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ACS Financial Information - FAQs

Committee Communication

1. Does the ACS Budget & Finance (B&F) website provide an opportunity for members to submit questions?

Yes.  There is a feature on the B&F website that allows any user to provide feedback by email as well as ask questions of a financial nature. This link alerts ACS Finance staff that a question has been proposed and it is routed to the staff person best suited to provide a response.  Please go to the B&F website and select “Feedback” to enter your question.  Access the B&F website:  Budget and Finance Committee or you can e-mail your feedback and questions to:  b_ffeedback@acs.org.

2. Are reports available on ACS financial matters at both National Meetings?

Yes, at each National Meeting members of the Society Committee on Budget & Finance provide brief financial updates at the District Caucus sessions. The B&F Chair also provides an oral report at each Council meeting.  In addition to the information presented at the B&F Committee meetings, the Society’s audited financial statements and several other financial documents (i.e., IRS Form 990’s) are available on the Society’s public website. You can access this information from the B&F website by clicking here:  Budget and Finance Committee. The financial updates presented at the District Caucus sessions can be found on the website under the section titled Budget & Finance Reports to Council at National Meetings.  This section contains financial reports for the past several years.  The Society’s audited financial statements and other financial documents can be found under the section titled Resources by clicking on the line item called ACS Financial  Information.  

Compensation

3. How are salaries of ACS executives set?

In order to determine competitive compensation for ACS executives, total compensation is compared to comparable positions in the marketplace. Total compensation includes base salaries, incentives/bonuses and the employer’s contributions to benefits packages.

The Board engages external consultants who compare ACS jobs to comparable positions outside the Society to identify market value for the positions. The independent compensation consultants also inform the Board’s decision-making about pay policy and practice. This helps ensure that ACS remains competitive and can attract and retain key management talent. The consultants’ data and recommendations are reviewed in depth by a Board-appointed Committee on Executive Compensation. This committee reports regularly to the ACS Board where final decisions are made. Consultants are changed periodically to ensure objectivity and diversity in the benchmarking process.

4. How are Executive Incentive Plans determined?

Incentives linked to performance are common in both the not-for-profit sector and for-profit sectors. They represent “at risk” pay, meaning that they are only paid when targeted performance or pre-established objectives are achieved. Incentive opportunities drive performance on projects that are in addition to core job responsibilities. Incentives can drive innovation and that allows the ACS to expand its products and services to leverage the latest technology and achieve cost savings.  The Board-appointed Committee on Executive Compensation (referenced earlier) makes recommendations to the Board of Directors to approve incentive objectives and payouts for the top ACS executives.

5. Is ACS staff paid fair market salaries?

Similar to executive pay practices, the ACS periodically conducts staff-level salary benchmarking to ensure that the Society remains able to compete for talent in the open marketplace and retain staff.

6.  What would happen if staff salaries were lower?

If ACS did not pay market competitive compensation, the Society would be hampered in its ability to attract and retain highly qualified staff, managers and executives. Competitive compensation is an investment in the organization’s human resources.  The Society competes with private sector employers and other not-for-profits for new employees as well as the retention of its current employees.  Base salary is a significant factor within the competitive market.  It has been the experience at the Society, that lower-than-market salaries resulted in longer than expected candidate searches as ‘first choice’ candidates typically choose higher salaried positions, all other factors being the same.  This dynamic is also a factor in the retention of existing employees.

7.  What are the members of the Board and the Presidential Succession paid?

As members of ACS who are elected by the membership, the ACS Board and members of the Presidential Succession are volunteers and are not compensated for their service.  Board members’ travel and registration expenses are reimbursed when they are attending ACS-related meetings in their capacities as Board members.

