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August 14, 2020


Where Does $100 to Young Life Go?

by Anne Paddock

Young Life is a non-profit, tax-exempt 501 (c) (3) based in Colorado Springs, CO that is engaged in “introducing adolescents to Jesus Christ and helping them grow in their faith” through weekly club meetings, small group bible studies, nationwide camping programs, short-term missions, and student exchange programs. Consequently, Young Life is a staff intensive organization (with nearly 6,000 employees).

In trying to understand how Young Life spent every $100 in revenue received in 2019, it is important to review the Form 990 (2018 for the year ending September 30, 2019) that reports key information about the organization:

Young Life has 24 members on the Board of Trustees. 19 of the 21 (79%) are male while 5 of the 24 (21%) are female.

In 2019, Young Life raised $403 million, most of which came from contributions, gifts, and grants ($337 million) and camping and field ministries ($75 million).

In 2019, expenses totaled $351 million (not including $20 million in depreciation), which were categorized as follows:

  • $230 million (57% of revenue):  Compensation
  • $ 48 million (12% of revenue):  Office-related Expenses
  • $ 31 million (8% of revenue):  Club, Camping and Foreign Programs
  • $ 18 million (4% of revenue):  Travel
  • $ 11 million (3% of revenue): Fees for Services (primarily other, no detail provided)
  • $  9 million (2% of revenue):  Grants
  • $ 3 million (1% of revenue):  Other Expenses (no detail provided)
  • $  1 million (less than .2% of revenue):  Advertising and Promotion

As illustrated above, the largest expense for Young Life is compensation followed by office, club, camp, and foreign programs, and travel.

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

 $100:  Revenue

-$ 57:  Compensation

-$ 12:  Office-related Expenses

-$  8:  Club, Camping, and Foreign Programs

-$  4:  Travel

-$  3:  Fees for Services

-$  2:  Grants

-$  1:  Other Expenses

-$ 87:  Total Expenses

 $  13:  Revenue Remaining:  To General Fund/Fund Assets 

As illustrated above, $81 out of every $100 in revenue was spent on compensation, office, club, camp, and foreign programs, and travel.

At the beginning of the year, Young Life had $346 million in net fund assets with a heavy concentration in real estate. After adding unspent revenue, unrealized gains on investments, and changes in assets, net fund assets were $367 million at year-end.  At year-end the book value of real estate holdings was $297 million. Young Life had a montage of $1.4 million, meaning the net book value of the real estate holdings is about $295 million. The real estate holdings are exempt from taxes because of the 501 (c) (3) status of the organization.

Young Life uses mail, internet, e-mail, phone, and in-person solicitation to raise funds. In addition, the organization solicits the government for grants.  Young Life used One Accord, LLC of Kirkland, WA for fundraising campaign consulting which resulted in nearly $31 million in gross receipts. After deducting nearly $200,000, the proceed went to Young Life.

More than two dozen fundraising events were held. Gross receipts were $32.2 million. After deducting $30.6 million in contributions, the gross income from these events was $1.6 million. Young Life spent $12.7 million on “other direct expenses” which were not detailed, leaving a loss of $11.1 million.


Young Life is a christian ministry organization with about 6,000 employees whose focus is on adolescents.  Most revenue is raised through contributions, gifts, and grants although revenue from camping activities is significant.  With nearly $370 million in net assets (of which, nearly $300 million is in real estate), assets are concentrated in real estate which are virtually debt-free and tax-exempt. Young Life raises about $400 million annually but only spends about $350 million, allowing the organization to pay off debt and grow the general fund.

For the donor who wants to know where their $100 was spent, the answer is:  primarily on staff compensation, office-related expenses, club, camp, and foreign programs, and travel.

To read the IRS Form 990 (2018 for the year ending September 30, 2019), click here.

  1. Aug 17 2020

    You would have to include part of the compensation expense.

  2. viewsfromunderthebus
    Aug 16 2020

    is it safe to conclude that a whopping $8 of every $100 is spent on programs (club, camping and foreign programs)?

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