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March 8, 2023

Where Does $100 to the ASPCA Go (2021)?

by Anne Paddock

If you donated $100 to the ASPCA in 2021 and want to know how your donation was spent, know:

  • $46 went to pay staff, office-related expenses, travel and conferences.
  • $23 went to pay advertising and promotion and fees for outside services, including professional fundraisers.
  • $6 out of every $100 was spent on veterinary services, operating supplies, and grants to other non-profits whose mission is to help protect animals.
  • $2 out of every $100 was spent on miscellaneous expenses leaving $23 unspent and allocated to the organization’s general fund (which had more than $500 million at year-end).

The ASPCA is one of the most widely recognized non-profits focused on animal welfare in the country. Founded in 1866, the ASPCA has been around for more than 150 years.  As is the case with most non-profits, the issue isn’t whether the ASPCA does good things (they do) but  whether they could do more or better with the public support they receive (they could).

In the most general terms, the ASPCA raises $400 million annually and has more than $500 million in net assets (yes, a half billion dollars). The organization has about 1,200 employees and counts compensation for these employees ($115 million) as its single largest expense.

The Form 990 (2021) submitted to the IRS reports the ASPCA raised $390 million (compared to $325 million in 2020, $279 million in 2019, and $268 million in 2018), most of which ($351 million or 90%) came from contributions, gifts, and grants.

Expenses totaled $302 million (including $6 million in depreciation) leaving $88 million added to the general fund that had a year-end balance of $508 million (compared to $407 million in 2020)  (note: the organization reported $11 million in net unrealized gains on investments and $2 million in changes in assets in 2021 which contributed to the increase in net assets).

Expenses can be viewed two ways:  by broad general category (i.e. grants, program services, management and general expenses, and fundraising) or by specific line item categories (i.e. compensation, office-related, travel and conferences, fees for services, grants, etc). Each is beneficial with the latter approach providing more detail on how revenue was spent.

Expenses by Broad General Category

The $302 million in expenses were categorized as follows:

  • $217 million (56% of revenue):  Program Services
  • $ 60  million (15% of revenue):  Fundraising
  • $ 15  million (4% of revenue):  Management and General Expenses
  • $ 10  million (2% of revenue):  Grants

As illustrated above, program services used 56% of revenue while fundraising, management, and general expenses used 19% of revenue. Grants – $10 million or just 2% of revenue – were to domestic animal welfare organizations. The ASPCA made  grants larger than $5,000 to 182 non-profit 501 (c) (3)’s and  8 to other organizations. In total, the ASPCA spent $77 out of every $100 on expenses with the remaining 23% allocated to the general fund.

Most grants were to other animal organizations who provide spay/neuter services, live release services, equine services, relocation services, anti-cruelty campaigns. The 12 largest grant recipients were:

  • $750,000:  Denver Dumb Friends League (CO)
  • $700,000:  Animal Care Center of NYC
  • $260,000:  Dogs Playing for Life (CO)
  • $250,000:  NYC Police Department (NY)
  • $200,000:  Fixnation, Inc. (CA)
  • $200,000:  Food Bank of NYC (NY)
  • $170,000:  LA County Animal Care (CA)
  • $160,918:  Mohawk and Hudson River Humane Society (NY)
  • $160,000:  Mercy for Animals (CA)
  • $150,000:  LA Regional Food Bank (CA)
  • $150,000:  Stand For Animals (NC)
  • $149,800:  Animal Rescue League of Iowa (IA)

Expenses by Specific Line Item Category

The $302 million in expenses (77% of revenue) were categorized as follows:

  • $115 million (29% of revenue): Compensation
  • $ 63  million (16% of revenue):  Office-Related Expenses
  • $ 57  million (15% of revenue):  Advertising/Promotion (does not include fundraiser fees)
  • $ 33 million (8% of revenue):  Fees for Services (non-employee)
  • $ 11 million (3% of revenue):  Veterinary and Medical Services/Operating Supplies
  • $ 10  million (3% of revenue):  Grants
  • $   7 million (2% of revenue):  Miscellaneous and Other Expenses
  • $   6 million (1% of revenue):  Travel and Conferences

Compensation is the largest expense for the ASPCA with $115 million in compensation provided to 1,279 employees, making the average compensation $90,000.  The most highly compensated employee was the President and CEO, Mathew Bershadker who received $990,525.

Advertising and Promotion is the third largest expense at $57 million (and does not include fees paid to professional fundraisers). $33 million was spent on fees for services with 121 organizations receiving more than $100,000 in compensation.  The five largest recipients were reported to be:

  • $30 million:  Eagle-Com, Inc, of Toronto, Canada for media broadcast
  • $14 million:  Laughlin Constable, Inc, of Milwaukee, WI for digital media
  • $14 million:  Ascenta Group, of NY, NY for “donor engagement”
  • $12 million:  Edge Direct, of Baltimore, MD for “donor engagement”
  • $ 4 million:  Patton Kiehl, of Woodford, VA for “donor engagement”

As illustrated above, the ASPCA spent $74 million on advertising and fundraising with just the 5 most highly compensated independent organizations.

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

$100:  Revenue

-$ 29:  Compensation

-$ 15:  Advertising and Promotion

-$ 16:  Office-Related Expenses

-$  8:  Fees for Services

-$  1:  Travel and Conferences

-$  2:  Miscellaneous Expenses

-$ 71:  Subtotal: Compensation, Advertising, Office, Fees for Services, Travel and Misc

 $ 29:  Revenue Remaining

-$  3:  Grants

-$  3:  Veterinary Services and Operating Supplies

-$  6: Subtotal:  Grants and Veterinary Services and Operating Supplies

 $ 23:  Revenue Remaining:  To General Fund

As illustrated above, $46 out of every $100 was used to compensate employees, pay office-related expenses, travel and conferences.  An additional $23 was used to pay for advertising and promotion and fees for outside services.  $6 out of every $100 went towards grants and veterinary services and operating supplies.  The ASPCA spent more on advertising and promotion ($15 out of every $100) than on grants, veterinary services, and operating supplies ($6 out of every $100). And, the ASPCA in 2021 spent less on grants/veterinary services and operating supplies ($21 million) than they put ($88 million) in the general fund (which already had more than $400 million).

A Note on Fundraisers

The ASPCA raises funds by mail, e-mail, internet, and phone solicitations. In addition, the organization also uses in-person solicitation, solicits for grants (non-gov’t and gov’t), and holds special fundraising events. The 5 highest paid fundraisers in 2021 were reported to be:

  • SD&A Teleservices raised $7.3 million, retained $1.2 million, netting the ASPCA $6.1 million
  • Ascenta Group raised $11 million, was paid $13 million, costing the ASCA $2 million
  • New Canvassing Experience raised $2.5 million, was paid $2.55 million, costing the ASPCA $45,000
  • Knewsales Group, Inc. raised $1.8 million, was paid $2.1 million, costingthe ASPCA $300,000
  • 3Sixty, of Brooklyn NY raised $240,000, was paid $360,000, costing the ASPCA $120,000

If you want your donation to go further, DO NOT respond to telemarketers; give directly to an organization, but you may also want to ask yourself if the ASPCA is spending enough on animal welfare?

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

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