reprint of Jul/Aug 1986 Bethel Ministries Newsletter

How the Watchtower Was Financed (pre-1990)

by Randy Watters

How is the kingdom work financed?

Some might think it is done by money obtained from the Bibles and Bible literature produced by the Society, but this is not so. The small contribution received from persons that take literature does not cover the cost of operating the Society's activities. The Watchtower, May 1, 1960, p.265

The Watchtower has always been careful in their wording of sentences, so as to convey an idea that they are not actually verbalizing. The above statement gives the impression that the sales of books and literature does not cover their cost of producing it. However, they did not say this specifically, but used the phrase, "operating the Society's activities." If they were to be honest, they should say, "The small contribution received from persons that take literature covers most all of our entire organizational needs, including missionaries, branch offices, and so on. The other small percentage comes from free will contributions."

Conveying the wrong impression is their specialty. Note the similar statement from the May 1, 1948 WT, p. 140 (my comments are added in italics):

"Hence, in sincerity, persons often inquire as to how a work of such magnitude is maintained, it being obvious that there is no monetary gain to the field ministers for publishing the message and likewise no monetary gain to the Society. [Not for just talking to the householder, no! But for selling the books & magazines, yes!] True, some money is contributed for the literature printed, but the money donations received at the time that the Society's printed publications are placed with the people are applied toward printing and distributing more Bible study helps; but such money donations fall far, far short [they only cover most of the costs] of sufficiency to carry on the Society's global work. Money gifts, in addition to the gifts for the literature, are financing our work in all lands. All this is by the grace of Jehovah God."

Similarly, the next statement appears in an insert of the Our Kingdom Service, a bulletin given to those who are actively engaged in selling the Society's literature:

"Where does the money come from?
"This is a question often asked by people of this materialistic world. It is no secret. Some of the printing and shipping costs are covered by the contributions received for the literature placed in the field. But monies from this source nowhere near cover the Society's expenses in this inflationary age." Our Kingdom Service, Dec. 1980, p.3

The bulletin goes on to appeal for contributions to keep the presses at Brooklyn rolling.

People often ask how the Watchtower can print their books and magazines and make a profit, since they seem to cost so much less than other books on the market. A basic understanding of printing costs and the Watchtower method provides the answer. The following is an illustration. For an actual fact/figure review of their per magazine cost, see Major Proposal Reveals Watchtower Magazine Cost.

To illustrate: The most expensive cost in printing is usually the labor. The Watchtower has solved that problem by having all their work done by volunteers--none are paid. Second, there is no middleman to be paid--the Watchtower does all the advertising, marketing and shipping. Third, the more copies of a book printed, the lower its cost. While it may cost a secular printer $5 each to print 5000 copies of a book, that same book may only cost him $2 per book if he prints 100,000 copies. This is due to more efficient use of labor and machinery, buying paper in huge quantities, etc.

To illustrate, let's look at what a typical book on the secular market might cost:

Retail cost: $12.95

Wholesale cost to bookstore: $7.77

Cost to publisher: $3.50

Cost of materials in book: 45 cents

As you can see, most of the book's cost is absorbed in labor and marketing costs. Of course, the same is true in all forms of manufacturing. The final product may actually only cost the manufacturer 5% of the retail price with items such as cosmetics, certain fast foods, housewares, etc. The retailer, however, only makes about 30-40% in profit.


The Watchtower has created an instant market for its publications. To release just one new book at a yearly District Assembly brings automatic sales of at least five million books. At a NET profit rate of over 50% per book, one can grasp the immediate benefit. (Having been involved in figuring the costs of their books and magazines while working in the printing offices in New York, I am aware of their expenses and overhead in this area). With a magazine circulation of well over eleven million per week and approximately 16 cents profit per magazine, their income from magazines alone would exceed $1,780,000 per week. Mind you, theirs is a guaranteed market, regardless of how good the magazines are.

This circulation must be carefully maintained, however. Two meetings per week (the Service Meeting and the Theocratic School) in the local Kingdom Halls are scheduled by the Branch offices in order to demonstrate the sales pitches for the books and magazines. Each month there is a special offer, and sample presentations are rehearsed at these meetings, as well as the morning meetings for field service held all over the world in each Kingdom Hall or private home. In other words, each Witness is exposed to at least two and possible more hours per week in a sales meeting atmosphere, to prepare them for and to encourage them in selling as many books and magazines as possible. These same Witnesses take their books and magazines out to the public, proclaiming that they represent "God's organization" and are financed strictly by contribution, and proceed to point out the wrongs of the churches in their passing of a collection plate! Such hypocrisy goes unnoticed by the Witness himself, for he is ignorant of the Society's methods.

