Who funds the National Geographic?
April 13, 2006 4:45 AM   Subscribe

Where does the National Geographic get their funding from?

I know they've got magazines, and TV shows... but the immense amount of research & work that they do to produce those amazing programs, surely it must cost them millions of millions dollars? Who funds the scientists & photographers when they go on assignments? How about all the high-tech equipment?
posted by arrowhead to Science & Nature (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I may be wrong but I'm pretty sure in the early days it was 100% member funded. Nowadays with their own tv channel and licencing revenue streams I'm sure that contributes a hefty chunk of change.
posted by PenDevil at 5:05 AM on April 13, 2006

Try here for Q&A such as:
Q: Is the National Geographic Society a nonprofit organization?

A: Yes, the Society is a nonprofit organization recognized by the United States Internal Revenue Service under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code. The Society's EIN number is 53-0193519.
And, for example, here:
The Genographic Project is a bold new research partnership of the National Geographic Society and IBM. Led by the Society's newest explorer-in-residence, geneticist and anthropologist Spencer Wells, a team of international scientists will study the genetic roots of modern humans.

The five-year research effort also includes an opportunity for you to participate in the study and support the research with a tax-deductible gift.
posted by pracowity at 5:06 AM on April 13, 2006

Interesting question.

According to their 2004 IRS Form 990s available on GuideStar (free registration required), they had income of $506 million. Of this, the biggest parts were $262 million from "Program service revenue," $177 million from "Membership dues and assessments" (i.e. subscriptions) $10 million from donations and government grants, and the rest from investments and asset sales.

The program service revenue is further divided into $85 million from advertising, $12 million from book sales, $60 million from other books, $25 million from National Geographic magazine non-member sales, $30 million from school publishing, and $40 million from other magazines.

TV is done by wholly-owned subsidiaries, and is almost certainly self-financing.
posted by grouse at 5:16 AM on April 13, 2006

I used to have a 1916 issue of National Geographic, beautiful unyellowed paper, meticulous ethnographic reports, with the phrase "Mention the Geographic — It identifies you" at the bottom of every freaking page. People didn't just have a subscription to the magazine, they had to be "nominated" for "membership" in The National Geographic Society, which supported their research. It wasn't sold on newsstands. Being a member was a mark of distinction. Straight ahead earnestness like that doesn't fly in the postmodern milieu of ironic self-awareness where everything has to be bought and sold to be considered legitemate, ultimately leading to one place ---> TV.
posted by planetkyoto at 5:38 AM on April 13, 2006

I've been told that the heirs of Alexander Graham Bell endowed NGS with just about the entire estate.

My friends who have worked for NGS tell me that they've been lliving rather comfortably off of that endowment for... well... ever.

Here's a google search that might tell you more.
posted by cadastral at 11:28 AM on April 13, 2006

lliving rather comfortably off of that endowment for

Their income tax forms seem to indicate that most of their operating income comes from other sources.
posted by grouse at 1:00 PM on April 13, 2006

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