Chart of Accounts
Think of the chart of accounts as the backbone of a good accounting system. Basically, the chart of accounts is a list of categories used to group your financial activities.
In determining which categories to include in your chart of accounts, you must first think of the type of activities you have and what types of information you might want/need to run the organization. A good place to look for ideas is the Internal Revenue Service Form 990. This is the informational return nonprofits file with the IRS annually (if they meet the reporting requirements). Regardless of whether or not your organization is required to file Form 990, there are several sections with good examples of necessary accounts. See Part VIII of the core Form 990 for revenue account examples, Part IX for expense examples, and Part X for balance sheet accounts.
Balance Sheet Accounts
When building your balance sheet accounts, the most important parts are your cash and investment accounts. Each bank account or investment account your organization has should have a separate account in your chart of accounts. This allows for easier reconciling. After that, the rest of the accounts are really determined by the accounting method you use.
Income State Accounts (Revenue and Expense Accounts)
Feel free to borrow the IRS's accounts from Form 990. It will make it easier for you to fill out the form if your organization meets the requirements.
See also: Unified Chart of Accounts