Covid Sparks Mental Health Donations: NAMI Benefits With $5.6 Million Jump In Gross Receipts

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(4-11-22) When it comes to fund raising, the National Alliance on Mental Illness continues to financially dominate its rivals. It raises millions more and spends more. It had an extremely lucrative year in 2020 generating $5.6 million more in gross receipts than it had during 2019. (The most recent IRS Form 990s on file are from 2020, according to Guidestar, which posts them free of charge.) 

The Arlington-based group’s tax forms show that NAMI’s total gross receipts (money it brought in) totaled $27.5 million compared to $21.9 million during the previous year.

Now, let’s look at NAMI’s total assets.

NAMI’s total assets ballooned from $19.4 million to a whooping $39.8 million – almost doubling in 2020. (Part of this increase was because NAMI was required to make an accounting change in 2020 that required it to value its lease on its new Arlington headquarters. It also received a PPP loan in 2020 from the federal government worth $1.5 million, which was a one time shot in its financial arm.) When you include those factors and deduct NAMI’s yearly expenses (liabilities of $14.1 million), NAMI ended 2020 with total assets of $25.7 million on its books.

What do these two sets of numbers mean? Simply put, NAMI brought in $5.6 million more in revenue (donations, fees, etc.) in 2020 and its overall worth as a non-profit organization increased by $8.3 million.

Reducing Dependency On Big Pharma

In the past, NAMI has been heavily criticized for its financial dependency on contributions from health care companies and Big Pharma. A 2009 New York Times article estimated NAMI received about three-quarters of its funding from such sources. Although it hasn’t been widely reported, NAMI has significantly reduced its dependency since 2009 to about 9.1 percent of its total funding. It has done this  by bringing in other revenues, such as NAMIWalks fees. To its credit, NAMI lists the names of its corporate and foundation donors on its website.

Reduced fees and upped grants

The only noteworthy loss in NAMI’s balance sheet was in the amount of income it generates from its various programs. In 2019, NAMI earned $2 million from fees that it charged. In 2020, those earnings fell by more than 50% to less than a million.

But this was a choice by NAMI national.

It suspended the fees it normally earns from NAMIWalks programs, choosing to allow local chapters to keep those revenues to help lessen declines caused by NAMIWalks events going virtual.  NAMI also waived the registration fees it normally charges to attend its NAMI Convention because it also was held virtually due to Covid.

NAMI also distributed more in grants that it gave to its State and Affiliate organizations to help offset their losses from COVID. In 2019, NAMI distributed $343,000 to its organizations. In 2020, NAMI distributed $1.4 million, or 308% more in grants.

Fundraising Expenses

It costs money to make money. NAMI’s fundraising expenses were $2.2 million, according to its Form 990. What’s interesting is that number is about the same as in previous years. So if NAMI didn’t spend more to raise money, why did it end up with a hefty jump in gross revenues in 2020?

The answer appears to be COVID. Media stories about COVID related depression and anxiety, especially among young people, sparked more giving.

In recent years, NAMI has chosen to expand its reach beyond the traditional SMIs – bipolar, schizophrenia, and severe depression – and brand itself as the nation’s primary organization for addressing all mental illnesses. That shift away from being a largely parent orientated organization that focused exclusively on SMIs to a so-called “larger umbrella” nonprofit for everyone and every mental illness appears to have paid off when it comes to growth and fundraising.

Staff Salaries

Salaries are a major expense of any organization. According to NAMI’s 990 report, its national office employed 113 salaried workers.  Salaries and employe benefits totaled $9.4 million, compared to $9.1 million the previous year.

The highest paid employee was NAMI’s CEO Daniel H. Gillison Jr. who had a base pay of $227,342 with extras in 2020 that brought his total compensation to $265,046. The average Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Non-Profit Organization salary in Washington, DC was $197,021 as of February 25, 2022, but the salary range typically falls between $148,863 to $253,871, according to Salary Com.  

This puts NAMI’s Gillison on the high-end of salaries based on Salary.Com. Salary ranges can vary widely depending on education, certifications, additional skills, and the number of years an individual has spent in their profession.

(Full Disclosure. I am a lifetime member of NAMI and have contributed to it in the past.)

(Next up: Form 990s tax reports for other mental health non profits.) 

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.