How Much Money Do Think Tanks Make

Think tanks earn revenue from various sources, including government contracts, grants from foundations and corporations, individual donations, and fees for providing consulting services. Government contracts are often the most significant source of funding for think tanks, as they provide financial support for research and analysis related to public policy issues. However, government contracts can also come with restrictions and requirements that may limit the independence of think tanks. Grants from foundations and corporations are another important source of funding, allowing think tanks to conduct research on a broader range of topics and maintain their independence. Individual donations and consulting fees supplement these sources, contributing to the financial stability and sustainability of think tanks. The amount of money made by individual think tanks can vary significantly depending on their size, reputation, and the scope of their work.

Funding Sources for Think Tanks

Think tanks primarily rely on a diverse range of funding sources to support their operations and research endeavors.

  • Government Grants and Contracts: Think tanks often receive funding from government agencies for specific research projects or policy analysis.
  • Foundations and Philanthropic Organizations: Non-profit organizations and wealthy individuals can provide grants to fund research aligned with their mission.
  • Corporate Sponsorships: Corporations may sponsor research that supports their business interests or contributes to industry knowledge.
  • Membership Fees: Some think tanks charge a fee for membership, providing access to exclusive research, events, and networking opportunities.
  • Consultancy Services: Think tanks may offer consulting services to governments, businesses, or other organizations for a fee.
  • Book Sales and Publications: Revenue from published books, reports, and other publications can generate income for think tanks.

Revenue Streams for Think Tanks

In addition to funding sources, think tanks utilize various revenue streams to generate income.

Revenue StreamDescription

Event Fees

Income from hosting conferences, seminars, and other events.

Subscription Fees

Revenue from subscriptions to newsletters, reports, or online platforms.

Investment Income

Returns on investments made by the think tank.

In-Kind Contributions

Support from donors in the form of office space, equipment, or research assistance.

Industry Benchmarks

The salaries of think tank employees vary widely depending on their experience, level of responsibility, and the size and prestige of their organization. Industry benchmarks can provide a general idea of expected compensation levels. According to the Think Tank Salary Survey conducted by the National Coalition of Independent Scholars (NCIS), the median annual salary for all think tank employees in 2022 was $75,000.


  • Entry-level researchers: $40,000 – $60,000
  • Mid-level researchers: $60,000 – $80,000
  • Senior researchers: $80,000 – $100,000
  • Executive directors: $100,000 – $150,000

It’s important to note that these are just general benchmarks and actual salaries may vary. Factors such as location, organization size, and funding sources can also impact compensation levels.

PositionMedian Annual Salary
Entry-level Researcher$55,000
Mid-level Researcher$70,000
Senior Researcher$90,000
Executive Director$125,000

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Think Tank Salary

Think tanks are research and policy organizations that provide analysis and advice on public policy issues. They are typically nonpartisan and nonprofit, and their work can influence policy decisions at the local, state, and national levels. Think tanks employ a variety of professionals, including researchers, analysts, and policy experts. The salaries of think tank employees vary depending on their experience, education, and position within the organization.

Career Advancement

  • Analyst – entry-level position, typically responsible for conducting research and writing reports.
  • Associate Analyst/Research Associate – mid-level position, typically responsible for managing research projects and writing reports and articles.
  • Senior Analyst/Associate – senior-level position, typically responsible for overseeing research projects and providing strategic advice to clients.
  • Director – senior-level position, typically responsible for leading a team of analysts and overseeing the organization’s research agenda.

    Job Outlook

    The job outlook for think tank professionals is expected to be good over the next decade. This is due to the increasing demand for research and analysis on public policy issues. Think tanks are increasingly being consulted by policymakers and other stakeholders to provide insights into complex issues. As a result, the demand for qualified think tank professionals is expected to grow in the coming years.

    PositionSalary Range
    Analyst$50,000 – $80,000
    Associate Analyst/Research Associate$80,000 – $120,000
    Senior Analyst/Associate$120,000 – $160,000
    Director$160,000 – $200,000

    Well, there you have it, folks! The ins and outs of think tank financials. I hope you found this little dive into the numbers informative and a bit surprising. Now that you’re all experts in think tank economics, feel free to drop some knowledge on your friends and family next time they’re talking about think tanks (which, let’s be honest, is probably never). But hey, you never know! Thanks again for reading, and be sure to check back later for more fascinating and maybe even a little bit gossipy articles on all things think tank.