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November 21, 2022

Where Does $100 to the American Cancer Society Go (2020)

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 350 offices in all 50 states, Washington, DC, Guam and Puerto Rico.

There are 22 independent voting members of the governing body, 18 (82%) of whom are male and 4 (18%) who are female (Note:  the Form 990 does not report gender identity. The numbers are based on names and google searches).

In 2020, ACS reported total revenue of $576 million (compared to $720 million in 2019 and $770 million in 2018) most of which came from contributions, gifts, and grants ($533 million including $43 million in non-cash contributions – clothing, hotels, wigs, etc).

Expenses totaled $549 million (not including $15 million in depreciation) categorized as follows:

  • $290 million (50% of revenue):  Compensation
  • $ 95 million (16% of revenue):  Grants
  • $ 85 million (15% of revenue):  Office-Related Expenses
  • $ 36  million (6% of revenue):  Fees for Services (primarily fundraising and other)
  • $ 26  million (5% of revenue):  Advertising and Promotion
  • $ 11 million:  (2% of revenue):  Printing
  • $  5  million (1% of revenue):  Travel and Conferences
  • $  1 million (less than 1% of revenue):  Other Expenses

As illustrated above, compensation is the largest expense for the organization. 4,320 employees received $290 million in compensation which equates to an average compensation of $67,000.  The most highly compensated employee was Leonard Lichtenfeld who received $730,765 in 2020.

Grants at $85 million (compared to $164 million or 23% of revenue n 2019)  or 16% of revenue was the second largest expense. 348 grants greater than $5,000 were made – 312 to other non-profits and 36 to other organizations. The 14 largest grant recipients were reported to be:

  • $24 million:  ACS Cancer Action Network for program support
  • $ 3 million:  Ohio State University for research grant
  • $ 3 million:  Utah Southwestern Medical Center for research grant
  • $ 2 million:  Columbia University for research grant
  • $ 2 million:  Georgetown University for research grant
  • $ 2 million:  Mass General Hospital for research grant
  • $ 2 million:  Regents of University of Michigan for research grant
  • $ 2 million:  University of Chicago for research grant
  • $ 2 million:  University of Colorado for research grant
  • $ 2 million:  The Research Institute of Fox for research grant
  • $ 2 million:  The Cleveland Clinic Foundation for research grant
  • $ 2 million:  Stanford University for research grant
  • $ 2 million:  Northwestern University for research grant
  • $ 2 million:  Albert Einstein College of Medicine for research grant

In 2020, ACS received $26 million in non-cash contributions (most of which were clothing and household goods, publicly traded marketable securities, hotel stays, wigs) and made about $4 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 2020, how was that $100 spent? The short answer is that $50 was spent on compensation while $29 was spent on other office and organization expenses (including advertising) and $16 was spent on grants (primarily research).  The longer answer is:

$100:  Revenue

-$ 50:  Compensation

-$ 15:  Office-Related Expenses

-$  6:  Fees for Services (primarily fundraising and other)

-$  5:  Advertising and Promotion

-$  1:  Travel and Conventions

-$  2:  Printing

-$ 79:  Total Organization Expenses

 $ 21:  Remaining Revenue

-$ 16:  Grants

$  5:  Unspent Revenue:  To General Fund

As illustrated above, $79 of every $100 in revenue was spent on organization expenses while $16 out of every $100 was awarded in grants.  Note:  If depreciation ($15 million), non-cash contributions ($46 million) and non-cash grants ($4 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 $1.2 billion in net assets of which $750 million is restricted while $450 million is unrestricted.  Gains on the sale of assets totaled $27 million while investment income totaled $19 million.  A 4% return on $1.2 billion equates to $48 million which is interesting to note.

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

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