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February 22, 2021

How Revenue is Spent at the National Opinion Research Center

by Anne Paddock

The National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago is an objective non-partisan institution conducting research to produce data in the fields of social science and public opinion. This data helps guide critical program, business, and policy decisions.

A tax-exempt, non-profit 501 (c) 3, NORC was established in 1941 in Chicago, Illinois and prides itself on “research you can trust.” In their own words:

NORC has shaped the questions, gathered and analyzed the data, and derived the insights that have allowed governments, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and citizens around the world to make more in-formed public and personal decisions about issues ranging from health care and education to economic development and the workforce.

There are 16 voting members of the governing body, 8 of whom are independent, although the Form 990 lists 18 trustees (due to timing differences).  12 of the 18 (67%) trustees listed are male while 6 of the 8 (33%) are female.

In 2018, NORC reported total revenue of $196 million (compared to $188 million in 2017) most of which came from government grants ($157 million or 80% of revenue)) which means NORC is primarily funded by taxpayer dollars. Most of the remaining revenue came from public opinion research (the sale of) totaling $37 million in 2018.

Expenses totaled $188 million (not including $5 million in depreciation) including $30 million of subcontracting work out and can be categorized as follows:

  • $105 million (54% of revenue):  Compensation
  • $ 39 million (20% of revenue):  Fees for Services (primarily other fees of $30 million to subcontractors)
  • $ 23 million (12% of revenue):  Office-Related Expenses
  • $ 15 million (7% of revenue):  Other Expenses (no detail provided)
  • $  6 million (3% of revenue):  Travel

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

$100:  Revenue

-$ 54:  Compensation

-$ 20:  Fees for Services (primarily other fees of $30 million to subcontractors)

-$ 12:  Office-Related Expenses

-$  7:  Other Expenses (no detail provided)

-$  3:  Travel

-$ 96:  Total Expenses

 $  4:  Remaining Revenue:  To General Fund

As illustrated above, the largest expense is compensation which used 74% of revenue (compensation and fees for services) or $74 out of every $100 in revenue.  Compensation for employees totaled $105 million which was shared among 3,824 employees (an average of $27,000 per employee which is very low). 307 employees received more than $100,000 in compensation.

NORC relied heavily on subcontractors, shelling out $30 million in 2018.  According to the Form 990, NORC received government grants to conduct social science research that required NORC to use subcontractors to complete a significant portion of the research.

In summary, NORC is one of the most respected research facilities in the USA. Funded primarily by the federal government in the form of grants (via taxpayers), NORC used about 74% of revenue on compensation for employees and non-employees.  The remaining revenue was primarily spent on office, travel, and other expenses.  At year-end 2018, NORC had $47 million in net assets.

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

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