When is the Best Year End Date for a Non-Profit

Posted in financial management / annual audit / year end

When is the Best Year End Date for a Non-Profit

Year end for a non-profit is a busy time. Accounting will need to be wrapped up and the financial files sent off for an audit or financial review. Sometimes it can take several weeks to get all the files tidy and ready to go. Then it can take another few weeks for the auditor to complete the audit, probably with lots of questions back and forth. The audit process can be long.

If the audit process happens at the same time during a non-profit’s busy season, surviving all of it can feel ridiculously overwhelming. It doesn’t need to be that way. A non-profit can pick a year end date that works best; one that avoids the busy season.

Look beyond December 31st.

If a non-profit is just starting out, and doesn’t yet know when the busy season happens, it is natural to gravitate towards a calendar year end. This can work well for groups that want year end fundraising campaigns to fund the next year’s operations. But this can just as easily be disastrous if the fundraising season will mean the staff team or volunteers are busy with their own holiday plans.

When a non-profit is brand new and hasn’t determined its busy season, selecting a year end date that aligns with a quieter time for staff or volunteers, will be a great place to start.

After a non-profit has been in operations for a few years, they will become much more familiar with their busy season and can determine if they chose a year end date that aligns with the quieter times.

What happens if the year end date was not chosen correctly? A non-profit can change its financial year end date!

Changing year end isn’t simple. It WILL be a lot of work. There will be paperwork, meetings of the members, and a lot of questions. The best place to start is with the provincial/state regulatory agency (the same one where the group applied to become a non-profit) and ask about the process to change the year end date. The whole process can take a year or two BUT can be a huge relief on a staff or volunteer team who do the work.

Year end requires full attention.

A non-profit’s year end deserves the full attention of the staff or volunteers handling the task. A distracted team may cause the financial files to be incomplete or messy. That can lead to a disappointing audit, and frustrations that are repeated year after year.

If a non-profit can take some time to plan out the operating year ahead, and select a year end date that is quieter, staff or volunteers can commit their full attention and the audit can be quick and successful.

Change it if it isn’t working.

An annual audit can be treated like any other program a non-profit runs, and the process can be evaluated. After the annual audit is complete, the team responsible for the task can have a quick debrief discussion and ask a few questions.

  • What other programs/tasks were happening at the same time as year end and the audit?
  • What worked well during year end and the audit?
  • What didn’t work well during year end and the audit?
  • Do we need to make any changes to the date for year end and the audit?

The results of the debrief conversation will help a non-profit determine if it wants to take on the task of changing its year end to a more suitable time of year.

If you have been involved in a non-profit that changed its year end, I’d love to hear how it worked for you. Please use the form on the right side of the page to let me know.


Hi, I'm Christie Saas, former board member, current Executive Director, and non-profit volunteer. I remember well, those early years when I lacked the training, the confidence, and the work-life balance to focus on becoming the best non-profit leader I could be.

Fast-forward past many bumps in the road, lessons learned, and you’ll find me still in the trenches, but a little wiser, a little calmer, and a whole lot happier. I love my work and I want to help you love yours too.

I created ChristieSaas.com so non-profit leaders never need to feel alone. I’m here to help. If you’re a brand-new non-profit leader, or a little more seasoned, someone who’s looking to make a meaningful contribution and still have time for a full life away from the job, you’re in the right place.

© Christie Saas 2023 All Rights Reserved

Want to learn more?

Start with one of my free resources.

FREE Guides