8.  How many ACS employees are there?

Effective December 31, 2019, ACS employed:

  • 1,856 employees (561 are based in Washington, DC and 1,295 are based in Columbus, Ohio) 

Invested Funds

9. How are the Society’s funds invested?

The Society invests in both short-term and long-term instruments.  Funds needed to satisfy short-term, or normal operating obligations are invested in short-term instruments such as bank deposits, money market funds and commercial paper.  Funds that are not required for short-term needs are invested in the ACS Investment Pool, which is a broadly diversified, long-term balanced investment portfolio. The primary investment objective of the ACS Investment Pool is to earn an annual real or inflation-adjusted total return of 5.5%. The investment portfolio has a normal allocation of 48.0% equities, 34.5% fixed income, 11.0% real estate, 6.0% hedge funds, and 0.5% cash equivalents. All investments are handled by external investment management firms selected and monitored by the Board Standing Committee on Pensions and Investments and internal investment management professionals. Performance of individual managers, as well as the overall Investment Pool, is measured on a quarterly basis by an independent consulting firm.  At December 31, 2019, the Investment Pool had total assets of $530 million.

Financial Guidelines

10.  How were the Society’s financial guidelines chosen? What do they mean?

The Society's financial guidelines were established during the 1970s and have continued to evolve.  Every three to five years, members from the ACS Board of Directors and the Society Committee on Budget & Finance review the current financial guidelines and the Society’s historical financial performance at a financial planning conference. Conference participants reaffirm or recommend revisions to the guidelines as conditions warrant. Final authority for establishing the Society's financial guidelines rests with the ACS Board of Directors. The current guidelines are as follows:

A. Current ratio provides an indication of whether the organization has sufficient liquid assets to meet its short-term obligations as they come due and is defined as the ratio of current assets to current liabilities. The Society has a current ratio target of 0.65, calculated on the basis of a four-quarter average, which means the Society’s current assets are expected to equal approximately 65% of current liabilities.

B. Debt ratio is used to assess the organization’s level of, or dependency on, long-term borrowings. This ratio is useful in forecasting an organization’s long-term solvency. It indicates the relative contributions that creditors and owners have made to the financing of assets. It is defined as the ratio of total debt incurred by the Society to the Society’s unrestricted net assets. A maximum debt ratio of 50% has been established. This means that the total debt incurred by the Society will not exceed an amount equal to 50% of the Society’s unrestricted net assets.

C. Free cash flow is an indication of the amount of cash being generated by the operations of an organization less expenditures for capital purchases. The Society established a guideline that free cash flow should be positive over a three-year rolling average.

D. Fund balance ratio is a rough indication of the adequacy of the Society’s unrestricted net assets (or reserves).  It is computed by comparing the current year’s unrestricted net assets to the following year’s budgeted operating expenses. The ratio is intended to measure whether the Society has sufficient reserves to cover a catastrophic uninsured event, operating deficits, changes in accounting standards, and investment losses.  This ratio reflects the percentage of next year’s operating expenses that could be paid if all of the Society’s assets were converted to cash and all debt and obligations paid in full. The target for the Society’s fund balance ratio has been established at a minimum of 50% of the next year’s projected operating expenses.

E. Financial Sustainability is a measure of the Society’s operating performance and is calculated as net contribution *1 from operations divided by gross operating revenue *2. The ACS Board of Directors has established a range for the Financial Sustainability ratio of between 4.0% and 8.0%.

*1 Net Contribution from Operations:  Net contribution is calculated by subtracting all operating expenses from all operating revenue sources.

*2 Gross Revenue:  Gross revenue is defined as total operating revenue received before subtracting any operating expenses.

11.   What does the term “restricted net assets” mean?

A. Restricted net assets represent endowments and contributions received from donors that are designated for specific programs (i.e., Project SEED, ACS Scholars Program, etc.).  These funds are reserved for a specific purpose and cannot be used by the Society for general operating expenses.  Only the donor may restrict the use of these assets and this provision precludes the Society from restricting its own funds.  There are two classes of restricted net assets: permanently restricted net assets and temporarily restricted net assets.

