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February 28, 2023

Actors Equity Association: How Membership Dues are Spent

by Anne Paddock

The Actors Equity Association (Actors Equity) is a tax-exempt, non-profit labor union (a 501 (c) (5)) representing those who work (i.e. actors, stage managers) in live theatrical performance.  

Headquartered in New York City, Actors Equity also has office in Chicago, North Hollywood, and Orlando that represent an estimated 51,000 workers.  There are 85 independent voting members (Councillors) of the governing body; an estimated 51 (60%) of whom are female while 34 (40%) are male.

In 2020, Actors Equity reported total revenue of $26 million (compared to $25 million in 2019) most of which came from four sources:  membership dues ($20 million), initiation fees ($4 million), and investment income, gains, rents, assessments, fines and fees ($2 million).  

As indicated above, the primary source of income for Actors Equity is membership dues.  An estimated 51,000 members paid $20 million in dues, which equates to an average of $400 per member.  It is important to point out that membership dues vary and can be basic (at about $200 annually) to 2.5% of gross income ($2,500 for an annual gross income of $100,000).

Expenses totaled $25 million in 2020, categorized as follows:

  • $16 million (62% of revenue):  Compensation
  • $ 6 million (23% of revenue):  Office-Related Expenses
  • $ 1 million (4% of revenue):  Fees for Services
  • $ 1 million (4% of revenue):  Representative and Other Expenses
  • $ 1 million (4% of revenue):  Grants (Primarily to the Actors Fund of America for operating expenses)

Compensation is the largest expense.  216 employees received $16 million in compensation, which equates to an average compensation of $74,000.  18 employees received more than $100,000 in compensation with the most highly compensated employee reported to be Mary McColl, the Executive Director who received $502,299 in 2020.  

As illustrated above, 85% of revenue was spent on compensation and office-related expenses.  Using the above information, every $100 in revenue was spent as follows:

 $100:  Revenue

-$ 62:  Compensation

-$ 23:  Office-Related Expenses

-$  4:  Fees for Services

-$  4:  Representative and Other Expenses

-$  4:  Grants (Primarily to the Actor’s Fund of America)

-$ 97:  Total Expenses

  $  3:  Revenue Remaining:  To General Fund

So, if members want to know where their membership dollars are going, the answer is primarily to compensating employees and paying for office-related expenses.

To read the IRS Form 990 (2019 for the year ending March 31, 2020), click here.

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