According to financial documents posted on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s web site, the SPLC reported revenues of $31,046,000 for 2009. (All figures rounded to the nearest thousand dollars)
Of that total, more than $27 million came in the form of individual donations, mostly from elderly donors who have given to the SPLC for years. Since the SPLC is required by law to disclose its financial data, in order to keep its tax-exempt status, it might be interesting to see just where Grandma’s $100 dollar donation check really goes. (Left-click the chart for a larger image)
The numbers break down something like this:
$40 dollars go toward SPLC salaries
$15 dollars go toward fund-raising printing and postage costs
$10 dollars go toward the publication of “educational” materials (to be sold to local schools)
$3 dollars go to utilities, telephones, maintenance, etc.
$28 dollars go toward various and sundry expenses, such as travel costs, office supplies, “staff development,” etc.
And after all is said and done, about $4 dollars of Grandma’s $100 dollar donation, ($3.70 actually), goes toward “legal case expenses.”
(In 2008, the SPLC actually spent more on office supplies than on “legal case expenses.”)
Call me a skeptic, (and die-hard fans of the SPLC have called me much worse than that…), but shouldn’t the core business of a civil rights law center revolve around legal cases?
When tens of thousands of blue-haired Grannies send their $100 dollar checks to the SPLC, aren’t they doing so with the expectation that their hard-earned money will go toward “fighting hate” in the courts?
Do they even suspect that $15 dollars worth of that check is going to be used to ask them for the next $100 dollar check?
Do they get that same warm, fuzzy feeling over the thought that their contribution might pay for a laser jet ink cartridge, maybe two cases of printer paper, or roughly 40 minutes of SPLC founder, millionaire Morris Dees’ hourly salary?
The SPLC claims in its annual report that it “spent approximately 68% of its revenues on program expenses.” How this is possible when salaries and fund-raising costs alone eat up 55% of the budget is a mystery to me, but I guess a lot depends on one’s definition of “program expenses.”
As mentioned, a lot of people get upset when I quote the SPLC’s own financial data, but I’ve yet to find anyone who can claim that 3.7 cents on the donor-dollar is a good return on investment.