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About the 2007 990

Form 990 is an annual tax return filed by non-profit organizations. Presentation of information on Form 990, which is dictated by IRS regulations, is not always clear or user-friendly. Below is additional information which clarifies the Autism Speaks Form 990 for 2007. Autism Speaks' Annual Report, including annual audited financial statements, presents a more comprehensive picture of our organization and is available on our web site at

Autism Speaks is committed to funding global biomedical research into the causes, prevention, treatments, and cure for autism; to raising public awareness about autism and its effects on individuals, families, and society; and to bringing hope to all who deal with the hardships of this disorder. As a non-profit organization, we are committed to the intelligent and prudent expenditure of all donated funds.

The Better Business Bureau rates non-profit organizations according to “program ratio”, which is the ratio of program service expenditure to revenue raised. Non-profits with a ratio of 75% or above are in the highest, most effective category. As taken from Form 990, Autism Speaks' program ratio was 80% in 2007. In 2007, for every dollar donated to Autism Speaks, 80 cents went to fund programs and services to support autism research, science programs, awareness, family services and government advocacy. In 2006, Autism Speaks' program ratio was 78%.

Autism Speaks is grateful for all the funds it receives as donations, as well as to the thousands of volunteers and donors who work on its behalf. It is committed to the highest standards of judicious and sensible expenditure of funds, in keeping with its stated mission.

Included in the Autism Speaks Form 990 filing are specific expenditures that have enabled the organization to successfully pursue its strategic program:


  • Revenue and expenses as reported on the Form 990 differ from revenue and expenses as reported in Autism Speaks' Annual Report. IRS rules governing the 990 do not allow revenue/expenses associated with Cure Autism Now to be included in Autism Speaks' tax return until the merger was fully and legally completed - December 31, 2007. Autism Speaks' Annual Report reflects the fully consolidated entity as of the beginning of 2007, when Autism Speaks and Cure Autism Now entered their merger. Consolidated revenue for Autism Speaks, including Cure Autism Now, was $61.7 million versus the $44.3 million as shown on the Autism Speaks' 990 and Autism Speaks' consolidated program ratio was 76%.

Board Members and Staff:

  • Autism Speaks co-founders Bob and Suzanne Wright receive no salary or compensation.
  • Foundation President Mark Roithmayr, with 20 years of experience as a senior executive at the March of Dimes prior to joining Autism Speaks, and other senior executive leaders, are paid salaries commensurate with those earned by executives of the same level and tenure at other national nonprofit organizations. The board of directors reviewed compensation of several national non-profit organizations when determining appropriate compensation for Autism Speaks senior executives.
  • In 2007, Autism Speaks merged with Cure Autism Now (CAN). Peter Bell, CAN's former President and CEO, became AS's Executive Vice President for Program & Services. In assuming his new duties, Peter relocated from Los Angeles (CAN's headquarters) to the NY/NJ area (AS's headquarters) and Autism Speaks paid for his relocation.
  • In late 2007, Dr. Geri Dawson joined Autism Speaks as its Chief Science Officer and received a signing bonus. Dr. Dawson comes to Autism Speaks with a superior background in autism. Prior to joining Autism Speaks, she was Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Washington and Founding Director of the University of Washington Autism Center, which has been designated an NIH Center of Excellence since 1996. While at the University, Dr. Dawson led a multi-disciplinary autism research program focusing on genetics, neuroimaging, diagnosis, and clinical treatment.


  • In 2007, Autism Speaks held a joint fundraiser with The Marcus Institute which raised over $1,150,000. Proceeds were equally divided between the two organizations. Autism Speaks Board Member Bernie Marcus is co-founder of the Marcus Institute. The Marcus Institute works with children who have developmental disabilities, with a concentration in autism.
  • AS participated in other joint fundraisers; however, none involved organizations led by members of Autism Speaks' board of directors. Other joint fundraising partners included: The Gillen Brewer School (a school in New York City for children with developmental disabilities including autism); Nordoff-Robbins (a charitable foundation providing music therapy for children and adults with developmental disabilities including autism), The Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center and the Autism Society of Colorado.

Special Events:

On the Form 990 it appears that special events ran at a loss. Here's why:

A “Special Event” is defined for IRS purposes as a fundraising event that has an attendance fee. The donor pays to attend and receives something of value in return (usually dinner). A walk, for example, is not a special event since participation is free.

Under IRS rules, a donor's payment to attend a special event is separated into two categories: event revenue and contribution, and each is included on separate lines on Form 990.

Assume, for example, that the fee to attend an event is $1,000 and the value of dinner provided is $100. The $1,000 is defined as total revenue. The $100 is defined as event revenue. The difference (in this case $900) is defined as contribution revenue. On Form 990, the $100 is included on line 9; the $900 contribution on line 1b.

On Form 990, you must net the cost of a special event against just “event revenue”, rather than against the total revenue from the event.

Statement 2 provides the detail on our special events. Total revenue from special events was $5,767,884. Of that revenue, the event revenue portion was $826,242 and the direct cost to put the events on was $1,364,351.


  • In 2005, in an effort to secure reasonably priced office space for its New York City headquarters, Autism Speaks looked at over 20 locations and made its decision based on availability, location and pricing. NBC agreed to sublet space to Autism Speaks at a rate that was reviewed by a third party auditor and was deemed favorable by Autism Speaks' board of directors. The New York City space currently occupied is in a neighborhood where several national non-profit organizations are located. Also, the figure reported for rent covers all Autism Speaks offices. Autism Speaks currently has about 180 employees in 22 offices around the country, as well as in Canada and the United Kingdom.
  • GoldNFish Marketing was paid $835,331 for design and production of all newsletters, donation kits, collateral materials and 100 day kits and other family services materials; web site design and maintenance; and design and production of retail items sold in the online store. The GoldNFish designed premium items generated revenues of over $700,000 in 2007.
  • Legal fees in 2007 were related to the merger with CAN and also reflect the normal legal services associated with operating a business. Public relations fees include publicity and promotion of all national special events and the international walk program, as well as national awareness events and major media activities.
  • In 2007, Autism Speaks hired Veritas Search Consultants to assist with management recruiting as Autism Speaks significantly expanded its operations.
  • In 2007 Autism Speaks paid Creative Artist Agency $175,000 for the services of Lionel Richie who performed at the March 2008 Mar-a-lago fundraising event which raised $1.3 million. The $175,000 was recorded in 2007 because the fee was non-refundable.
  • Autism Speaks paid Kevin Barry a consulting fee of $102,436 for services as an independent contractor. Mr. Barry assisted with outreach efforts within the autism advocacy community.

For additional questions regarding Autism Speaks' Form 990, please write to