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March 12, 2021


Where Does $100 to the ASPCA Go (2019)?

by Anne Paddock

If you donated $100 to the ASPCA in 2019 and want to know how your donation was spent, know that more than half ($53) went to pay staff, office-related expenses, travel and conferences.  $26 went to pay advertising and promotion and fees for outside services, including professional fundraisers. $10 out of every $100 was spent on veterinary services, operating supplies, and grants to other non-profits whose mission is to help protect animals. $2 out of every $100 was spent on miscellaneous expenses leaving $10 unspent and allocated to the organization’s general fund.

The ASPCA is one of the most widely recognized non-profits focused on animal welfare in the country. Founded in 1866, the ASPCA has been around for more than 150 years.  As is the case with most non-profits, the issue isn’t whether the ASPCA does good things (they do) but  whether they could do more or better with the public support they receive (they could).

In the most general terms, the ASPCA raises nearly $300 million annually and has $340 million in its general fund. The organization has about 1,200 employees and counts compensation for these employees ($99 million) as its single largest expense.

The Form 990 (2019) submitted to the IRS reports the ASPCA raised $279 million in 2019 (compared to $268 million in 2018), most of which ($254 million or 91%) came from contributions, gifts, and grants.

Expenses totaled $251 million (including $5 million in depreciation) leaving $28 million added to the general fund that had a year-end balance of $340 million (compared to $283 million in 2018)  (note: the organization reported $25 million in net unrealized gains on investments in 2019 which contributed to the increase in the general fund).

Expenses can be viewed two ways:  by broad general category (i.e. grants, program services, management and general expenses, and fundraising) or by specific line item categories (i.e. compensation, office-related, travel and conferences, fees for services, grants, etc). Each is beneficial with the latter approach providing more detail on how revenue was spent.

Expenses By Broad General Category

The $251 million in expenses were categorized as follows:

  • $179 million (64% of revenue):  Program Services
  • $ 48 million (17% of revenue):  Fundraising
  • $ 14 million (5% of revenue):  Grants
  • $ 10 million (4% of revenue):  Management and General Expenses

As illustrated above, program services used 64% of revenue while fundraising, management, and general expenses used 22% of revenue. Grants – $14 million – were to domestic animal welfare organizations. The ASPCA made 209 grants larger than $5,000, 190 to non-profit 501 (c) (3)’s and 19 to other organizations.

Most grants were to other animal organizations who provide spay/neuter services, live release services, equine services, relocation services, anti-cruelty campaigns. The 10 largest grant recipients were:

  • $1,555,000:  Animal Care Centers of NYC, of NY, NY for live release
  • $  939,400:  Los Angeles County Animal Care, of Long Beach, CA for relocation
  • $  832,000:  Arizona Humane Society, of Phoenix, AZ for live release
  • $  600,000:  NYC Police Department, of NYC, NY for anti-cruelty
  • $  400,000:  Los Angeles Animal Services, of LA, CA for live release
  • $  300,000:  Cleveland Animal Protective League, of Cleveland, OH for live release
  • $  271,000:  Denver Dumb Friends League, of Denver, CO for equine
  • $  250,000:  Dogs Playing for Life, of Longmont, CO for live release
  • $  250,000:  Oregon Humane Society, of Portland, OR for live release
  • $  246,500:  Washington Humane Society, of Pullman, WA for live release

Expenses by Specific Line Item Category

The $251 million in expenses (90% of revenue) were categorized as follows:

  • $99 million (35% of revenue): Compensation
  • $40 million (14% of revenue):  Advertising/Promotion (does not include fundraiser fees)
  • $40 million (14% of revenue):  Office-Related Expenses
  • $33 million (12% of revenue):  Fees for Services (non-employee)
  • $14 million (5% of revenue):  Grants
  • $12 million (5% of revenue):  Veterinary and Medical Services/Operating Supplies
  • $ 8 million (3% of revenue):  Travel and Conferences
  • $ 5 million (2% of revenue):  Miscellaneous and Other Expenses

Compensation is the largest expense for the ASPCA with $99 million in compensation provided to 1,244 employees, making the average compensation $80,000.  The most highly compensated employee was the President and CEO, Mathew Bershadker who received $843,539.

