Age of Autism financial documents, are they taking in less money?

16 May

A few years back the Age of Autism converted from a business to a nonprofit. That means we get some information on their financial status. As a nonprofit, their tax forms become public. Nonprofits file IRS form 990’s and those are hosted by various providers online.

The most recent informaiton we can get is for tax year 2018, according to this IRS website, the Age of Autism blog filed a “e-Postcard” instead of a form. Per the IRS this means they are receiving less than $50k in a year:

Organizations who have filed a 990-N (e-Postcard) annual electronic notice. Most small organizations that receive less than $50,000 fall into this category.

Here’s a screenshot from the IRS (click to enlarge):

So we don’t know how much they brought in, but it appears to be less than $50k. The thing is, the tax forms available for 2015 (here) and 2016 (here) showed AoA bringing in about $100k a year.

The natural questions are: is this drop in revenue real and, if so, why did it happen?

If one checks the Age of Autism blog today, one finds that there are three sponsors listed in a sidebar for the website. My recollection is that in the past sponsors paid about $15k per year. Here’s a screenshot, for some reason the actual icons for two of them don’t come through on my browser. (click to enlarge):

When I click on the icons I find that the three sponsors are (a) HealthChoice.org, (b) The Canary Party and (c) The Holland Center. HealthChoice and The Canary Party are, in my view, basically the same people. One listed as a political party and the other is a nonprofit. Both are run by Jennifer Larson and Mark Blaxill (Blaxill has been associated with the Age of Autism for many years). The Holland Center is a nonprofit run by Jennifer Larson, if memory serves.

Which is to say, the Age of Autism has basically one group of people sponsoring them.

Years back I once did a calculation of how much the Age of Autism brought in a year, and it worked out to about $100k/year, or a bit more. I’ll try to find that article. Back then they had more sponsors and also had advertisements

I checked some dates in the wayback machine (internet archive) and found that for the date I checked in 2016, AoA had 5 sponsors:

In

In 2015, they had 7 (some had larger icons, which may have meant higher paying sponsorship?):

Assuming $15k/year per sponsor, going from 7 to 3 sponsors could mean a loss of $60k in annual revenue.

Checking the wayback machine again, the ads were a significant source of revenue with this one type being $200/week. That seems like a lot more than I’d think they could pull in with ads.

I clicked a date in 2015 by random and there were 3 ads going on that day. That would mean possibly $600/week, $31,200/year.

One thing I find interesting in the list of sponsors is the lack of Generation Rescue as a sponsor. I recall that AoA started as the “Rescue Post“, “brought to you by Generation Rescue”. Perhaps Generation Rescue is supporting AoA in another way?

The tax forms tell us that Dan Olmsted was paid $26k in tax year 2015, and $39K in tax year 2016. Kim Rossi (then Kim Stagliano) has stated that she was hired by JB Handley (if memory serves) to work at the blog. A salary for her is not listed. There are entries for “contract services” in the amounts of $36k (2015) and $37,422 (2016). Some or all of that might have been to pay her for her efforts at the blog.

These are not high incomes. They are, however, incomes. People paid to, well, put out a junk blog that spreads misinformation about vaccines and stigmatizes autistics. Compared to my income from blogging (zero), these incomes are significant.

One must speculate as to why the Age of Autism blog may be losing revenue. My own speculations include:

1) Ad revenue down as blog lose traffic to Facebook and other social media.
2) Ad revenue down as even the credulous advertisers on AoA want less exposure to the clearly anti-vaccine message
3) Dan Olmsted, who passed away a few years ago, may just have been better at the business end. He could have been better at keeping sponsors and advertisers.
4) Some factionalization in the anti-vaccine/autism community. The current sponsors are all tied to Mark Blaxill, who is still listed as an editor of the Age of Autism blog.

There are probably other reasons, and it’s entirely possible the above reasons are minor or not applicable at all.

By Matt Carey

2 Responses to “Age of Autism financial documents, are they taking in less money?”

  1. Adelaide Dupont May 17, 2019 at 00:20 #

    Matt and everyone at LeftBrainRightBrain,

    I am so glad that VOR has taken themselves off the list of sponsors of Age of Autism as of 2015.

    And people are now going to science/evidence-based information. I have my own issues with the Simons Foundation and the Spectrum lot.

    From 2005 until about 2011 people who did come to Age of Autism would read the Olmsted stories.

    Point 4 stood out a great deal to me.

    I dare say a well-placed promoted tweet or a sticky Facebook page/community engagement has an effect.

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  1. Age of Autism financial documents, are they taking in less money? | Left Brain Right Brain – International Badass Activists - May 22, 2019

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