Spring is in the air which means that the Southern Poverty Law Center is releasing its financial numbers for the previous year. This year is no exception and the first reports out of this venerable “non-profit” indicate that… wait for it… business has never been better.
According to the SPLC’s own bookkeepers, the SPLC’s bloated “Endowment Fund,” aka “The Morris Dees Legacy Fund” earned nearly $36 MILLION in tax-free interest in 2013. Don’t take our word for it. You do the math:
Here, let’s do the math together:
Let’s not be coy here, $35.8 MILLION is a sweet chunk o’ change for any outfit, especially for an alleged “non-profit.” This number does not include the $36,765,041 in tax-free donations the SPLC took in from well-meaning donors last year (roughly $4,200 every hour). In fact, last year’s $35.8 million is almost double what the bloated “legacy fund” generated in 2012.
So what exactly is the purpose of the “legacy fund”? According to the SPLC’s annual report, “The SPLC builds for the future by setting aside a certain amount of its income for an endowment, a practice begun in 1974 to plan for the day when nonprofits like the SPLC can no longer afford to solicit support through the mail because of rising postage and printing costs.”
Got that? The “legacy fund” was created to offset the costs of printing and mailing fundraising materials. Let’s take a closer look at those costs. First off, it’s pretty much a no-brainer that the advent of the Internet and email has greatly reduced the cost of sending a message to potential donors. Just ask the nearly-bankrupt U.S. Postal Service.
Next, let’s look at just how much of the SPLC’s annual budget goes toward fundraising. According to CharityNavigator.org, the white millionaires who run the SPLC spend about 31% of their annual budget on fundraising. For you donors, that means that for every $100 dollar check you send the SPLC, they spend $31 dollars getting you to send the next hundred dollar check.
For 2013, that 31% came to $12,379,629. Over all, the SPLC reports that its operating costs for 2013 were $39,678,300.
Subtract the SPLC’s fundraising costs from that and it cost them $27,298,671 to keep the doors open in 2013.
Subtract that $27 million from the $35.8 MILLION in interest the SPLC’s bloated “legacy fund” generated in 2013 and you’re left with a “non-profit” of $8,544,326.
If the purpose of the “legacy fund” is to generate funds in excess of annual operating costs it has achieved it’s goal in spades.
But the fundraising continues.
In 1995, SPLC founder Morris Dees promised his donors:
“The Law Center will continue to raise money until it reaches $100 million, Mr. Dees said. The charity could then operate off the interest from investments. “We believe that will make it so we won’t have to (stay) in this tough business of raising money to keep our programs going,” Mr. Dees said in a recent speech to a Montgomery civic club. In the meantime, Mr. Dees said he must raise money for current operating costs.”
In 2002, the SPLC’s “Endowment Fund” neared the $100 million mark, but the fundraising continued. By 2007, the fund had topped $200 million, but the fundraising continued. In fact, Mr. Dees has spent the last few years hiring several high-priced fundraising professionals “to join our growing major gifts team.”
Mr. Dees obviously has no intention of “living off the interest.” In 2013, the SPLC hired a new “Planned Giving Officer” tasked with the ghoulish job of getting the nearly-dead to sign over some of their assets to the SPLC. No wonder Mr. Dees calls it his “legacy fund.”
That same year, Mr. Dees advertised for a “Development Associate,” whose “primary job functions” included:
“Provides friendly and courteous customer service to SPLC’s best donors”
Really? Some SPLC donors are better than others? Those are Mr. Dees words, not ours. Our guess is your puny 3- and 4-digit donor checks don’t quite gain you access to the Winner’s Circle. What is it the guy said about “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth?”
It sure seems like Mr. Dees has every intention of staying in the “tough business” of gulling the gullible no matter how many tax-free millions his “legacy fund” generates.
Think about that the next time you cut a check to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Your donor dollars could do a whole lot more good closer to home. Do the math. We did.