Answers in Genesis sees an uptick in attendance at its creationism-themed parks -- and in donations

Net assets also up; website traffic trending down

PETERSBURG, Ky. -- In May, Gallup reported that 38 percent of Americans believe God created human beings in their present form sometime within the past 10,000 years or so.

It was the lowest percentage recorded since Gallup began asking the question in 1982 and the first time that this answer wasn't the most common response to the question about human origins.

Fifty-seven percent of Americans now believe in some form of evolution, either guided by God or not.

That must have come as depressing news to the folks at Answers in Genesis, the Boone County creationism advocacy group that operates the Creation Museum in Petersburg and the Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Kentucky.

Answers is clearly doing its part to uphold what it believes is the literal truth of the Bible. It does that chiefly through its Creation Museum, which opened in 2007, and Ark Encounter, which opened last summer. The latter is intended to be an actual-size model of Noah's Ark as it's described in the Bible.

Answers supporters haven't given up either. They continue to donate their money to the organization and its affiliate, Crosswater Canyon Inc., a nonprofit that shares staff with Answers.

 

During the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2016, Answers in Genesis received $9.1 million in contributions and grants, a 19 percent increase over the $7.7 million it received the previous fiscal year.

Those donations helped the Petersburg, Kentucky-based nonprofit more than double its bottom line -- the amount of revenue over expenses -- from $891,000 the previous fiscal year to $2.4 million.

That's according to Answers' Form 990 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016. The Form 990 is a report that nonprofits make to the Internal Revenue Service in lieu of an income tax return. WCPO recently obtained a copy of the form, which was completed in May.

WCPO recently reported that attendance at the Creation Museum in Petersburg has doubled over last year, something that Answers in Genesis officials had predicted would happen with the opening of Ark Encounter.

Answers used to report attendance numbers at the Creation Museum on its Form 990, but that information's missing on the report for the year ending June 30, 2016, the fiscal 2015 report.

Answers in Genesis officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment on this story.

The fiscal 2015 report shows that $4.8 million, or 21 percent, of Answers' total revenue of $22.5 million came from the Creation Museum. That's about 5 percent less than the museum's revenue the year before.

About 37 percent of Answers' revenue came from "other revenue," the bulk of which was $7.4 million from sales of inventory of $11.9 million, less the $4.5 million cost of goods sold. Those amounts are very close to the amounts for previous fiscal years.

Answers sells books, videos, and other creationism materials at the museum's bookstore and through its website.

It reported shipping 86,000 orders in fiscal 2015, a 10 percent increase over the previous year. However, visits and page views to the website were both down over the previous year. There were 19.9 million visits, 15 percent less than the previous year, and 38.6 million page views, 11 percent less than the previous year.

Answers reported ending its fiscal year with an enviable $26.7 million in net assets, a 10 percent increase over the $24.3 million of the previous year. Crosswater Canyon reported having a healthy $12.2 million in net assets.

Crosswater Canyon owns Ark Encounter LLC, a for-profit corporation that owns Ark Encounter.

Crosswater Canyon's fiscal 2015 Form 990 shows that it received $12.5 million in contributions and grants, nearly double the $6.4 million it received the previous year. In fact, it was more than Answers in Genesis itself received -- perhaps because of contributions needed to fund construction of Ark Encounter.

Crosswater Canyon finished the year with $109,000 more expenses than revenue. Its major expenses were $5 million in salaries and employee benefits, plus $3.4 million in advertising and promotion.

WCPO has previously reported on the number of related-party transactions that Answers conducts with its board members and family members.

Those transactions continued in fiscal 2015. The Form 990s for Answers and Crosswater Canyon report a total of $5.8 million in related-party transactions with outside companies that have connections to board members.

Answers also continues to be a source of employment for president and CEO Ken Ham and his relatives.

According to the Form 990, his total compensation of $205,905 was slightly higher than the previous year, when it was $203,977. Including his six family members on the payroll, compensation to Ham and his family amounted to $528,445, an increase of 12 percent over the previous year.

As WCPO has reported, related-party transactions like these can be problematic for nonprofits because of the potential for overcharging and for disguising compensation.

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