2016 Form 990

Download the Burning Man Project 2016 Form 990 PDF

2016 Annual Report and Form 990 Questions & Answers

For a list of additional general FAQs, see our previous 2014 and 2015 Annual Report and 990 Announcements.

Q. What’s the big picture? What does Burning Man do as a nonprofit organization?

A. So glad you asked. Funds remaining after covering the cost of producing Black Rock City are used to fund cultural projects and initiatives. This includes year-round staffing and infrastructure to support the administration and management of our Regional Network, Civic and Global Art Grants, the Regional Network, Burners Without Borders, our fellowship program, and the annual Global Leadership Conference for community leaders. What do we not spend money on? Advertising and promotion (not a dime).You can learn all about our nonprofit programs in our 2016 Annual Report.

Q. What are the difference between Programming, Management and General, and Fundraising Expenses?

A. Nonprofit expenses fall into one of three categories: Program Services Expenses, Management & General, and Fundraising.“Program Services Expenses” is money being used directly in fulfilling our mission of fostering Burning Man culture. “Administration” expenses are related to the overall function and management of the nonprofit organizations. Included in this category are accounting, admin and legal services, as well as some of the bureaucratic necessities (taxes, licensing, etc.) of managing a nonprofit of our size. “Fundraising” expenses are any costs incurred while raising money for furthering our programming activities. This includes any salaries, events, or travel done for the purpose of soliciting donations.

Q. Why did Assets and Contributions jump so many millions of dollars in 2016?

A. Two words: Fly Ranch.

The $6.5 million acquisition of Fly Ranch happened thanks to the generosity of Burners who felt called to give back to the community. The money did not come from ticket revenue, vehicle passes, coffee sales, nor any previously existing source of Burning Man income. In fact, the gifts were only possible because of our transition into a nonprofit organization.

The purchase was the major reason why Burning Man Project’s asset values increased from $14,763,766 in 2015 to $24,413,461 and contributions went up from $1,329,325 to $8,074,456 in 2016, as reflected in the 990.

Q. Why does Burning Man keep an “operating reserve”?

A. As we touched on in last year’s 990 report FAQs, an “operating reserve” is a safety net in case of unexpected expenses or losses of income. It’s cash set aside in case of a rainy day (or rather a rainy month of August). As of December 31, 2016, Burning Man Project’s operating reserve was $3,149,258.

This is made up of total cash ($8,575,542) minus our liabilities ($4,490,690) and restricted funds ($935,594), which equals $3,149,258.

For context, our reserve is just over one month of Burning Man Project’s average operating costs. As the nonprofit continues to grow and we expand our program areas around the world, we will work to ensure the security of the event in Black Rock City, the organization, and the global community at large. In short, the operating reserve protects Burning Man, and having one is a recommended business practice for any nonprofit organization.

Q. Why is there an art grant for Plug ’N Play LLC? I thought Burning Man was taking a stand against Plug ’n Play camping?

A. Yeah… that really doesn’t look good, does it? It’s nothing as salacious as it sounds. This is the cheeky name of the LLC behind the artist group (Plug 4 Play) that conceptualized and built the Plug ’N Play Honorarium art piece in 2016. You may remember it – the piece consisted of six wooden structures ranging from 14 to 30 feet high (five quad electrical outlets and an extension cord plug), and at the end of the week we burned it all down with six fiery explosions.