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March 18, 2023

How Revenue is Spent at the Robin Hood Foundation(2021)

by Anne Paddock

The Robin Hood Foundation (RHF) is not a “rob from the rich, give to the poor” organization although RHF is known for having a wealthy Board of Directors who financially support the organization so that donations can be used to help alleviate poverty in New York City. How does RHF do this?  Primarily by providing grants to other non-profits who provide food, shelter and health services along with education so that people can lift themselves out of poverty.

In a sense, RHF is a “United Way” for non-profits in New York City whose focus is on poverty. They solicit grants, screen the organizations, and disburse donations in the form of grants. Unlike United Way, the RHF states “100% of your donation goes directly to our community partners” on the front page of their website ( because “our board pays for all administrative costs.”  That’s an amazing claim, especially for donors who are interested in their dollars going as far as possible to help alleviate poverty in a city where 1 in 5 people are estimated to live in poverty.

Key facts about RHF are summarized as follows, as obtained by the IRS Form 990 (2021):

RHF raised $140 million (compared to $201 million in 2020) and reported $205 million in expenses ($172 million in grants and $33 million in expenses) in 2021 – experiencing a $65 million shortfall which was covered because the organization had $315 million in net assets and had the resources for the shortfall.

RHF awarded $172 million in grants (432 grants were greater than $5,000) to other non-profits.  The 20 largest grant recipients for poverty relief were:

  • $3.6 million:  Research Foundation of City University of New York
  • $2.7 million:  Research Foundation of City University CUNY
  • $2.7 million:  Montefiore Medical Center
  • $2.5 million:  Chinese American Planning Council
  • $2.5 million:  Trustees of Columbia University
  • $2.5 million:  Fund for the City of New York
  • $2.4 million:  Enterprise Community Partners
  • $2.3 million:  New York Disaster Interfaith
  • $2.2 million:  Children’s Aid Society
  • $2.2 million:  Harlem Children’s Zone
  • $2.2 million:  KIPP New York
  • $2.1 million:  Immigrant Justice Corp
  • $2.1 million:  Benefits Data Trust
  • $2.1 million:  Bronx Defenders
  • $2.1 million:  Fund for Public Health
  • $2.1 million:  Yale University (New Haven, CT)
  • $2.0 million:  Good Shepherd Services
  • $2.0 million:  JOBSFIRSTNYC
  • $2.0 million:  SCO Family of Services
  • $2.0 million:  Uncommon Schools

All of the grants listed above were for “poverty relief.”  Given that Columbia University has $14 billion in an endowment, it is unclear why RAF gave Columbia University a $2.5 million grant for poverty relief (and $2.4 million in 2020).  CUNY was awarded two grants greater than $2 million, totaling $6.3 million although they have an endowment of $300 million.

Operating costs were $33 million, most of which were compensation ($22 million), office-related expenses ($5 million) and fees ($5 million and described as “other” with no detail provided).

There are 162 employees who were compensated $22 million, which equates to an average compensation of $136,000 each. However, 75 individuals received more than $100,000 in compensation with the most highly compensated employee the CEO, Wes Moore who received $680,079, (thru 7/21).

There are 39 directors on the RHF according to the Form 990 (although the website shows there are 41 directors (which appears to be due to timing differences). If the 39 directors covered the $33 million in operating costs, each would have made a financial contribution of $850,000 in 2021. The IRS Form 990 does not detail contributions so individual contributions are not verifiable.

At the beginning of the year, RHF had $315 million in net fund assets. After adjusting for $65 million in excess expenses over revenue and adjusting for $6 million in unrealized gains and changes in assets, the net asset fund balance was $256 million at year-end. These assets are concentrated in cash, securities, and receivables.

With more than $250 million in net assets, the question that arises is:  How did the RHF accumulate this nest egg if “100% of your donation goes to our community partners?” The answer can only be from other sources (i.e. directors) or if someone endowed the organization, or if in some years the organization didn’t spend as much as they raised (in 2019, RHF spent $12 million less than they raised; in 2012 the organization raised $217 million and spent $157 million, adding $60 million to the net fund assets, and in 2015 the organization raised $185 million and spent $157 million, adding $28 million to the net fund assets).  But, again, the IRS 990 (2021) and the audited financial statements do not tell the whole story. At the end of the day, RHF still has a sizable piggy bank for a variety of reasons

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

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