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December 7, 2022

Where Does $100 to Samaritan’s Purse Go (2021)?

by Anne Paddock

Samaritan’s Purse is a tax-exempt, non-profit 501 (c) (3) established in 1970 by Bob Pierce who died in 1978. W. Franklin Graham (son of Billy Graham) became Chairman, President, and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse in 1979 and has held the position since although he is also an evangelist for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Based in Boone, North Carolina, Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational Christian organization that provides “spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world.” How do they do this? Primarily through grants (i.e. transporting shoebox gifts:  a box filled with toys, supplies, and hygiene items) which for the past several years averaged 40% of revenue although in 2020 and 2021, the percentage was lower at 28%  and 27%, respectively because Samaritan’s Purse focused on building up net assets and to do this they spent significantly less than they collected:  Samaritan’s Purse only spent $72 out of every $100 raised in 2020 and $67 out of $100 raised in 2021. In actual dollars, Samaritan’s Purse raised about $1 billion (including non-cash contributions), spent less than $700 million, putting about $300 million into savings in 2021 (and $225 million in savings in 2020, which means in 2 years, Samaritan’s purse put more than $525 million, or more than a half billion dollars into savings).

In 2021, Samaritan’s Purse reported total revenue of $1 billion (compared to $894 million in 2020, $734 million in 2019, and $700 million in 2018) most of which came from cash contributions ($689 million), non-cash contributions ($255 million) and government grants ($52 million). Non-cash contributions were primarily shoe box items.

Expenses totaled $677 million (not including $29 million in depreciation) – 67% of revenue – and can be categorized as follows:

  • $269 million (27% of total revenue):  Grants (primarily shoebox gifts)
  • $181 million (18% of total revenue):  Compensation
  • $ 48  million (5% of total revenue):  Project Materials
  • $ 46   million (4% of total revenue):  Office-Related Expenses
  • $ 35 million (3% of total revenue):  Travel and Conferences
  • $ 27  million (3% of total revenue):  Transport Relief Materials
  • $ 14 million (1% of total revenue):  Construction Program Materials
  • $ 19  million (2% of total revenue):  Fees for Outside Services
  • $ 19 million (2% of total revenue):  Advertising and Promotion
  • $ 11  million (1% of total revenue):  Bible Materials
  • $  8   million (1% of total revenue):  Other Expenses

As illustrated above the two largest expenses are grants (primarily shoebox gifts) and compensation for the 4,234 employees who received an average compensation of $43,000. The most highly compensated employee was William Franklin Graham, the Chairman, President and CEO who received $740,704.

It is important to point out that a significant portion of revenue ($255 million) were non-cash contributions – of which the largest non-cash contributions were shoe box items ($237 million).  Accordingly, the largest expense was non-cash  grants ($230 million of the $269 million in grants) – again, primarily shoe boxes filled with the donated items.  So, if you’re trying to determine how a $100 cash contribution was spent, you may want to exclude most of the non-cash contributions (note:  publicly traded stocks converted to cash should be included since these were readily converted to cash) and non-cash grants. In other words,

  • Revenue would be adjusted by $240 million from $1 billion to $760 million to reflect the exclusion of non-cash revenue (that was collected for distribution); and
  • Expenses would be adjusted by $230 million from $677 million to $447 million to reflect the $230 million in non-cash grants.

One of the reasons to do this is because non-cash revenue and non-cash expenses are relatively close in size which means the organization is collecting items (that are recognized as revenue) to distribute (as non-cash grants).

Samaritan’s Purse received about $240 million in non-cash contributions for shoe box gifts, food, and medicine (not including publicly traded marketable securities), while the organization made non-cash grants of $230 million. So, if you donated shoe box items, food, or medicine, those items were distributed via grants. But, what this also indicates is that cash contributions made to Samaritan’s Purse were primarily spent on expenses outside of grants – compensation, office-related expenses, fees, project materials, advertising, etc) or added to savings.

Using the above assumptions, cash expenses of $447 million would be classified as follows (based on cash revenue and the exclusion of illiquid non-cash contribution):

  • $ 39 million (5% of cash revenue):  Cash Grants
  • $181 million (24% of cash revenue):  Compensation
  • $ 35 million (5% of cash revenue):  Travel and Conferences
  • $ 48 million (6% of cash revenue):  Project Materials
  • $ 46 million (6% of cash revenue):  Office-Related Expenses
  • $ 14 million (2% of cash revenue):  Construction Program Materials
  • $ 27 million (3% of cash revenue):  Transport Relief Materials
  • $ 19 million (3% of cash revenue):  Fees for Outside Services
  • $ 19 million (3% of cash revenue):  Advertising and Promotion
  • $ 11  million (1% of cash revenue):  Bible Materials
  • $  8 million (1% of cash revenue):  Other Expenses

Of the $760 million in cash revenue collected, $447 million (59%) was spent on organization expenses with the largest expense reported to be compensation ($181 million).  More than $300 million or 41% of cash revenue was not spent and added to savings.

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

 $100:  Revenue

-$  5:  Cash Grants

-$  6:  Project Materials

-$  2:  Construction Program Materials

-$  3:  Transport Relief Materials

-$  1:  Bible Materials

-$ 17: Subtotal:  Grants and Materials

 $ 83:  Revenue Remaining

-$ 24:  Compensation

-$  5:  Travel and Conferences

-$  6:  Office-Related Expenses

-$  3:  Fees for Outside Services

-$  3:  Advertising and Promotion

-$  1:  Other Expenses

-$ 42: Subtotal: Organization Expenses

 $  41:  Unspent Revenue:  To General Assets 

As illustrated above, Samaritan’s Purse spent $59 out of every $100 received with $17 spent on grants (primarily shoebox gifts) and materials. $42 out of every $100 was spent on organization expenses leaving $41 unspent and allocated to the general fund.

It is also important to note that transportation costs ($34 million out of the $35 million) are what they are because the “ministry” owns an estimated 19 aircraft (including 2 helicopters) and uses these vehicles to deliver the shoeboxes and people to conduct their missionary work.  It is unclear if transportation costs would be lower if Samaritan’s Purse did not own their own vehicles and instead used outside charter services.

What is particularly interesting in 2021 is the amount of money that was left unspent.  More than $300 million was not spent in 2021 (and in 2020, $224 million was unspent). This appears to be because the organization decided to strengthen their balance sheet by adding these funds to the general assets causing net assets to increase from $702 million in 2019 to $924 million in 2020 to $1.2 billion in net assets in 2021.

To read the IRS Form 990 (2021), click here.

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