Skip to content

March 2, 2023

Where Does $100 to the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Go (2021)?

by Anne Paddock

The Zoological Society of San Diego is more popularly known, and does business as the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance (SDZWA).  A tax-exempt, non-profit conservation organization, SDZWA has been advertising in the Wall Street Journal trying to raise funds (total revenue dipped from $422 million in 2019 to $247 million in 2020  but then increased to $356 million in 2021).

There are 10 independent voting members (trustees) of the governing body (although 11 are listed on the Form 990 due to timing differences), 7 (64%) of whom are male while 4 (36%) are female (note:  The 990 does not report gender; determinations were made based on name and google searches).

In 2021, total revenue was $356 million, most of which came from the “zoological habitat” which appears to be the San Diego Zoo ($230 million), contributions, gifts, and grants ($47 million), and government grants ($32 million).

Expenses totaled $272 million (not including $33 million in depreciation) in 2021 with expenses categorized as follows:

  • $165 million (46% of revenue):  Compensation
  • $ 25 million (7% of revenue):  Office-Related Expenses
  • $ 22 million (6% of revenue):  Operating Supplies and Forage
  • $ 20 million (6% of revenue):  Consultants and Fees for Services
  • $ 14 million (4% of revenue):  Advertising and Promotion
  • $ 13 million (4% of revenue):  Cost of Goods Sold*
  • $ 10 million (3% of revenue):  Other Expenses (i.e. interest, travel and conferences, etc)
  • $  3 million (1% of revenue):  Grants

“*” Cost of Goods Sold is listed in 2 places:  On the revenue side of the income statement where the organization reported gross sales of inventory ($35 million) less cost of goods sold ($13 million) for a net income of $22 million (reported as revenue); and on the expense side of the income statement where $13 million is expensed again resulting in what appears to be an error in expensing cost of goods sold twice.

SDZWA does not award a large portion of revenue in grants. In fact, grants is the smallest expense for the organization.   $3 million in grants were awarded in 2021, $1.8 million of which were domestic to 22 other non-profits and 1 for-profit organization (although 2 organizations:  The Nature Conservancy and the Audubon Nature Institute received the majority of grant funds).

As illustrated above, compensation is the largest expense for SDZWA.  4,309 employees received $165 million in compensation (an average of $38,000).  91 employees received more than $100,000 in compensation with the most highly compensated employee, Paul Baribault, the President and CEO receiving $1,018,648.

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

 $100:  Revenue

-$ 46:  Compensation

-$  7:  Office-Related Expenses

-$  6:  Operating Supplies and Forage

-$  6:  Consultants and Fees for Services

-$  4:  Advertising and Promotion

-$  4:  Cost of Goods Sold*

-$  3:  Other Expenses

-$  1:  Grants

-$ 77:  Total Expenses

  $ 23:  Remaining Revenue:  To General Fund

As illustrated above, SDZWA spent $77 out of every $100 on expenses (primarily compensation, office, operating supplies, and fees for outside services including consultants).

At the beginning of the year, SDZWA had $561 million in net assets. After adding unspent revenue, unrealized gains on investments, and changes in net assets (primarily pension related changes), SDZWA had $691 million in net assets at year-end.

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Note: HTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to comments

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: