The Planetary Society

Find your place in space!

aka The Planetary Society   |   Pasadena, CA   |  https://www.planetary.org

Mission

Empowering the world's citizens to advance space science and exploration.

Ruling year info

1980

CEO

Mr. Bill Nye

Chief Operationg Officer

Ms. Jennifer Vaughn

Main address

60 S. Los Robles Avenue

Pasadena, CA 91101 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

95-3423566

NTEE code info

Physical Sciences/Earth Sciences Research and Promotion (U30)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Sign in or create an account to view Form(s) 990 for 2021, 2021 and 2020.
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Communication

Blog

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

The Planetary Society empowers the world's citizens to advance space science and exploration.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Political Advocacy for Solar System Exploration

The Society conducts focused political advocacy to further the cause of planetary and space exploration at NASA.

Population(s) Served
Adults

The Planetary Society established the Gene Shoemaker Near Earth Object Grants to find and track near-Earth objects (NEOs) and to determine which -- if any -- pose a threat to our world.

Shoemaker grants are awarded to amateur observers, observers in developing countries, and professional astronomers who, with seed funding, can greatly increase their programs' contributions to NEO research. Shoemaker Grants are awarded roughly every 2 years.

Population(s) Served
Adults

The Planetary Society is developed, built, and is flying spacecraft to sail on sunlight alone. The solar sail spacecraft is an advanced cubesat that has tested and demonstrated technologies and systems for navigating in space using the solar wind.

Population(s) Served
Adults

Using a combination of print and online media, the Planetary Society strives to educate its members and supporters about the latest scientific findings in space exploration, excite people about exploration capabilities and active missions, and created informed voters on space policy issues.

Population(s) Served
Adults

Our Science and Technology Empowered by the Public (STEP) grants are competitively awarded through an open, international process. We select new proposals roughly every 2 years.

STEP grants must directly relate to our core interests of exploring other worlds, finding life, and defending Earth from dangerous asteroids. As detailed in our Request for Proposals (RFP), the program seeks to fund credible and significant research and hardware development projects. STEP grants will also achieve one, or preferably more, of the following:
- Provide seed funding that will take research to the next level, allowing future successful competition for other sources of funding
- Fill a niche not being filled or fully filled by others
- Develop innovative technology that may jump start its broader use
- Involve, inspire, and/or excite Planetary Society members and the general public
- Take advantage of a timely opportunity
- Require funding that cannot be easily obtained from other sources

Population(s) Served
Adults

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of new donors

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

New members

Number of meetings with policymakers or candidates

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Political Advocacy for Solar System Exploration

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of overall donors

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Number of members reported in the 990

Number of website sessions

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Space Education and Outreach

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Total dollars received in contributions

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Input - describing resources we use

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of downloads of the organization's materials and explanations

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Space Education and Outreach

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Planetary Radio downloads

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

1. Advance our Core Enterprises. For nearly 4 decades, The Planetary Society has been committed to advancing planetary exploration, planetary defense, and the search for life beyond Earth.

2. Grow our Community. We will invest in mission-aligned strategic growth areas to build a community that is increasingly large, empowered, and international.

3. Ensure Organizational Excellence. In all that we do, we strive to be the world’s largest, most respected, most effective citizen space organization.

1. Advance our Core Enterprises of planetary exploration, the search for life beyond Earth, and planetary defense (protecting Earth from dangerous asteroids and comets). Specifically, we work to:
a. Increase discoveries about the worlds of our solar system and beyond by building public support for planetary science and exploration, encouraging decision-makers to prioritize continual progression of human and robotic exploration, and supporting scientific and technological advances in planetary exploration.
b. Elevate the search for life as a space exploration priority by advocating for the exploration of worlds that could harbor life, promoting a broad approach to the search for life in our solar system and beyond, and supporting scientific efforts dedicated to detecting and understanding exoplanets.
c. Decrease the risk of Earth being hit by an asteroid or comet by helping observers find, track, and characterize near-Earth asteroids and comets, supporting the development of asteroid mitigation technology, and collaborating with the professional community and decision-makers to develop international response strategies to defend Earth from an asteroid or comet threat.

2. Grow our Community. Specifically, we aim to:
a. Strengthen our member community by providing a top-quality member experience, connecting our members with each other, and providing meaningful opportunities to have an impact.
b. Increase public knowledge about space by providing accessible space information and expertise that appeals to diverse audiences, creating resources and tools to help citizens educate others, and inspiring young people to develop a passion for space exploration.
c. Increase international participation by providing resources for global outreach, creating programs and activities relevant to international audiences, and cultivating relationships with international partners.

