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December 17, 2019

Executive Compensation at Samaritan’s Purse (2018)

by Anne Paddock

Samaritan’s Purse is an evangelical Christian organization that provides “spiritual and physical aid” to people around the world. Governed by 18 board members (16 males and 2 females), Samaritan’s Purse is well known for their shoe box gifts (a shoe box filled with toys, school supplies, crafts, hygiene products) which accounts for the majority of “grants” ($225 million out of $294 million in 2018) to children in foreign countries. To deliver these gifts and perform evangelism and other relief programs, Samaritan’s Purse provides charter travel via the use of ministry owned aircraft (15) in North Carolina, Alaska, Puerto Rico, Antigua, Kenya, and Liberia, and private charters.

Key information in 2018 reported by Samartan’s Purse include:

  • Total revenue was $700 million (down 11% from the previous year), of which $247 million were non-cash contributions (primarily shoe boxes). Most revenue (cash and non-cash) came from contributions.
  • Total expenses were $672 million (including $17 million in depreciation). The big 3 expenses were grants ($293 million of which $225 million were shoe boxes), compensation for employees ($144 million), and materials/supplies ($94 million).
  • At the beginning of the year, net assets were $627million. After adding unspent revenue and losses on investments and changes in assets, net assets were $650 million at year-end.

In 2018, Samaritan’s Purse reported 2,965 employees were compensated $144 million, which equates to an average compensation of $48,700.  108 employees received more than $100,000 in compensation.  The following 13 individuals were the mostly highly compensated employees:

  • $696,193:  William Franklin Graham, III, Board Member, Chairman, President, CEO
  • $332,172:  Ronald Wilcox, COO
  • $331,550:  Phyllis Payne, Board Member, Asst Secy, VP-CA
  • $324,808:  James Harrelson, VP-Ops, Christmas Child
  • $309,488:  Kenneth Isaacs, VP-Program/Gov’t Relations
  • $302,500:  William Maupin, VP-IT
  • $301,221:  Merrill Littlejohn, VP- Finance, CFO
  • $295,168:  James Dailey, VP-Communications
  • $282,677:  Paula Woodring, VP-Quality Assurance
  • $275,917:  Todd Chasteen, VP-Public Policy
  • $264,599:  Christopher Weeks, Chief Legal Officer
  • $262,049:  Luther Harrison, VP-N America Ministry
  • $200,132:  Donna Pierce, Secretary

As illustrated above, 13 employees received $4.2 million in compensation.  10 of the 13 (77%) most highly compensated employees listed above are male while 3 of the 13 (23%) are female. Of the 10 most highly compensated employees, 8 are male while 2 are female. Given that 47% of the workforce are female, how is it that Samaritan’s Purse does not have more women in highly compensated positions?

The Form 990 (2018) reports Samaritan’s Purse paid for first class or charter travel, companion travel, personal services (such as maid, chauffeur, chef, etc), and provided tax indemnification and gross up payments. Specifically:

  • Two key employees traveled first class for three flights for ministry purposes, since coach was not available. Two higher compensated employees each traveled on first class for one flight of ministry purposes. One flight was due to coach being unavailable and the other was approved by management. Two family members traveled first class for 8 flights.
  • The aircraft owned by Samaritan’s Purse are used for personal use in accordance with board policy (not provided) and reported as taxable compensation. The President/CEO’s use of the aircraft (jets and helicopters) is not detailed in the Form 990 although the Compensation Committee established a guideline on the maximum amount of time (not provided) that Mr. Graham can use the aircraft for personal use.
  • Travel by companions (spouse and/or family members) was for volunteering on ministry projects. Six board members, five officers, and three highly compensated employees were accompanied by a spouse or family members on ministry activity.
  • One key employee received a gross up payment related to a family member’s education.
  • Maintenance and bookkeeping services are provided to the President and CEO, Mr. Graham. The value of these services is reported as taxable income.

Transactions involving interested persons included:

  • Corey Lynch, the spouse of a director received $89,851 in compensation.
  • Mary Cottrell, the son-in-law of a director received $85,350 in compensation.
  • John Payne, the spouse of a director received $49,597 in compensation.
  • Jessica Zerkle, the daughter of a key employee received $54,781 in compensation.
  • William Furman, the son of an officer received $38,880 in compensation.
  • Jane Graham, the spouse of a director received $45,727 in compensation.
  • Phakjira Isaacs, the daughter-in-law of a key employee received $34,435 in compensation.
  • Ann Littlejohn, the daughter of an officer received $58,284 in compensation.
  • The Specialty Car Company, owned by the brother of a key employee received $173,172 for the purchase of vehicles.

24 independent contractors received more than $100,000 in compensation. The five highest were reported below:

  • $730,663:  DeMoss, Inc. of Atlanta, GA for communications/media, and public relations
  • $433,092:  M Arthur Gensler, Jr. and Associates of Los Angeles, CA for architecture/design services
  • $338,056:  LS3P Associates, Ltd of Charlotte, NC for architecture/design services
  • $325,009:  Serenic Software of Lakewood, CO for software services
  • $315,000:  Air Charter Service, Inc. of Uniondale, NY for disaster relief flights


Samaritan’s Purse reported $700 million in revenue in 2018, a substantial amount although about 11% lower than the previous year.  About 1/3 of revenue were non-cash contributions (primarily shoe boxes) with the remaining revenue primarily contributions.

The organization spent 42% of revenue ($293 million) on grants (primarily shoe boxes) 21% ($144 million) on compensation for the 2,965 employees, and about 13% ($94,000) on supplies and materials.

The average compensation for an employee of Samaritan’s Purse was $48,700 although 108 employees received more than $100,000 in compensation. The 13 most highly compensated employees received $4.2 million (the compensation ranged from about $200,000 – $700,000). 10 of the 13 (77%) most highly compensated employees are male while 3 of the 13 (23%) are female.

Samaritan’s Purse paid for first class or charter travel, companion travel, personal services, and provided gross up or tax indemnification.  It is also important to note Samaritan’s Purse has a big investment in aircraft (15) which are used primarily for business purposes but are also used for personal reasons.

To read the IRS Form 990 (2018), click here.

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