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October 20, 2021

How Revenue is Spent at Research America

by Anne Paddock

Never heard of Research America?  You’re not alone.  A reader e-mailed me and advised me to look at the Form 990 of the organization.

Research America is a tax-exempt, non-profit 501 (c) (3) based in Arlington, Virginia (close to Washington, DC – the lobbying capital of the country) that “advocates for science, discovery, and innovation to achieve better health for all.”  Their mission is to “gain public awareness of the benefits to humankind of medical research.”

But, does the public need to be made aware of the benefits of medical research?  Research America actually appears to be a lobbying group with a very specific agenda (they call themselves a membership organization but all members have to be approved by the Board of Directors) presenting itself as a non-profit, but what that specific agenda is remains unclear – and dues represent about 25% of revenue.

Research America has 32 voting members (board members) of its governing body (board of directors), of whom 31 are independent.  22 of the 32 (69%) board members are male while 10 of the 32 (31%) are male.

Research America is a very, very small non-profit that raised $4.4 million in 2020 (compared to $3.9 million in 2019) most of which came from three sources:  contributions, gifts, and grants ($2.4 million), membership dues ($1.4 million) which is unusual in a 501 (c) (3) because the organization is not a trade association or union , and the national forum ($0.6 million) – a 3-day virtual event in 2020..

Expenses total $3.7 million (84% of revenue) in 2020 which can be categorized as follows:

  • $2.8 million (64% of revenue):  Compensation
  • $0.4 million (9% of revenue):  Office-Related Expenses
  • $0.3 million (7% of revenue):  Fees for Services*
  • $0.1 million (2% of revenue):  Travel and Conferences
  • $0.1 million (2% of revenue):  Other Expenses

*These fees are primarily classified as “other fees” which appears to be for speakers at the annual forum.

As illustrated above, the largest expense is for compensation.  27 employees received $2.8 million in compensation, which equates to an average compensation of $104,000.  The most highly compensated employee is Mary Wooley, the CEO who received $549,872 in 2020 (note: Woolley has served as CEO since 1990)

At year-end 2020, Research America reported net assets of $3 million, compared to $2.2 million at year-end 2.2 million. The improvement is attributable to the organization spending nearly $800,000 less than revenue raised in 2020.

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

 $100:  Revenue

-$ 64:  Compensation

-$  9:  Office-Related Expenses

-$  7:  Fees for Services

-$  2:  Travel and Conferences

-$  2:  Other Expenses

-$ 84:  Total Expenses

 $ 16:  Remaining Revenue:  To General Fund

As illustrated above, revenue is primarily used to compensate staff and office-related expenses.

In summation, Research America has been around for about 30 years and is a very small membership organization whose board must approve members.  The organization currently raises about $4 million annually most of which is used to compensate employees (27 of them) and pay office-related expenses for what appears to be lobbying efforts to support medical research (note:  it is unclear exactly what type of medical research the organization supports).  Since 1989, Research America has only managed to accumulate $3 million in net assets.

To read the IRS Form 990 (2020), click here.

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