B. Permanently restricted net assets are limited by the donor in perpetuity. The initial corpus of these funds may not be spent for any reason.  They are to be invested and the investment income and any investment gains can be spent as governed by a charter, referred to as a “founding document”, that clearly states the purpose for which the funds are to be used. An example of a program with permanently restricted net assets is the Petroleum Research Fund Program.

C. Temporarily restricted net assets represent contributions made to the Society for a specific purpose, event, and/or time period. These contributions, not just the investment income and gains, can be used to support a particular program or fund a specific event. Donors can place constraints or conditions on their gifts to the Society, which are clearly detailed in the related founding documents. ACS National Awards Program is an example of a program supported by temporarily restricted funds. All other financial activity of the Society, such as revenue generated from membership dues or from the sale of publications, is considered unrestricted and is available to be used for general operating expenses.

Both permanently restricted net assets and temporarily restricted net assets are categorized on the Society’s financial statements as “Net Assets with Donor Restrictions”.

12. Why does the Petroleum Research Fund Program appear to have no impact on the financial performance of the Society?

Investment income earned on the Petroleum Research Fund Program endowment is temporarily restricted until used to support the activities of the Program, including administrative costs.  Temporarily restricted funds are released from restriction in an amount exactly equal to the grants awarded and administrative expenses incurred each year.  Therefore, the net financial impact of the Petroleum Research Fund Program on the unrestricted net assets of the Society is zero.

13. As a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization, why does the Society generate sizable net contributions from operations?

To meet its mission, it is critical that the American Chemical Society remain financially strong with adequate unrestricted net assets.  Sufficient reserves are required to survive an uninsured catastrophic event, absorb operating deficits, cover investment losses, and finance a strategic acquisition (such as an acquisition to complement current ACS products or services or an acquisition to provide new products or services to ACS members and product users). By generating a positive net contribution from operations, the Society can better ensure reserves will be maintained at a level sufficient to support its annual budget of more than $622 million.

To be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3), and none of its earnings may inure to any private shareholder or individual.  In addition, it may not be an action organization (i.e., it may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates). ACS meets these definitions.

14. What is ACS’s current financial condition?

The ACS ended 2019 with strong financial results, marking its 16th consecutive year of positive operating performance, generating a change in net assets without donor restrictions from operations of $35.5 million on total revenues of $629.1 million.  The Society’s financial position strengthened in 2019.  Net assets without donor restrictions increased from $326.9 million at Dec. 31, 2018, to $446.2 million as of Dec. 31, 2019.  This increase resulted primarily from to the $35.5 operating contribution and net investment gains of $71.8 million.  The Society ended 2019 in full compliance with all of the ACS Board-approved financial guidelines.  

15.  What is a Form 990? What is in it?

The IRS Form 990 is an annual information return (Return of Organization Exempt for the Income Tax) that federally tax-exempt organizations must file with the Internal Revenue Service. It provides information on the tax-exempt organization’s mission, programs, finances, governance and management policies, and disclosure practices (e.g., Non-profits are required to make certain tax documents available for public inspection. The three most recent information returns (Form 990 or 990-EZ) and its application for exempt status (Form 1023) must be made available for inspection upon request. ACS posts its 990s on its public website and provides four years’ worth of filings.  Copies of past filing can be found at ACS Financial Information.

16. What is a Form 990-T? What is in it?

ACS files an annual IRS Form 990-T.  This form is an income tax return (Exempt Organization Business Income Tax Return) that an exempt organization must file with the Internal Revenue Service if it has $1,000 or more of gross income from an unrelated trade or business. Even though an organization is recognized as tax exempt, it may be liable for tax on unrelated business income.  The Society’s tax return, Form 990-T (Exempt Organization Business Income Tax Return), is made available upon request from the ACS Tax office at tax@acs.org.

17. What is Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT)?

UBIT is an acronym for the phrase “Unrelated Business Income Tax”. For most organizations, an activity is an unrelated business (and subject to UBIT) if it meets three requirements:

1) It is a trade or business,
2) It is regularly carried on, and
3) It is not substantially related to furthering the exempt purpose of the organization.