The Annual Summary of the British Branch of the Watchtower has been made available recently for the years 1982-1985. We have reproduced the 1985 statement in this article, and also give the figures for the other years in a chart. This is helpful, since the U.S. branch of the Watchtower will not give out any financial figures. These documents, which remain hidden from the Witnesses themselves, illustrate the real source of income for the Watchtower. On pages 119-120 of the publication Organized To Accomplish Our Ministry, printed in 1983, the Watchtower discusses how they are financed. Not only in this book, but in many other articles claiming to give the financial picture of the Watchtower over the last 15 years, they fail to disclose their primary source of income. Rather, they seek to convey the impression that their income comes strictly through free will contributions, with a few estates being denoted as well. No mention is made of the MAJOR source of their income, which is the distribution of books and magazines. The local Witness, in turn, makes the deceptive statement that contributions are to COVER the cost of literature received, as if the price they pay is what it cost to actually produce the book. He is unaware of the facts.


It is not wrong for a religious organization or nonprofit corporation to receive income from the offering of literature. This ministry receives about 30% of its income from contributions for literature (the rest comes from free will donations). What is WRONG is to seek to hide the MAJOR source of their income from those who support the organization, while deliberately and consistently conveying a different impression in order to set themselves apart as "Goddirected," as opposed to the way other organizations are financed. Jehovah's Witnesses will point out the wrongness of churches having raffles and Bingo games, tithing and passing the collection plate in order to support themselves, yet are completely oblivious to the fact that they are the ones carrying on the REAL deception. At least many other organizations, including many cults, make it known that their particular programs help fund their organizations! The Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses stands out among all of these, for they have not even hinted at their TRUE source of income.


The British Branch report reproduced in this Newsletter is divided into receipts (money taken in) and expenses (money paid out). If we ignore the transfers between the Brooklyn Branch and the British Branch (which always result in a gain to the Brooklyn branch office), we can figure the percentages of income that come from donations and legacies (wills, etc.) and compare that with their total income from the sales of books and magazines, in order to see their real yet carefully disguised source of income.

While figures are not available from the main branch in the United States, it is obvious that the figures would be similar. Unfortunately, such documentation cannot be obtained in the U.S. at present.

Studying four successive years of reports from the same branch office reveals a steady increase in book and magazine sales, and a decrease in charitable contributions percentagewise. This information is helpful in pointing out to the Jehovah's Witness and their studies that the Watchtower is keeping information from them that reveals their real source of income. Rather than God moving on the hearts of people to contribute to the Watchtower, they are steadily increasing a financial empire, training salesmen as they go. One is not counted as a true Jehovah's Witness in the records reviewed annually by the Circuit Overseer if he does not spend time selling books and magazines doortodoor. Thus, to be a JW, you must help fund the Watchtower by selling their literature.


The Watchtower continually portrays themselves as being modeled after the early church in matters of giving and financing their work. Note this statement in The Watchtower of Feb. 15, 1970:

"Some may argue that it costs more money today to carry out the functions of a church, and if voluntary contributions do not cover expenses, then some means must be used to raise the money. But think a moment. Bible principles do not change, do they? If God enriched the first Christians and moved their hearts to generosity, will he not also do that today among true Christians, and that without highpressure persuasion? (2 Cor. 9:8-14) But is there a body of Christians today who follow Bible principles when it comes to money, and who work zealously to aid others spiritually?" (p.101-102)

The impression is given that all of the Watchtower's funding comes through contribution. Apparently only about 10% does.

In addition to regular expenses, the Watchtower has special projects that are funded by other means, often in the form of loans or special contributions. In 1980 special efforts were made to obtain loans and pledges in the individual congregations, by means of letters read to the congregations and sent by the branch offices. Details were not made available in the Watchtower magazines, however.

