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January 29, 2019

How are Donations Spent at the Robin Hood Foundation?

by Anne Paddock

The Robin Hood Foundation (RHF) is not a “rob from the rich, give to the poor” organization although RHF is known for having a wealthy Board of Directors who financially support the organization so that donations can be used to help alleviate poverty in New York City. How does RHF do this?  Primarily by providing grants to other non-profits in the city who work to alleviate poverty by providing food, shelter and health services along with education so that people can lift themselves out of poverty.

In a sense, RHF is a “United Way” for non-profits in New York City whose focus is on poverty. They solicit grants, screen the organizations, and disburse donations in the form of grants. Unlike United Way, the RHF states “100% of your donation goes to our community partners” on the front page of their website (www.robinhood.org) because “Robin Hood’s Board of Directors underwrites all operating costs.” That’s an amazing claim, especially for donors who are interested in their dollars going as far as possible to help alleviate poverty in a city where 1 in 5 people are estimated to live in poverty.

Key facts about RHF are summarized as follows, as obtained by the IRS Form 990 (2017):

There are 149 employees who were compensated $18 million, which equates to an average compensation of $121,000 each. However, 49 individuals received more than $100,000 in compensation with the 10 most highly compensated individuals listed below:

  • $1,706,741:  David Saltzman, Former Executive Director and Former Board Director (departed Feb, 2017)
  • $  648,444:  Laurence Jahns, SVP Advancement (departed December, 2017)
  • $  530,508:  Wes Moore, CEO, Non-Voting Director (as of April 24, 2017)
  • $  520,476:  Kristine Sudano, SVP, Development
  • $  452,104:  Beth Zolkind, CFO
  • $  428,416:  Susan Sack, Managing Director, Real Estate
  • $  428,138:  Emary Aronson, Chief Program Officer (departed July, 2017)
  • $  422,276:  Michael Weinstein, SVP, Programs (departed March 3, 2017)
  • $  411,236:  Rose Bromka, Chief of Staff
  • $  362,966:  Amy Houston, Managing Director, Managing Assist

There are those who will view the above compensation as excessive even if the Board is paying these costs because more funds could be used to help the poverty-stricken. The counter argument is that Mr. Saltzman’s compensation was primarily a severance payment based on his years of service (he departed the organization after many years of service) and is not reoccurring, that good people need to be compensated well, and if the Board is paying for the compensation, then donors shouldn’t be concerned.

The organization raised $121 million ($55 million of which was raised at a fundraising event) and awarded $115 million in grants (209 recipient organizations received more than $5,000). Overhead costs were $26 million (not including nearly $1 million in depreciation), of which $18 million was for compensation, $4.3 million for office-related expenses, $2.5 million for fees for services, and $1.2 million for prize expenses, indirect event costs, marketing and communication and other costs.

There are 42 directors (excluding non-voting directors employed by the organization) on the RHF (although the website shows there are 41 directors and 20 Emeritus Board members). If the 42 directors covered the $26 million in operating costs, each would have made a financial contribution of $620,000 each. If both the directors and the members of the Emeritus Board made contributions, then the 61 individuals made financial contributions of $426,000 each.  The IRS Form 990 does not detail contributions so individual contributions are not verifiable.

The RHF has more than $334 million in net fund assets, which allows the organization to spend more than what they raise. These assets are concentrated in cash, securities, and receivables. With hundreds of millions of dollars in savings, the question that arises is:  How did the RHF save $334 million if “100% of your donation goes to our community partners?” The answer can only be from other sources (i.e. directors) or if someone endowed the organization, or if in some years the organization didn’t spend as much as they raised (in 2012 the organization raised $217 million and spent $157 million, adding $60 million to the net fund assets, and in 2015 the organization raised $185 million and spent $157 million, adding $28 million to the net fund assets).  But, again, the IRS 990 (2017) and the audited financial statements do not tell the whole story. At the end of the day, the Robin Hood Foundation does have a sizeable piggy bank.

The five highest paid independent contractors were:

  • $878,795:  Nimblist, LLC of Lancaster, Pennsylvania for staffing services
  • $575,761:  Control Freak Systems LLC of Lititz, Pennsylvania for video services.
  • $497,513:  Yurgosky Consulting Limited of Long Island City, New York for IT Consulting
  • $263,898:  Christie Lites Nashville LLC of Orlando, Florida for production services
  • $159,234:  Ventucom of New York, New York for IT monitoring services

To review the IRS Form 990 (2017), click here.

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