18. Is there an IRS limitation on the amount of unrestricted net assets a 501(c)(3) can accumulate?

There are no IRS limitations on the amount of unrestricted net assets a 501(c)(3) can accumulate.

National Meetings

19. How are national meeting registration fees determined?

The National Meeting Long Range Financial Plan was adopted in 1998 and reaffirmed by the ACS Board of Directors in December 2016.  The Plan established a financial target for the National Meeting (technical meeting only) of a five-year rolling average of break-even (0% Return on Revenue) or better.  To attain this target, the Plan calls for an adjustment of the Early Member Registration Rate for National Meetings utilizing the current registration rate and increasing by the change in the previous 2 years Consumer Price Index (CPI-W, Urban Wage Earners, Service Category), thus ensuring the registration rates increase with inflation.  A second component of the calculation was also reaffirmed by the ACS Board in December 2016.  This would be the inclusion of an incremental cost adjustment of up to $15.00 per year until the overall technical meeting attains and maintains a financial position of break-even or better.

Member Dues

20. What, precisely, are the dues used for?

Dues are used to support bylaw-related allocations and allotments, the internal costs related to collecting member dues, and the member database and call center that provides customer support. In 2019, the just described charges exceeded dues by more than $2 million  

A. Dues at year-end 2019 are $13.9 million

B. Total assessments and expenses at year-end 2019 are $15.9 Million

i. 42% is to support C&EN subscriptions for members
ii. 21% is to support local sections, divisions, and student member activities
iii. 37% is to support the cost of staffing and maintaining a member service center (including member record maintenance, dues invoicing and receipts), and the technology costs and technology maintenance costs associated with these items

21. What membership dues categories does the ACS offer?

The Society has four dues categories for regular, graduate student, undergraduate student, and non-scientist affiliate. Please select ACS Membership for additional information.

22. How have historical increases in the member dues rate compared to the rate of inflation?

The actual dues increases from 1986 through 2020 have not kept pace with inflation. The dues escalator model, put into place in 1986, was established to ensure dues are increased consistent with inflation. Over that period, there have been six years when dues were not increased at all or only increased partially in contrast to the full escalator calculation. This has caused a permanent lag in the pace of dues increases relative to inflation.

Year CPI-W4 (Services) Fully Indexed Dues (Rounded) Actual Dues
1986 1 5.02% $ 72 $ 72
1987 4.99% $ 76 $ 76
1988 4.30% $ 79 $ 79
1989 4.21% $ 82 $ 82
1990 2 4.86% $ 86 $ 82
1991 4.87% $ 90 $ 86
1992 5.47% $ 95 $ 91
1993 3 4.48% $ 99 $ 93
1994 3.47% $ 102 $ 96
1995 2 3.62% $ 106 $ 96
1996 3.05% $ 109 $ 99
1997 2 3.39% $ 113 $ 99
1998 3.28% $ 117 $ 102
1999 2.77% $ 120 $ 105
2000 2.41% $ 123 $ 108
2001 2 2.58% $ 126 $ 108
2002 3.90% $ 131 $ 112
2003 3.70% $ 136 $ 116
2004 3.27% $ 140 $ 120
2005 2.83% $ 144 $ 123
2006 2.94% $ 148 $ 127
2007 3.95% $ 154 $ 132
2008 3.23% $ 159 $ 136
2009 3.24% $ 164 $140
2010 3.23% $ 169 $145
2011 0.93% $ 171 $146
2012 1.11% $ 173 $148
2013 2.16% $ 177 $151
2014 2.17% $181 $154
2015 2.34% $185 $158
2016 2.49% $190 $162
2017 2.44% $195 $166
2018 3.05% $201 $171 
2019 2.59% $206 $175
2020 2.70% $211  $175 

1 First year of the Dues Escalator
2 Years with no Dues Increase
3 Year with partial Dues Increase