Several large projects were in the works in the late 1970's. The first big move was the acquisition of the Towers Hotel in Brooklyn Heights, New York, in order to house more workers for the headquarters there. This way, 1000 more workers could live and work there. Since their food is grown and raised on Watchtower Farm 90 miles upstate from Brooklyn, and volunteers aren't paid except for a few dollars a month, it is relatively inexpensive to bring in more workers.

Much greater, however, was the need to expand the printing operation both in quality and quantity. When I came to Bethel in 1974, the printing equipment was greatly outdated. One of the first presses that I operated was built in 1926! Even the newer ones were letterpress machines; an older, inefficient design incapable of printing on good paper or in more than two colors at a time. When I was later appointed as a floor overseer, I was also involved in experimental methods of printing, and would travel to places like the Government Printing Office in Washington D.C. or W.R. Grace Inc. to see how "worldly" people were printing.

I think the most amazing thing I learned was that the Factory Committee and the Governing Body (as well as the late Nathan Knorr) were quite unawares of what "efficiency" was all about. The attitude I continually picked up from men such as Calvin Chyke and Richard Wheelock of the Factory Committee was that 'this is God's organization, and we don't care how the world is doing it.' As a result, much money was wasted in gross inefficiency. Press operators would often be told to run their presses prematurely and throw away the printed material, just to impress paper salesmen or important people on tour.

This can be illustrated by what happened in 1979. The Governing Body decided that they wanted to upgrade the quality of the magazines, using better paper and better pictures. The Factory Committee decided that instead of scrapping their old, outdated presses, they would renovate them. They brought in Japanese press manufacturers to estimate the cost to renovate 60 presses, including some being used in other branches. The estimate was for 60 million dollars to convert these older letterpresses to offset printing! The Factory Committee wanted to go ahead with it.

This brought panic into the hearts of four of us who were the overseers of the pressroom. We had done experimental work for about two years, and knew this was a wrong move for them. They had already purchased a custom WoodHoe press for $1,600,000 that turned out to be a lemon that they couldn't even sell. I know, because I was asked to try and get it operating. I did, but the quality was like rubber stamp printing! The press sat there for several years, while tour guides boasted of its capacity to print 100,000 books per day. We finally printed 200,000 books, all right, but many were trashed and the others were sold to Bethelites at half price. Attempts were made to sell the press to buyers in China, but it fell through.

Anyway, we knew the cost of renovating the 60 old presses to far exceed what was necessary. Three of us worked together secretly on a cost comparison project that proposed to SCRAP all the old presses, and buy brand new Harris offset presses (like the ones we were already using to print My Book of Bible Stories). For a cost of only $12 million, we could buy twelve presses that would take the place of all 60 of the others, and yielding much greater quality! We worked feverishly getting figures together, talking with "worldly" printing experts. The Pressroom Overseer then submitted this proposal to the Factory Committee, and secretly submitted a copy to one member of the Governing Body (who is still at Bethel), just in case they decided to reject it. Well, reject it they did, laughing it off as the presumptuous efforts of young whippersnappers. But a couple of members of the Governing Body did not think it so foolish to save $48 million, and some time later, after hearing nothing from the Factory Committee, asked them about it. The Factory Committee then submitted the proposal to the GB after checking the figures with us, and thus they finally carried the plan out. No thanks were given to those of us in the pressroom! However, that was no surprise; and besides, we were occupied with discovering what the Governing Body knew about 1914 and the Gentile Times that they weren't telling anybody.

Although this was their most expensive near-mistake, there were other mistakes unknown to even those working at the headquarters. In the late 70's efforts were made to introduce a new phototypesetting computer system much more complex than was currently used on the outside. Equipment was rented from IBM at a cost of about $30,000 per month that sat there for over a year, because of problems with programs and personnel. Why personnel? At Bethel, an overseer may be put in charge of a department that knows nothing about the department itself. He is simply an authority figure. If it appears that others with lesser seniority than he is trying to suggest what to do, he may resent this and cause problems for that individual (usually a "new boy" brought in from the outside, not used to Bethel's unwritten "pecking" order), often forcing him to leave Bethel in frustration. Many left in frustration over the computer issue alone during 19791980. Finally, they brought in a JW computer expert, housing his family in a private flat next to Bethel, sending the kids to school and paying him several thousand a month salary besides, just to get the system operating.

The Watchtower of Feb. 1, 1982 makes mention of the Towers Hotel project as well as the printing expansion and the computer equipment. Of course, no mention is made of the above details, for this would expose too much.

To help cover the cost of purchasing additional equipment, the cost of The Watchtower and Awake! magazines went from 10 cents to 15 cents per copy as of Sept. 1, 1981.

Currently, the Watchtower has been using other hotels in Brooklyn Heights that were purportedly purchased by private JW businessmen who agreed to loan space out to the Bethel complex, using such facilities until their next project is completed. What is it? A brand new 31-story building right next to the office complex at 30 Columbia Heights.

With the Sept. 1, 1984 issue, the Watchtower and Awake! went to 20 cents per copy. (The price went up to 25 cents in Sept. 1987.)


The Watchtower verbally shuns any kind of fundraising or the giving of pledges or the paying of ministers. Yet at the same time, they [1] carry on the most extensive literature sales in the world, unrivaled by any organization, [2] they have repeatedly solicited pledges, in the form of the "Good Hopes" donation arrangement or "contribution prospects", 1 and [3] have regularly given a salary to Bethel home workers, Circuit and District Overseers, and missionaries.

Why doesn't the average JW see through all of this doubletalk? Because he simply doesn't know the facts. He has been told that the Society doesn't make any money from selling literature, and that it all comes through donations. Imagining himself in a superior position, the JW then derides other religious organizations for their financial practices. Moreover, he is ignorant of what the Bible says about supporting Christian ministry, because the Watchtower has distorted this as well. He is trained not to question the Watchtower, fearing that he might become an "apostate" for such doubts. Such techniques are reminiscent of Orwell's Socialistic Society (Ingsoc) typified in his book 1984:

". . . The speculations which might possibly induce a skeptical or rebellious attitude are killed in advance by his early-acquired inner discipline. The first and simplest stage in the discipline, which can be taught even to young children, is called, in Newspeak, crimestop. Crimestop means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to Ingsoc, and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction." 1984, p. 174-175

Are Ministers to be Paid?

Is it wrong for churches to pay their ministers? What does the Bible say?

For an answer to the JW challenge, we need to examine the apostolic church. Looking back, we find that the Christian Jews were already used to the arrangement of tithing, or giving of "tenths" to God. Jesus said to the Pharisees,

"For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others." (Luke 11:42)

Though the Law of Moses and the laws of tithes were fulfilled with the death of Christ, and all Christians were now to function as ministers in a sense, only certain ones were to function in the office of teaching and pastoring as the elders of the church (1 Tim. 3:1). The history of the early church reveals that the structure of leadership in the church was much the same as it was in the synagogues. James said that not all were to be teachers, because of the greater responsibility they carry before God (James 3:1). Deacons (Greek: diakonos) were appointed to take care of mundane tasks so that these older men could give "undivided attention" to spiritual matters (Acts 6:26). The same pattern holds true in modern times.

In Matthew 10:10 and Luke 10:7, Jesus made it clear to his disciples that they were not to prepare ahead for their own needs when visiting the brothers in their homes, but were to expect to receive their sustenance from those households:

"Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, or a bag for your journey, or even two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support.
"And stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages."

[for an interesting news item related to Watchtower leaders staying in posh hotels, see Scandal in Malta.

Later, when circumstances changed and the disciples would be spread abroad, Jesus told them to take up a sword and a pouch (protection and money) for their longer journeys (Luke 22:35,36). No doubt even then most of their money came from the believers who were generous (2 Cor. 9:12,13). Yet, while circumstances varied, the principle of providing for these men remained the same, for Paul emphasizes it later. In 1 Corinthians chapter nine Paul develops the point that those who minister to the body as overseers have the right to subsist off the people, including provisions for a wife (v.47). He looks back to the Mosaic law for support in this principle (v. 8-11). While Paul himself chose to be an exception in this case (since apparently some were accusing him of improper motives--v. 12,15), he states that the Lord Jesus himself stated these principles (v. 14). In Galatians 6:6 Paul says "Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with him who teaches," admonishing the body to contribute for the needs of the one who is ministering to them.

These same principles apply in the church today as well as then. Those who are being spiritually fed are entrusted with making sure their shepherds and teachers are physically fed. In 1 Timothy 5:17,18, Paul says,

"Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, `You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,' and 'The laborer is worthy of his wages.'"

