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March 28, 2019

Executive Compensation at the Special Olympics

by Anne Paddock

Rarely is there a disagreement about the importance of funding the Special Olympics but yesterday, Betsy DeVos, the Education Secretary proposed cutting $17.6 million in government assistance to the organization next year, asserting that the non-profit is better supported by philanthropy.  Before anyone makes up their mind about this issue, they should know the financial facts about the organization, which include revenue, expenses, executive compensation, and the fund balance (which many refer to as the endowment) and ask if the Special Olympics needs the government contributions?


The Special Olympics reported $129 million in revenue in 2017, of which $15.5 million (or 12% of total revenue) came from the government. $100.5 million (78% of revenue) came from contributions, gifts, and grants, $5.5 million (4% of revenue) from accreditation fees, conferences, and meetings, and $7.5 million (6% of revenue) from investment income, royalties, and list rentals (where names, addresses, and contact information is rented by one company to another which may be of concern to some donors). In other words, 88% of revenue came from non-government sources.


In 2017, expenses totaled $111 million (note: $18 million of revenue was not spent) and were categorized as follows:

  • $ 37 million (29% of revenue):  Grants
  • $ 23 million (18% of revenue):  Compensation
  • $ 17 million (13% of revenue):  Postage, Printing, Adv/Promotion
  • $ 11 million (8% of revenue):  Donated Goods
  • $  9 million (7% of revenue):  Fees for Services (acct, legal, investment, fundraising, other)
  • $  6 million (5% of revenue):  Office and Supplies
  • $  6 million (5% of revenue):  Travel
  • $  2 million (1% of revenue):  Other

As illustrated above, the largest expense categories were grants (primarily to separate state Special Olympic 501 c (3)’s) and compensation for the 204 employees who were compensated $23 million, which equates to an average compensation of $112,745.


56 individuals received more than $100,000 in compensation with the 12 most highly compensated individuals listed below:

  • $486,996:  Mary Davis, CEO
  • $335,478:  Kelli Seely, Chief Marketing/Development Officer
  • $317,605:  Mark Edenson, Regional President, SONA
  • $312,095:  John Dow, Jr., Chief Program Operations
  • $286,916:  Angela Ciccolo, CLO/Secretary
  • $261,702:  Timothy R Shriver, Chairman
  • $259,776:  Mike Meenan, CFO
  • $235,875:  Drew Boshell, SVP, Sports and Health
  • $216,462:  Louis Lauria, Chief of Games and Competition
  • $206,242: Angelina Ong, Regional President, Asia Pacific
  • $203,293:  Christa White, SVP, GDGR
  • $197,112:  Ayman Wahab, Regional President, MENA

As listed above, the CEO received close to $500,000 in 2017. In addition, it is important to note that the Chairman of the organization, Timothy R Shriver (who is related to the founder, Eunice Shriver) was paid $261,702 in 2017 (often times, the CEO or the Chief Investment Officer are among the most highly compensated. A Chairman is not always listed as one of the most highly compensated or even compensated individuals for many 501 (c) (3)’s).

Among the 12 most highly compensated individuals, 7 are male and 5 are female.

36 independent contractors were compensated more than $100,000 in 2017.  The five most highly compensated independent contractors were reported to be:

  • $13,486,662:  Production Solutions of Vienna, VA for fundraising and mailing services.
  • $ 2,100,000:  Fusesport, Inc. of Colorado Springs, CO for software development.
  • $ 1,537,336:  The Heritage Group of Little Rock, AR for fundraising services
  • $   978,544:  Blackbaud of Atlanta, GA for database management and analytics
  • $   866,908:  Blue State Digital of New York, NY for fundraising services

It is important to point out Form 990 (in the Statement of Functional Expenses) reports $15 million (which includes $2 million in staff compensation and other support costs) was spent on fundraising expenses in 2017.  However, the list above shows that 3 independent contractors were paid nearly $16 million so there appears to be a discrepancy.


In 2017, the Special Olympics raised $129 million but spent $111 million, leaving $18 million allocated to the fund balance, which is more than the proposed funding cut by the Education Secretary.  At the beginning of the year, the Special Olympics had $61 million. After adding the $18 million of unspent revenue and gains and changes in assets, the fund balance was $80 million at year-end.


The Special Olympics is a well-respected organization that primarily relies on non-governmental contributions and grants and other income. Only 12% ($15.5 million) of the income in 2017 came from the government. The organization raised $129 million in 2017 and spent $111 million, leaving $18 million to go to the fund balance which had $80 million at year-end.

The average compensation of the 204 employees is $112,745. The executives are well compensated with the 12 most highly compensated individuals receiving $197,112 – $486,996 (including the Chairman who received more than $260,000 in 2017).

Although a political hot potato and very polarizing, the proposed $17.6 million cut in the proposed budget from the government is less than the unspent revenue the Special Olympics reported in 2017. Based on 2017, the Special Olympics could weather the cut and still provide the same services. If they wanted to continue to grow the endowment, they would have to increase fundraising.

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

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