Special Olympics Has Had Gold Medal Fundraising

Special Olympics has been in the spotlight the past week over proposed federal funding cuts. Federal grant money is but a fraction of the funds raised each year by the national organization, which has some 51 affiliates.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was grilled about a proposed $18-million cut in federal grants to the Special Olympics during a House subcommittee hearing on the department’s $64-billion budget proposal last week.

Days after the subcommittee hearing and the ensuing brouhaha, President Donald Trump promised that Special Olympics would be fully funded and DeVos issued a statement. In response, Special Olympics  released a statement expressing gratitude for the restoration of funding.

It’s not the first time the Trump administration has proposed eliminating funding to Special Olympics – or other organizations. Presidents routinely present federal budget proposals that eliminate or drastically reduce or change funding but it’s Congress that ultimately has the power to approve the federal budget. In years past, some nonprofits have seen a bump in donations as a result of increased attention around proposed cuts.

Two years ago, Meals On Wheels received about 50 times the normal amount of donations and an almost 500-percent jump in volunteer sign-ups after the administration’s “Budget Blueprint” proposed a slew of cuts in discretionary spending, including elimination of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.

Special Olympics saw web traffic spike 200 percent between March 26-29 and three times the amount of social posts during that period, according to Kirsten Suto Seckler, chief brand and communications officer for Washington, D.C.-based national office. She did not have fundraising data immediately available to share but noted that the the organization is reviewing revenue streams, including its Accredited Programs.

This year’s budget also suggested drastically cutting appropriations to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Corporation of Public Broadcasting (CPB). The cuts would eliminate some $1 billion out of $4-trillion budget. Congress rejected a similar plan in the 2018 budget.

Messages seeking comment from the press office of Special Olympics in Washington, D.C. were not returned. The organization issued a statement expressing gratitude for the restoration of funding.

The national office of Special Olympics has seen government grants slowly increase since a brief decline five years ago, according to its federal tax information filings:

  • $11 million, 2013
  • $9.174 million, 2014
  • $10.489 million, 2015
  • $11.488 million, 2016
  • $15.461 million, 2017

Those numbers account for only the national office’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 990 and do not include 51 affiliates of Special Olympics. Still, government grants accounted for 8.5 percent of overall revenue at the national office last year.

During the past five years, the national office has reported increases in overall revenue, from $95.5 million in 2013 to $129.1 million in 2017. The only time revenue declined during the period was when it dipped from $110 million in 2015 to $104.5 million in 2016.

Special Olympics ranked No. 58 in the most recent NPT 100, a study of the largest nonprofits in the United States that derive at least 10 percent of their revenue from public support. Collectively, Special Olympics estimated revenue for its national office and 51 affiliates to be $330.8 million, with public support of $262.886 million. Government support accounted for $25 million of that total, roughly 7.5 percent. The NPT 100, published in November, included data for Fiscal Year End 2016 because Form 990 had not yet been filed for headquarters and some affiliates.

In its most recent Form 990 filing n November, the national office alone reported total revenue of $129.1 million for Fiscal Year Ending 2017, up from $104.5 million in the previous year. Government support accounted for $15.4 million, up from $11.4 million while all other contributions were up $100.5 million, up from $84.07 million in 2016.