On the other hand, Paul does not reinstitute a Levitical tithe arrangement, leaving it open to the church to use their own method of support. Paul expects the Christians to be as generous as under the Law, for Christianity is the reality; whereas the Law was a mere shadow. Paul was confident that mature Christians would give generously towards the Lord's work, and would make sure their shepherds and teachers have their needs met. The principle of Malachi chapter three applies, that God deserves our best and firstfruits.

Though giving is to come from the heart, each as he is able, blessings may be held back from us if we fail to be generous to others (2 Cor. 9:6-13). A principle from Malachi applies,

"Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, 'How have we robbed Thee?' In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you!"
"'Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,' says the Lord of Hosts, 'if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.'" (Mal.3:8-10)

In providing the needs of others, both shepherds and the poor among the flock, Paul says this same principle is true that you reap what you sow:

"Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver. . . Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness." (2 Cor. 9:6-10)

The Witnesses deride "Christendom" for paying their shepherds salaries and for calling them "ministers" or "pastors," implying that these men are given too much power over the people. The Bible does not condemn this practice; allowing freedom for the church to establish its own pattern of giving. Yet at the same time, the JW elders have control over the way JWs dress, how they talk, what they do on weekends, how much they eat, where they do their preaching, how they study their Bible, and who they can or cannot talk to. They even have life and death matters in their hands, by prohibiting their members from taking blood transfusions, while they may lie dying on the operating table. The elders can prevent them from talking to members of their own family who have left the Witnesses, under pain of disfellowshipping. How interesting that they accuse the churches of setting one man over another! While it is true that due to fallen human nature some ministers will abuse their authority, ALL JW elders are required to go beyond the Scriptural basis for authority by enforcing the manmade rules of the Watchtower.

All of us who have left the Watchtower should appreciate what true Christian generosity means. Our giving should surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees, who were meticulous givers. God himself gives even to the lost and wicked, and he asks us to imitate this same attitude in giving (Matt. 5:42-48). While the Watchtower puts down charitable organizations and discourages involvement in projects to help the poor and needy, it should bother our consciences to ignore the needs around us (Luke 10:30-37). One identifying mark of the "new personality" and the new birth in Christ is the transition from self-centeredness to charitable giving (Luke 12:33,34).

A falsehood is an attempt to withhold the truth from those who have a right to know. L.J. Peter

Watchtower View of Truth & Lying:

"While malicious lying is definitely condemned in the Bible, this does not mean that a person is under obligation to divulge truthful information to people who are not entitled to it. . . That is why Jesus on certain occasions refrained from giving full information or direct answers to certain questions when doing so could have brought unnecessary harm." AID TO BIBLE UNDERSTANDING, p. 1061.


1. see the following Watchtower issues as examples: 5/1/50 p.139,140; 5/1/51 p.284,285; 5/1/53 p.267; 5/1/54 p.263; 5/1/55 p.275; 5/1/56 p.267; 5/1/57 p.267; 5/1/59 p.287.

Comparison Chart (in British pounds)
COMPARISON CHART (figures are given in British Pounds)(expenses and receipts are minus transfers)
1982 1983 1984 1985
Receipts 5,405,797 4,036,811 4,558,007 6,456,184
Expenses 2,536,342 2,715,392 3,530,787 5,940,474
Net amt transferred to IBSA 1,165,500 (781,252) (1,580,600) 60,500
Cash, goods sent to mn. office, branches 778,517 1,088,448 1,312,935 2,230,353
Literature Sales 1,027,753 1,176,798 1,431,720 1,786,243
Magazine Sales 1,707,180 1,820,536 1,866,035 2,516,847
Donations 374,258 243,633 233,236 218,892
Legacies 183,173 135,055 113,274 251,308
Total of donations, legacies 557,431 378,688 346,510 470,200
Total of magazine literature sales 2,734,933 2,997,334 3,297,755 4,303,090
Percentage of increase or decrease in sales n/a 10.9% 10% 30%
Percentage of increase in donations n/a (35%) (4.3%) (6.1%)
Percentage of increase (or decrease) in legacies n/a (26.3%) (16%) 122%
Percentage of receipts (minus transfers) from donations, legacies 10.3% 9.3% 7.6% 7.3%

1985 Total Assets: 10,348,103

1985 Total Liabilities: 1,185,564

Net worth to balance assets of British Branch as of August 31, 1985: 9,162,538

to post 1990 donation arrangement

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