Monday, May 31, 2010

Creationist finances revisited

Three years ago, Jim Lippard posted a series about creationist finances on his blog. The final summary contains links to all the previous articles. I found the whole thing quite fascinating and illuminating. Lippard noted a number of trends and made a few suggestions that I thought warranted revisiting. So here we go.

First, a few of Lippard's more interesting observations/suggestions:
1. The marketplace for creationism has been growing.
2. Answers in Genesis' market share has grown and dominates the market.
3. The Institute for Creation Research has had a declining market share.
4. The Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture has had a fairly static market share (overrepresented here, as well, since their numbers include other branches of the DI).
5. Other creationist groups have tended to lose market share in the face of Answers in Genesis's dominance, even if their overall revenue has grown.
Also of interesting was the question of whether the split between Answers in Genesis and Creation Ministries International would lessen AIG's income.

In my own assessment, I've dropped a few of the groups Lippard looked at, and I've added some he did not. Since the Discovery Institute has more than just the Center for Science and Culture, I dropped the Discovery Institute. I also dropped Access Research Network, since I'm mostly interested in young-age creationism. I also dropped several of the smaller groups that are poorly known and have very little income. In their place, I've added Reasons to Believe and the American Scientific Affiliation (as comparisons to the young-age creationists) and the National Center for Science Education (hey, what's good for the goose...). All my data comes from public forms 990, available from the Foundation Center.

Here's the raw data for total income to young-age creationist organizations for 2003-2008:

2003:
$14.6 million market
AIG: 61.6%
ICR: 30.6%
*CEM: 4.2%
*CRS: 1.7%
*CM: 1.6%
*CSC: 0.4%

2004:
$15.8 million market
AIG: 65.7%
ICR: 26.8%
CEM: 3.1%
CRS: 2.0%
CM: 1.9%
CSC: 0.4%

2005: **
$10.8 million market
AIG: 50.4%
ICR: 40.3%
CEM: 5.1%
CRS: 1.0%
CM: 2.5%
CSC: 0.6%

2006:
$21.3 million market
AIG: 64.1%
ICR: 30.9%
CEM: 2.2%
CRS: 1.1%
CM: 1.3%
CSC: 0.3%

2007:
$25.6 million market
AIG: 69.5%
ICR: 27.6%
CEM: no data
CRS: 1.2%
CM: 1.1%
CSC: 0.3%
CMI: 0.3%

2008:
$33.3 million market
AIG: 68.2%
ICR: 26.2%
CEM: no data
Godquest: 2.8%
CRS: 0.7%
CM: 1.0%
CSC: 0.2%
CMI: 0.9%

*NOTE: Abbreviations are AIG = Answers in Genesis, ICR = Institute for Creation Research, CEM: Creation Evidence Museum (Baugh's organization), CRS = Creation Research Society, CM = Creation Moments (Ian Taylor's radio program), CSC = Center for Scientific Creation (Walt Brown's organization), CMI = Creation Ministries International US

**The numbers for 2005 are a bit off since AIG adjusted its fiscal by six months, and its 2005 form 990 reports only half the year's income accordingly.

The two main trends noted by Lippard are confirmed. The total market for young-age creationism has more than doubled over the six years reported here. For the five organizations for which we have 2003 and 2008 reports, all reported an increase in income (although CRS saw only a 2.6% increase). AIG's income increased 2.5 fold, and ICR's nearly doubled. AIG continues to dominate the market, although its market share (and ICR's) seems to have leveled off.

You'll also notice in 2008 something called "Godquest." You probably know it better as Creation Science Evangelism, which finally started to file tax forms [PDF]. I'd heard rumors that CSE was the third largest creationist organization in the United States, and their first 990 confirms that. Though they had only 2.8% of the market, their total 2008 income of $931,467 was surpassed only by ICR and AIG. Their income seems to be derived largely from sales ($502,020) and (incredibly) direct public support in the amount of $322,206. Expenses for 2008 were $696,511, leaving them with a surplus of $234,956. Also of interest: On the signature page, Eric Hovind is listed as "Founder."



Looking at direct public support for 2003-2008, we find a significant peak in giving in 2007. Total public support for 2007 was $19.4 million, and in 2008, direct support dropped to $15.8 million. This can be directly attributed to a reduction in giving to AIG by $3.5 million. Nevertheless, the total market continued to rise in 2008, as the reduction in giving was complimented by a rise in other income at AIG. This is likely the result of the opening of the Creation Museum in 2007, which led to a temporary increase in giving for 2007 followed by a return in 2008 to the giving level of 2006 ($9.6 million in 2008 vs. $9.8 million in 2006).

Regarding the CMI/AIG split, I think it's safe to conclude that it has not hurt AIG's income or market dominance. Furthermore, the growth of CMI-US has been significant. For the three forms 990 available for CMI-US, total income has gone from $80,000 in 2007 to $616,000 in 2009. CMI-US donation income has grown from $68,000 in 2007 to more than $250,000 in 2009.

In 2004, AIG listed its total distribution of Creation magazine and Journal of Creation (then called TJ) as 150,000 issues. The 2009 CMI-US form 990 lists the same distribution as 6000 subscriptions to Creation magazine and 900 subscriptions to Journal of Creation, which translates to 25,800 26,700 (my mistake) issues. The impact of these publications has been seriously reduced in the US. In contrast, 50,000 copies of the 2006 debut issue of Answers magazine were distributed. AIG's 2008 form 990 lists 250,000 issues of Answers magazine distributed. I guess that translates to more than 60,000 subscriptions? That's ten times the reach of Creation magazine.

What about other creationists? As you probably know, Reasons to Believe is the leading old-earth creationist organization. Their total income and direct public support (in millions) looks like this:

2003: $2.4/$2.2
2004: $2.6/$2.3
2005: $4.0/$3.8
2006: $3.1/$2.8
2007: $3.3/$2.9
2008: $3.5/$3.1
2009: $3.1/$2.7

Their income is substantial, below ICR and AIG and above Creation Science Evangelism. Generally speaking, their income has slowy grown from $2.4 to $3.1 million. A significant exception can be seen in 2005, when their donations ballooned from $2.3 to $3.8 million. That was very curious to me, so I checked a few other organizations, and here's what I found:


This shows direct public support for ICR, RTB, NCSE, and the ASA. ICR shows a transient increase in donations in 2006, and NCSE more than doubled their donation income from 2004 to 2006. In contrast, the ASA does not show any increase over the same period, transient or otherwise. I suspect these bumps in donations were caused by the Dover trial, which took place in 2005. Organizations that have a stake in the culture war saw increases at that time, but the ASA, which does not concentrate on the creation/evolution debate, saw no such increase. So whatever you may have thought of Dover, it was good for business.

Speaking of the NCSE, their total income and direct public support (in millions) is as follows:

2002: $0.6/$0.4
2003: $0.7/$0.5
2004: $0.8/$0.6
2005: $1.1/$0.9
2006: $1.6/$1.3
2007: $1.2/$1.0
2008: $1.3/$1.1

What's interesting about this is that the NCSE's income has also doubled over these seven years. Thus, it's not just the creationist market that's growing, the entire market for the creation/evolution culture war has grown dramatically. It's become a self-sustaining industry. This does not bode well for those interested in a resolution of this war.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com.