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January 15, 2022

How Revenue is Spent at the Robin Hood Foundation (2020)

by Anne Paddock

The Robin Hood Foundation (RHF) is not a “rob from the rich, give to the poor” organization although RHF is known for having a wealthy Board of Directors who financially support the organization so that donations can be used to help alleviate poverty in New York City. How does RHF do this?  Primarily by providing grants to other non-profits who provide food, shelter and health services along with education so that people can lift themselves out of poverty.

In a sense, RHF is a “United Way” for non-profits in New York City whose focus is on poverty. They solicit grants, screen the organizations, and disburse donations in the form of grants. Unlike United Way, the RHF states “100% of your donation goes directly to our community partners” on the front page of their website (www.robinhood.org) because “Robin Hood’s Board of Directors underwrites all operating costs.” That’s an amazing claim, especially for donors who are interested in their dollars going as far as possible to help alleviate poverty in a city where 1 in 5 people are estimated to live in poverty.

Key facts about RHF are summarized as follows, as obtained by the IRS Form 990 (2020):

RHF raised $201 million (including $10 million in government grants) and had $202 million in expenses ($171 million in grants and $31 million in expenses) in 2020.

RHF awarded $171 million in grants (666 grants were greater than $5,000) to other non-profits.  The 17 largest grant recipients were:

  • $7,181,780:  Mayor’s Fund to Advance NY, of New York, NY for general assistance
  • $4,265,000:  Benefits Data Trust, of Philadelphia, PA for general assistance
  • $3,285,500:  New York Disaster Interfaith, of New York, NY for general assistance
  • $2,968,500:  SCO Family of Services, of Glen Cove, NY for general assistance
  • $2,915,000:  Urban Justice Center, of New York, NY for general assistance
  • $2,852,000:  Children’s Aid Society, of New York, NY for general assistance
  • $2,600,000:  KIPP New York, of New York, NY for general assistance
  • $2,567,457:  Fund for the City of New York, of New York, NY for general assistance
  • $2,540,000:  Center for Urban Community, of New York, NY for general assistance
  • $2,465,000:  Harlem Children’s Zone, of New York, NY for general assistance
  • $2,401,320:  Trustees of Columbia University, of New York, NY for general assistance
  • $2,343,750:  Montefiore Medical Center, of Bronx, NY for general assistance
  • $2,266,000:  LEAP, of Brooklyn, NY for general assistance
  • $2,230,000:  Good Shepherd Services, of New York, NY for general assistance
  • $2,210,000:  Research Foundation of City Univ CUNY of NY, NY for general assistance
  • $2,133,000:  Research Foundation of City Univ Ace Program, of NY, NY for general assistance
  • $2,050,000:  Achievement First, of New Haven, CT for general assistance

All of the grants listed above were for “general assistance.”  Given that Columbia University has more than $14 billion in an endowment, it is unclear why RAF gave Columbia University a $2.4 million grant for general assistance.  CUNY was awarded two grants greater than $2 million, totaling more than $4.3 million although they have an endowment of almost $300 million.

Operating costs were $31 million, most of which were compensation ($22 million) and office-related expenses ($5 million).

There are 133 employees who were compensated $22 million, which equates to an average compensation of $165,400 each. However, 60 individuals received more than $100,000 in compensation with the most highly compensated employee the CEO, Wes Moore who received $999,729 in compensation.

There are 39 directors on the RHF according to the Form 990 (although the website shows there are 40 directors and 19 Emeritus Board members). If the 39 directors covered the $31 million in operating costs, each would have made a financial contribution of $800,000 each. If both the directors and the members of the Emeritus Board made contributions, then the 58 individuals made financial contributions of $535,000 each.  The IRS Form 990 does not detail contributions so individual contributions are not verifiable.

At the beginning of the year, RHF had $297 million in net fund assets. With nearly $20 million of unrealized gains on assets, the net fund asset balance was $315 million at year-end. These assets are concentrated in cash, securities, and receivables.

With more than $300 million in net assets, the question that arises is:  How did the RHF accumulate this nest egg if “100% of your donation goes to our community partners?” The answer can only be from other sources (i.e. directors) or if someone endowed the organization, or if in some years the organization didn’t spend as much as they raised (in 2019, RHF spent $12 million less than they raised; in 2012 the organization raised $217 million and spent $157 million, adding $60 million to the net fund assets, and in 2015 the organization raised $185 million and spent $157 million, adding $28 million to the net fund assets).  But, again, the IRS 990 (2020) and the audited financial statements do not tell the whole story. At the end of the day, RHF still has a sizable piggy bank.

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

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