Public records show that Samaritan's Purse has been spending less on missions than what they are receiving, sparking concern from charity watchdogs and nonprofit experts.
Red flags have been raised after public documents show how Samaritan's Purse, an evangelical Christian humanitarian aid organization led by Franklin Graham, has been spending way less than what it has earned in donations in the last few years. Now, charity watchdogs and nonprofit experts are raising concern over how the charitable organization, which also owns buildings and several aircraft, is spending their money and on who.
On Twitter, ministry leadership professor at Bethel Seminary Andy Rowell shared his thoughts on the differences between how much Samaritan's Purse earned versus how much they spent on mission work and administrative costs, meaning paying their staff and leaders. Samaritan's Purse's IRS Form 990 for 2020 showed that the charitable organization brought in $894 million in total revenue in the 2020 fiscal year and spent only $670 million. The difference is about $224 million.
In 2021, the difference grew significantly. Samaritan's Purse earned more than $1 billion, but only spent about $715 million, leaving about $300 leftover. Moreover, the audited financial statements showed that Samaritan's Purse closed the 2021 fiscal year with more than $1.2 billion in net assets, almost half of which were in cash or cash equivalents.
How Did Samaritan's Purse Amass a Billion Dollars' Worth of Assets?
In speaking to The Roys Report, Rowell suggested that "as a donor," people would want to know how Samaritan's Purse is amassing all this money and assets in a period when "there are emergencies all the time that are crucial in our world." While not an accountant, Rowell admitted that he had been following Graham's charitable organization for a few years now and had noticed a pattern in which it spends a lot less than what it earns.
This pattern of spending and amassing a billion dollars' worth of assets raises red flags, as per Howard "Rusty" Leonard, a finance expert and founder of the watchdog group MinistryWatch. Leonard said that Samaritan's Purse has "a profit margin that rivals the best companies" and that the charitable organization is in fact "bringing in money faster than they've been able to figure out a way to spend."
Mark Barber, a Samaritan's Purse spokesman, refused to comment on why its leaders believed donations had grown or whether large or small donations factored into the growth of their revenue. Instead, Barber referred to an emailed statement from Samaritan's Purse Chief Operating Officer Ron Wilcox, who expressed gratitude to God for amassing such wealth.
Wilcox explained further that whenever a disaster or crisis occurs that devastates a population, Samaritan's Purse would be "working and serving in that region for months, years, or decades," which is why it would be "unrealistic, unwise, and poor stewardship" to spend so much money hastily within a year. He explained further that Samaritan's Purse opts to provide "long-term, quality impact over a period of months or years as the needs evolve and various phases of the crisis response develop."
Samaritan's Purse's crisis response also goes beyond borders. In April, the Merritt Herald reported that Samaritan's Purse had been providing humanitarian aid in Merritt, British Columbia, Canada since floods ravaged the area in November 2021. From cleaning up, emergency management, and recovery, the organization has been in Merritt for months to rebuild the community.
More recently, Samaritan's Purse was in Fort Wayne, Indiana to help clean up following a storm that ravaged the area, WANE reported. In war-stricken Ukraine, Samaritan's Purse had set up field hospitals and even used their own aircraft to fly out Ukrainian refugees to Canada.
Questions Raised Over Franklin Graham's Salary, Samaritan's Purse's Employment of Graham Family Members
Criticism over Graham's salary as CEO of Samaritan's Purse dates back to 2014, when he received $889,000 for leading both the charitable organization and his father's ministry, the Billy Graham Evangelical Association (BGEA). In 2021, Graham received $740,000 just for his job as CEO of Samaritan's Purse.
Moreover, Rowell pointed out in the Twitter thread that Samaritan's Purse had nine out of 16 independent members of the board in 2020. The organization lost three independent members and added a Graham family member since 2019.
In 2020, several members of the Graham family were in Samaritan's Purse's payroll including Franklin Graham who earned over $760,000, Jane Graham (Franklin's mother), who earned more than $47,000, Franklin's daughter Cissie Jane Austin Graham Lynch, who earned more than $140,000, her husband Corey Lynch, who earned over $49,000, Franklin's son Edward Graham, who earned over $191,000 for his role as Samaritan's Purse Vice President of Operations, and his wife Kristen Graham, who earned over $14,000.
Samaritan's Purse is accredited by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), which requires its members to "establish reasonable procedures to ensure that all ministry funds are used in conformity with applicable laws and regulations and to fulfill the organization's exempt purposes."