Advertising and Promotion is the second largest expense at $40 million (and does not include fees paid to professional fundraisers) followed by $40 million in office-related expenses.  $33 million was spent on fees for services with 167 organizations receiving more than $100,000 in compensation.  The five largest recipients were reported to be:

  • $23 million:  Eagle-Com, Inc, of Toronto, Canada for media broadcast
  • $ 9 million:  Laughlin Constable, Inc, of Milwaukee, WI for digital media
  • $ 7 million:  APPCO Group US Inc, of New York, NY for street canvas/consulting
  • $ 7 million:  Ascenta Group, Inc, of New York, NY for direct marketing
  • $ 5 million:  Forum Group Services, Inc, of New York, NY for staffing and consulting services

The five companies above received a total of $51 million, most of which was spent on marketing services to raise funds for the organization.

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

$100:  Revenue

-$ 35:  Compensation

-$ 14:  Advertising and Promotion

-$ 14:  Office-Related Expenses

-$ 12:  Fees for Services

-$  3:  Travel and Conferences

-$  2:  Miscellaneous Expenses

-$ 80:  Subtotal: Compensation, Advertising, Office, Fees for Services, Travel and Misc

$ 20:  Revenue Remaining

-$  5:  Grants

-$  5:  Veterinary Services and Operating Supplies

-$ 10: Subtotal:  Grants and Veterinary Services and Operating Supplies

 $ 10:  Revenue Remaining:  To General Fund

As illustrated above, $49 out of every $100 was used to compensate employees and pay office-related expenses.  An additional $26 was used to pay for advertising and promotion and fees for outside services.  $10 out of every $100 went towards grants and veterinary services and operating supplies.  The ASPCA spends more on advertising and promotion than on grants, veterinary services, and operating supplies. And, the ASPCA spent the same amount of revenue on grants/veterinary services and operating supplies as they put in the general fund (which already had more than $250 million).

A Note on Fundraisers

The ASPCA raises funds by mail, e-mail, internet, and phone solicitations. In addition, the organization also uses in-person solicitation, solicits for grants (non-gov’t and gov’t), and holds special fundraising events. The 6 highest paid fundraisers in 2019 were reported to be:

  • Donor Services Group of Los Angeles, CA used direct marketing to raise $5.8 million for the ASPCA. They retained $1 million (17%) which netted the ASPCA $4.7 million.
  • Ascenta Group Inc (APPCO) of NY, NY used direct marketing to raise $11.1 million for the ASPCA. APPCO was paid $14.3 million, costing the ASPCA $3.2 million.
  • SD&A Teleservices of Los Angeles, CA used direct marketing to raise $3.4 million for the ASPCA. They charged the ASPCA $500,000 (15%), netting the ASPCA $2.9 million.
  • KnewSales Group of Toronto, Canada used direct marketing to raise $1 million for the ASPCA. They charged the ASPCA $1 million.
  • New Canvassing Experience used direct marketing to raise $2.9 for the ASPCA. They were compensated $3.3 million, costing the ASPCA $400,000.

If you want your donation to go further, DO NOT respond to telemarketers; give directly to an organization.

To read the IRS Form 990 (2019) for the ASPCA, click here.

  1. Denise DeMarco
    Jan 28 2022

    I am sick over what I have read. I see the fundraising efforts on TV showing these sweet starving dogs out in the cold in winter and I wonder if they have been given food and shelter. They need help and SHAME on this organization. I hope there is a special place in hell for them for each animal they could have helped but put cash in their general fund instead. I cannot fathom how they can sleep at night.

  2. tine rey
    May 11 2021

    its clear the spca biggest goal is to line their own pockets. thanks for the report…spca scratched off my list

  3. D Dias
    Apr 16 2021

    I donate directly to a shelter in our home town that I checked out thoroughly when we were looking for a dog. They are just a few miles from where we live.They are not quick to euthanize pets if they are ill. The owner is amazing and so is her support group who donates and helps pay for the care of animals who become ill.

  4. viewsfromunderthebus
    Mar 13 2021

    I’ll continue donating to the local shelter where I found my wonderful orange cat. Pets have been such great pandemic companions!

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