For nonprofits, donors are a lot like fans.  

A nonprofit’s mission can’t be achieved without donors, and it’s important to make them part of your team.  

Donors will return time and again if you involve them in your mission story, report on your success, and provide an excellent and easy website experience.  

Your nonprofit financial management solution should supply real-time outcome metrics to demonstrate your organization’s impact and show donors the difference they make in your mission. 

5. Great coaches develop exceptional players 

The best baseball players have exceptional coaching. Great coaches possess technical knowledge of the game, passion for coaching, leadership skills, and communication skills.  

These are also the qualities of exceptional nonprofit finance leaders.  

Technical knowledge means deep expertise within accounting and finance, along with access to real-time data about the state of play within your organization.  

Being a data-driven finance team is like having the bases loaded and your best hitter at bat.  

With the real-time status of programs, outcomes, revenue, and expenses, you can strategize for optimal performance.  

A financial management solution that also includes a collaboration tool will help strong leaders capture organizational knowledge, enhance team communication, and develop talent. 

6. Teamwork makes the dream work 

In both baseball and finance, a tight-knit team that works together efficiently and effectively produces better results.  

Just like a good coach knows how to get the best from the players, a good nonprofit finance leader understands the importance of recruiting and retaining bright, creative professionals.  

Today’s accounting and finance professionals value a workplace that empowers them with time-saving automation.  

A cloud-based nonprofit financial management solution, with continuous accounting capabilities enabled by Intelligent GL™ powered by AI, can be a powerful tool for recruitment.  

7. Have a system to manage risk 

‘Walking a batter’ is intentionally throwing four balls outside the strike zone and putting the batter on first base.  

It’s a strategy employed to help pitchers manage the damage the most powerful batters could inflict (home runs).  

Risk management drives every decision. Coaches assess the strength of each opposing player ahead of every game, then pitchers take context into account as a play continues.  

If a dangerous hitter comes to bat with several players on base, most pitchers will avoid the risk. 

Nonprofits also face inherent external and internal risks, including fraud and theft.  

To manage that risk, it’s essential to have good internal procedures and a financial management system with built-in internal controls including security features such as role-based access, multifactor authentication, and audit trails. 

Final thoughts 

In baseball, having a great coach, the right players, strong teamwork, and loyal fans help make the magic happen.  

Similarly, nonprofits with inspirational leaders, a powerful mission, dedicated employees, and passionate donors generate the best mission impact.  

A modern nonprofit financial management solution with advanced technologies and built-in best practices can further enable your team to swing for the fences.  

Outcome metrics measuring what matters in the nonprofit world