Posted on April 24, 2018

The Southern Poverty Law Center Is Sitting on $477 Million

Jeryl Bier, Weekly Standard, April 24, 2018

Morris Dees and Heidi Beirich

Morris Dees and Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center. (Credit Image: © Buchan / Rex Shutterstock via ZUMA Press)

The Trump era has been very good for the group’s fundraising efforts.


The SPLC’s already impressive endowment grew a staggering 35 percent in fiscal year 2017 to more than $432 million. Including operating funds, total assets topped $477 million as of October 31, 2017. Total revenues and gains in fiscal 2017 exceeded $180 million, more than triple the organization’s expenses for the year, of just under $60 million.

The SPLC has long been considered a fundraising powerhouse, but 2017’s take was mind boggling by any standard. Donations were up 164 percent over 2016: The group took in $132 million between November 2016 and October 2017, compared with $50 million in the preceding 12 months.

While direct contributions produced the lion’s share of the 2017 increase, a booming stock market led to astounding growth in the SPLC’s investment portfolio. In fiscal 2016, unrealized gains came to less than $1 million; a year later they totaled nearly $45 million.


The $60 million in expenses incurred by the SPLC in 2017 were split roughly equally between “legal services,” “public education,” and “support services” (which includes $12.6 million in fund raising expenses). Salaries make up about $11 million of the legal expenses, while “legal case expenses” total just under $3 million. Public education expenses included about $7 million in salaries, while publications cost about $3 million and “other educational projects” about $3.7 million.

Despite the 2017 windfall, salaries of top SPLC officials and executives were roughly the same or in some cases even lower than the year before. Richard Cohen, the group’s president and CEO, and Morris Dees, co-founder and chief trial counsel, each earned around $400,000 both years. Compensation for other top officials ranged from about $150,000 to $260,000.

{snip} However, the SPLC did not return a request for comment about the organization’s future plans for endowment funds and whether investing funds directly in economically depressed areas that the group’s name suggests it serves might be under consideration.