3. Ensure Organizational Excellence
a. Increase capacity by building sustainable, scalable systems, securing diverse, reliable funding to support increased programs and activities, and investing in strategic growth goals of increasing membership, educational reach, and international development.
b. Build reputation by cultivating high-impact relationships to advance our mission, earning recognition for excellence, and providing valuable insights and resources to professional communities, decision-makers, and the media.
c. Improve effectiveness by building a culture of evaluation, investing in organizational resilience, and prioritizing opportunities for citizen action in support of space.

Working together with our members and supporters,
We Advocate: We shape space policy and fight for future exploration by empowering space advocates to take action by providing resources and opportunities, advocating for a NASA budget that supports a robust program of scientifically motivated planetary exploration by humans and robots, and developing and promoting new space policy solutions.

We Innovate: We invest in innovative space science and technology by providing citizens with opportunities to participate in space science and technology projects, improving the quality and quantity of space science and technology projects in which citizens can participate, and providing funding to innovative new science and technology projects.

We Educate: We expand public knowledge about space by creating accessible educational content, helping the scientific community inform the public, and helping citizens educate others.

We Collaborate: We cultivate a worldwide movement for space by engaging our network of global members, volunteers, and partners, and harnessing opportunities to connect experts, decision-makers, influencers, and advocates.

Midway through our strategic framework timeline, The Planetary Society has been making significant progress toward our goals through new initiatives and ongoing improvement. We share regular impact reports on our website at https://www.planetary.org/about/our-impact

Advance Our Core Enterprises
We've advanced space technology development through our LightSail solar sail spacecraft, our biennial Shoemaker Grant program, and our new STEP (Science and Technology Empowered by the Public) Grants. We've advocated for national and international funding for planetary missions. We've shared space exploration milestones and discoveries and provided opportunities for individuals to share their excitement about space.

Grow Our Community
We've been gaining new members and growing our broader community. We redesigned our website and recalibrated our content strategy to be more responsive to the public's questions and user tendencies. We've created dozens of new resources to help individuals observe the night sky, process space images, pick a new telescope, learn about the risks of asteroids and comets. We created a new advocacy program, our annual Day of Action in Washington DC, to provide first-hand experiences to participate in direct space advocacy. And we've hosted events, both in person and virtually, to celebrate milestones.

Ensure Organizational Excellent
Coinciding with our current strategic period, we created a comprehensive fundraising campaign to provide financial resources to support our work. The increased funding has supported new programming to attract and retain members and expand our educational work. Our focus on building a culture of evaluation has lead to new, regular practices of collecting and analyzing data and using our learnings to develop or refine approaches. Our organizational commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) has been shaping changes to internal operations including staffing and compensation, new program development, and new partnerships.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • Who are the people you serve with your mission?

    Those who are curious about or interested in supporting the exploration of our solar system and beyond.

  • How is your organization collecting feedback from the people you serve?

    Electronic surveys (by email, tablet, etc.), Paper surveys, Focus groups or interviews (by phone or in person),

  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To inform the development of new programs/projects, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals,

  • What significant change resulted from feedback?

    We're building a new membership program for kids. We surveyed our current adult membership asking for feedback on the potential benefits associated with the program, price point, and general interest in the new program. The feedback we received shaped the program design. We're no about to launch the new program, and we are once again going through a testing phase with our current membership before we publicly roll-out the program later this year.

  • With whom is the organization sharing feedback?

    The people we serve, Our staff, Our board, Our funders, Our community partners,

  • How has asking for feedback from the people you serve changed your relationship?

    Overall, the collecting and sharing of audience feedback is improving overall transparency and accountability within the organization.

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We look for patterns in feedback based on demographics (e.g., race, age, gender, etc.), We look for patterns in feedback based on people’s interactions with us (e.g., site, frequency of service, etc.), We act on the feedback we receive, We tell the people who gave us feedback how we acted on their feedback,

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It's difficult to get a broad audience response,

Financials

The Planetary Society
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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lock

Connect with nonprofit leaders

Subscribe

Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

The Planetary Society

Board of directors
as of 04/28/2022
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board co-chair

Dan Geraci


Board co-chair

Dr. Bethany Ehlmann

California Institute of Technology

Term: 2020 -

Heidi Hammel

AURA

William Nye

Planetary Society

John Logsdon

George Washington University

Lon Levin

Bijal Thakore

James Bell

Arizona State University

Fillmore Wood

Bethany Ehlmann

California Institute of Technology

Robert Picardo

Britney Schmidt

Cornell University

Dan Geraci

Dipak Srinivasan

JHU Applied Physics Laboratory

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? No
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 4/28/2022

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Male, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

The organization's co-leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or other sexual orientations in the LGBTQIA+ community
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

No data

Gender identity

No data

 

No data

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data

Equity strategies

Last updated: 04/28/2022

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

Data
  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We analyze disaggregated data and root causes of race disparities that impact the organization's programs, portfolios, and the populations served.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.