The Duggars could be in financial trouble or maybe they’re just getting greedy. Since losing their TLC show in mid-July amid the scandal surrounding eldest son Josh Duggar’s confessed molestation of five children—four of them his sisters—members of the embattled fundamentalist family have issued four separate calls for public donations.
First, shortly after the cancellation of 19 Kids and Counting, Duggar daughter Jill and husband Derick Dillard asked again for donations to their tax-deductible organization Dillard Family Ministries, which funds their evangelical work in Central America. The Dillards currently accept donations online with suggested monthly donations ranging from $15 to $100.
The Arkansas Secretary of State’s website shows that the nonprofit paperwork for Dillard Family Ministries was filed on June 17, a little less than a month after the allegations against Josh first came to light.
Then, shortly after TLC reportedly confirmed the cancellation of her wedding special two weeks ago, newly-engaged Duggar niece Amy gave out an address on Instagram for any fans who would like to send “cards and etc.,” promising to “personally hand write” a letter to anyone who sent a card or—wink, wink—an et cetera. Amy denied she had any financial motivations for the post.
“For us it’s not really about the gifts or money, but we would like the chance to personally thank everyone!” she wrote.
Next, on or around July 30, the social media hive mind spotted a donate button on the Duggar children’s YouTube channel Duggar Studios, which currently has just 15 videos, none of them longer than 10 minutes. The last video was uploaded three months ago and it is only 12 seconds long. After widespread outcry on Twitter, the donate button was removed.
But Duggar Studios’ fundraising efforts continued. On July 31, their Twitter account advertised a $20 heather gray T-shirt featuring the YouTube channel’s logo.
The merchandise page for the shirt promises that “[t]he contribution you make, when buying these t-shirts, will enable Duggar Studios to produce more quality videos.” So far, their definition of “quality videos” includes things like the Duggar boys doing doughnuts in the snow and sinking a full-court basketball shot. The T-shirt appeared on the merch page in late June as TLC was reportedly in the midst of deliberating the future of the family’s reality show.
The pattern has tabloids buzzing that the family is bleeding money but talk of the Duggars going flat broke is likely premature. As International Business Times reports, several Duggars still have lucrative speaking deals and the family does not appear to have cut back on their spending—although the latter is not necessarily an indication of good financial standing in and of itself.
But the immediate loss of the estimated $25,000 to $40,000 they once made per episode of 19 Kids and Counting is almost certainly affecting the family’s bottom line, especially after lost book deals and endorsements are taken into account.
Although patriarch Jim Bob Duggar owns a real estate agency, the adult Duggar children’s sources of income are much less clear. Josh, 27, resigned from his salaried position as executive director of the ultra-conservative Family Research Council in the midst of his sex abuse scandal.
According to varying reports, next-eldest son John David, 25, owns a tow truck business and works as an Arkansas constable, a local law enforcement position that comes with little to no pay. His twin Jana plays the piano and may or may not be training to be a midwife. All of the children have been homeschooled and none have graduated from a traditional four-year college.
The Duggars famously pride themselves on living within their means by budgeting for groceries, buying used cars, making their own laundry detergent, and cutting their own hair, which only makes their recent pattern of public requests for money all the more conspicuous. Racked by scandal and suddenly cut off from their seven-year-long stream of TLC money, the future of the Duggars’ media empire is increasingly uncertain.
The Daily Beast reached out to the Duggar family for comment through their official media request page and received an automatic reply that included the following: “If you are interested in purchasing a book you can click on the link at Duggarfamily.com for book sales.”