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October 12, 2021

Where Does $100 to the American Cancer Society Go (2019)?

by Anne Paddock

The American Cancer Society (ACS) is a tax-exempt, non-profit 501 (c) (3) dedicated to eliminating cancer by funding cancer research and focusing on prevention and detection, and treatment.

Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, the ACS has a presence throughout the country (divided into 6 geographic regions) with 250 offices in all 50 states, Washington, DC, Guam and Puerto Rico.

There are 21 independent voting members of the governing body, 16 (76%) of whom are male and 5 (24%) who are female (Note:  the Form 990 does not report gender identity. The numbers are based on names and google searches).

In 2019, ACS reported total revenue of $720 million (compared to $770 million in 2018) most of which came from contributions, gifts, and grants ($683 million including $43 million in non-cash contributions – clothing, hotels, wigs, etc).

Expenses totaled $716 million (not including depreciation) categorized as follows:

  • $330 million (46% of revenue):  Compensation
  • $164 million (23% of revenue):  Grants
  • $109 million (15% of revenue):  Office-Related Expenses
  • $ 52 million (7% of revenue):  Fees for Services (primarily fundraising and other)
  • $ 30 million (4% of revenue):  Advertising and Promotion
  • $ 18 million (3% of revenue):  Travel and Conferences
  • $  7 million (1% of revenue):  Other Expenses (i.e. medals, recruitment, etc)
  • $  6 million (1% of revenue):  Printing

As illustrated above, compensation is the largest expense for the organization. 4,922 employees received $330 million in compensation which equates to an average compensation of $67,000.  The most highly compensated employee was the CEO, Gary M Reedy who received $1,091,029.

Grants at $164 million or 23% of revenue was the second largest expense. 348 grants greater than $5,000 were made – 338 to other non-profits and 10 to other organizations. The five largest grant recipients were reported to be:

  • $29.9 million:  ACS Cancer Action Network for program support
  • $ 3.6 million:  Oregon Health and Science University for research grant
  • $ 3.2 million:  Regents of University of Michigan for research grant
  • $ 3.0 million:  Regents of the University of California for tobacco control
  • $ 3.0 million:  Sloan Kettering Institute for research grant

In 2019, ACS received $43 million in non-cash contributions (most of which were clothing and household goods, hotel stays, and wigs) and made about $13 million in non-cash grants to individuals.  It is important to note that ACS operates American Cancer Society Discovery Shops, which are thrift stores whose proceeds benefit the ACS.

So, if you made a $100 contribution in 2019, how was that $100 spent? Read on.

$100:  Revenue

-$ 46:  Compensation

-$ 15:  Office-Related Expenses

-$  7:  Fees for Services (primarily fundraising and other)

-$  4:  Advertising and Promotion

-$  3:  Travel and Conventions

-$  1:  Printing

-$  1:  Other Expenses

-$ 77:  Total Organization Expenses

 $ 23:  Remaining Revenue

-$ 23:  Grants

$   0

As illustrated above, $77 of every $100 in revenue was spent on organization expenses while $23 out of every $100 was awarded in grants.  Note:  If non-cash contributions ($43 million) and non-cash grants ($13 million) were excluded from income and expenses, respectively, there is not a significant difference in how $100 was spent.

A final word on net assets. The ACS has more than $1 billion in net assets, and closed the year with $1.115 billion (after recognizing nearly $50 million in net unrealized gains on assets) and a negative $15 million change in assets from a net change in pension liability.

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

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