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Distinguishing Contributions from Exchange Transactions Logo aicpa

  NFP Section |   Free for NFP Section members |   AICPA |   2015 |

In some situations, exchange transactions can be easily distinguished from contributions. For example, sales in a museum bookstore or payments of employees' salaries clearly are exchange transactions; each party gives up and receives equivalent economic value. In contrast, an example of a contribution is a donation to an NFP’s mass fundraising appeal; donors are providing resources in support of the NFP’s mission and expect to receive nothing of direct value in exchange. In other circumstances, however, classifying asset transfers as exchange transactions or as contributions may require the exercise of judgment concerning whether a reciprocal transaction has occurred - that is, whether a recipient NFP has given up assets, rights, or privileges approximately equal to the value of the assets, rights, or privileges received.

This chart may be helpful in determining whether individual asset transfers are contributions, exchange transactions, or both.

Topics covered:
  • Not-for-profit: Technical: Contribution revenue & agency transactions, Intermediate
  • Not-for-profit: Technical: Exchange transaction revenue, Intermediate