Skip to content

April 17, 2018

Where Does $100 to Autism Speaks Go?

by Anne Paddock

Autism Speaks – a New York City based non-profit 501 (c) (3) – has come under fire over the past few years for a variety of reasons not least of which is how the organization spends revenue. With 263 employees (in 2016), 49 of whom earn more than $100,000 annually, Autism Speaks is not an organization focused on “curing” autism by awarding research grants (although the organization spent about $7.4 million or 15% of revenue on grants, of which $4.4 million in grants were awarded for science and research grants while $3 million was spent on family services and fellowships). Instead, Autism Speaks is a labor intensive organization working to enhance the lives of those afflicted with autism and their families through advocacy and support.

In 2016, Autism Speaks reported $47.5 million in revenue (compared to $58.1 million in 2015) which came from contributions, gifts, grants, and fundraising events, according to the IRS Form 990 (2016).  Expenses were $46.2 million (not including $0.5 million in depreciation) and can be viewed two ways:  by broad category (grants, program expenses, management costs, and fundraising costs) or by specific line item categories (i.e. compensation-related, office-related, grants, etc). Both ways are beneficial with the broad category analysis giving a general overview while the specific line item analysis provides more detail on how revenue was spent.

Expenses by Broad Category (Grants, Program Expenses, Management Costs, Fundraising Costs)

Expenses were reported in the following four broad categories:

$ 1.7 million (or 4% of revenue):  Management Costs

$ 9.9 million (or 21% of revenue):  Fundraising Costs

$ 7.4 million (or 15% of revenue):  Grants

$27.2 million (or 57% of revenue):  Program Expenses

$46.2 million (or 97% of revenue):  Total Expenses

As illustrated above, about 25% of revenue was spent on management and fundraising costs while 57% was spent on programs and 15% was awarded in grants. Using this information, $100 in revenue was spent as follows:

$100:  Revenue

-$  4:  Management Costs

-$ 21:  Fundraising Costs

-$ 25:  Total Management and Fundraising Costs

$ 75:  Amount Remaining

-$ 15:  Grants

-$ 57:  Programs Costs

-$ 97:  Total Expenses

$  3:  Amount Remaining:  To Fund Balance

As illustrated above, Autism Speaks spent about $97 out of every $100 received. The remaining funds were added to the fund balance which had $7 million at year-end (compared to $6 million in 2015).

Expenses By Specific Category

Expenses can be categorized in 8 specific categories:

$21.5 million (or 45% of revenue):  Compensation-Related Expenses

$ 7.4 million (or 15% of revenue):  Grants

$ 7.0 million (or 15% of revenue):  Office, IT, Occupancy, Insurance

$ 3.8 million (or 8% of revenue):  Advertising, Promotion, Fundraising Expenses, Direct Mail, Donation Processing)

$ 3.1 million (or 7% of revenue):  Other Fees for Services and Other Expenses (no detail provided)

$ 1.6 million (or 3% of revenue):  Travel and Conferences

$ 1.3 million (or 3% of revenue):  Fees for Services (Legal, Accounting, Lobbying, and Fundraising)

$ 0.5 million (or 1% of revenue):  Genome Sequencing

$46.2 millón (or 97% of revenue):  Total Expenses

As illustrated above, the largest expense is compensation-related costs ($21.5 million) for the 263 individuals (which equates to $82,000 each). 49 individuals received more than $100,000 in compensation with the most highly compensated individual the President, Angela Geiger who was in the position beginning February, 2016 and was compensated $451,121 followed by Robert H Ring, the former CSO (through January, 2016) who received $365,627 (most of which was severance).

It is important to point out $2 million of the  fundraising costs above were not reported as fundraising costs in the broad category analysis which means that fundraising costs appear to be closer to $12 million than $10 million. It is also notable that Autism Speaks relies on three outside firms (Thompson, Habib, and Dennison Inc. of Lexington, MA, 270 Strategies of Washington, DC, and IPM Advancement of Phoenix, AZ) for direct mail marketing which raised $1.3 million. Approximately $300,000 was retained by the firms, leaving about $1 million (or $77 out of every $100) for Autism Speaks.

Using the above information, $100 in revenue was spent as follows:

$100:  Revenue

-$ 45:  Compensation-related Expenses

-$ 15:  Office, IT, Occupancy, Insurance

-$  8:  Advertising, Promotion, Fundraising Expenses, Direct Mail, Donation Processing)

-$  7:  Other Fees for Services and Other Expenses (no detail provided)

-$  3:  Travel and Conferences

-$  3:  Fees for Services (Legal, Accounting, Lobbying, and Fundraising)

-$  1:  Genome Sequencing

-$82:  Subtotal Expenses

$ 18:  Amount Remaining

-$ 15: Grants

$  3:  Amount Remaining: To Fund Balance

As illustrated above, $60 out of every $100 in revenue was used for compensation-related and office expenses.  Given that the organization is more focused on providing services (through staff) to families affected by autism and that Autism Speaks is in New York City where office space is expensive, high compensation and office expenses are to be expected.  It is also important to note that $10 out of every $100 was spent on fees for services with only $3 spent on legal, accounting, lobbying, and fundraising. $7 out of every $100 was spent on fees for services with no detail provided.

To read the IRS Form 990 (2016), click here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

Note: HTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to comments

%d bloggers like this: