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November 8, 2021

Where Does $100 to the World Wildlife Fund Go (2020)?

by Anne Paddock

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is considered by many to be the leading conservation organization in the world. Established nearly 60 years ago in 1960, the WWF is based in Washington, DC but operates all over the world (in more than 100 countries).

There are 23 voting members (directors) on the governing body (board of directors), 22 of whom are independent.  The Form 990 (2019) lists 25 board members (which appears to be due to timing differences), 15 (60%) of whom are male while 10 (40%) are female (note: the form 990 does not report gender identity. Conclusions were made based on name and google searches).

The most recent IRS Form 990 (2019) reports financial information about the organization for the year beginning July 1, 2019 and ending June 30, 2020 (hereafter referred to as 2020).  A 501 (c) (3), WWF reports the following information on revenue, expenses, grants, assets, liabilities, and the organization’s net fund balance.

REVENUE

In 2020, total revenue was $286 million (compared to $250 million in 2019 and $257 million in 2018) from the following sources:

  • $226 million:  Contributions, Gifts, and Grants
  • $ 45 million:  Government Grants
  • $ 15 million:  Investment Income, Gains, and Royalties

EXPENSES

In 2020, WWF reported spending $267 million – approximately $19 million less than they raised. There are two ways to look at expenses: by broad general category (program expenses, grants, management, and fundraising) and by specific line item expense, with the latter providing more specific detail on expenses.

Expenses by Broad General Category

$267 million in expenses were spent in the following four (4) categories:

  • $136 million (or 48% of revenue):  Program Expenses
  • $ 70 million (or 24% of revenue):  Grants
  • $ 40 million (or 14% of revenue):  Fundraising
  • $ 21 million (or 7% of revenue):  Management Expenses

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

$100:  Revenue

-$ 48:  Program Expenses

-$ 24:  Grants

-$72:  Subtotal: Program Services and Grants

$ 28:  Amount Remaining

-$ 14:  Fundraising

-$  7:  Management

-$ 21: Subtotal of Fundraising and Management

$  7:  Unspent Revenue:  To General Fund

As illustrated above, WWF spent $93 for every $100 in revenue received with the unspent revenue allocated to the general fund.

At year-end, the WWF had $386 million in net assets (compared to $375 million at the beginning of the year with the difference due to unspent revenue mitigated primarily by unrealizable losses on investments.

Expenses by Specific Line Item Category

$267 million in expenses were spent in the following line item categories:

  • $102  million (36% of revenue) :  Compensation-related Expenses
  • $ 70 million (24% of revenue):  Grants
  • $ 37  million (13% of revenue): Office-related Expenses
  • $ 26  million (9% of revenue):  Fees for Services (primarily other)
  • $ 12  million (4% of revenue):  Other Expenses (royalties, int, dep, and other)
  • $  8 million (3% of revenue):  Travel and Conferences
  • $  6 million (2% of revenue):  Dues
  • $  6 million (2% of revenue):  Advertising and Promotion

It is important to note that of the $26 million in fees paid to outside providers, $19 million is not detailed. In addition, $2.8 million in other expenses are not detailed.

As illustrated above, the largest expense for WWF is compensation-related costs. 677 employees received $102 million in compensation, which equates to an average compensation of $151,000. However, only 264 employees received more than $100,000 in compensation with the most highly compensated reported to be Carter Roberts, the President and CEO who received $1,093,349 in compensation.

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

$100:  Revenue

-$ 36:  Compensation-related Expenses

-$ 13:  Office-related Expenses

-$  9:  Fees for Services

-$  3:  Travel and Conferences

-$  4:  Other Expenses

-$  2:  Dues

-$  2:  Advertising and Promotion

-$ 69: Subtotal Expenses

 $ 31:  Amount Remaining

-$ 24:  Grants

-$  7:  Unspent Revenue:  To General Fund

As illustrated above, WWF spent $69 out of every $100 on staff, office, fees for services, travel and conferences, other expenses, dues, and advertising and promotion. $24 out of every $100 was spent on grants.

GRANTS

WWF is both a recipient of grants from the government and a grantor of grants, primarily to overseas organizations. In 2020, WWF was awarded $45 million in government grants and provided $70 million in grants, $3 million to domestic organizations and individuals, and $67 million to overseas organizations.

With 32 offices (and 651 employees) in regional offices overseas (primarily in South America and South Asia), WWF’s focus is clearly overseas (258 grants greater than $5,000 and totaling $67 million were to organizations overseas) with conservation grants concentrated in the eight (8) regions:

  • $10 million:  Sub Sahara Africa
  • $20 million:  South America
  • $13 million:  East Asia and the Pacific
  • $13 million:  Europe
  • $ 7 million:  South Asia
  • $ 2 million:  North America
  • $ 1 million:  Central America
  • $ 1 million:  Russia

Grants to domestic organizations totaled $3 million (41 grants were greater than $5,000 to other non-profits) with the following organizations the recipients of the ten largest grants:

  • $784,464:  Cooperative for Assist and Relief (CARE)
  • $355,000:  World Resources Institute
  • $270,000:  Rosebud Economic Development Corp
  • $205,894:  Florida International University
  • $151,158:  George Mason University
  • $140,000:  Global Wildlife Conservation
  • $132,787:  Stanford University
  • $113,779:  Non-Profit Enterprise & Self Sustainability
  • $106,823:  University of MInnesota
  • $ 89,946:  Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences

ASSETS

Assets totaled $507 million at year-end with concentrations in five areas:

  • $222 million:  Securities (of which $124 million is in partnerships)
  • $ 84  million:  Accounts Receivable
  • $ 78  million:  Land, Buildings, and Equipment
  • $ 65  million:  Cash
  • $ 44  million:  Grants Receivable

LIABILITIES

Liabilities totaled $121 million at year-end with the largest three liabilities:

  • $ 46 million:  Secured Notes Payable
  • $ 18 million:  Grants Payable
  • $ 35 million:  Accounts Payable

NET FUND ASSETS

At year-end, WWF had $386 million in net fund assets, an increase of $11 million from the previous year ($375 million) which is primarily due to spending less than they received.

Of the $348 million in net fund assets, $156 million was unrestricted while $230 million was restricted.

SUMMARY

The WWF – a tax-exempt, non-profit based in Washington, DC is one of the leading conservation organizations in the world.  They organization raises $250-$300 million annually (including about $50 million from the government) and spends about 70% of revenue on compensation and organization expenses and about 25% on grants, primarily overseas.  Another way to look at the organization is that they spend about 20% on fundraising and general expenses, 50% of programs, and about 25% on grants.

With nearly $400 million in net assets, the WWF has significant resources to participate in worldwide conservation efforts.

To read the IRS Form 990 (2019 for the year ending June 30, 2020), click here.

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