Obama Foundation reports $165 million in contributions, $343 million in assets

Former President Barack Obama speaks to supporters at the Obama Foundation on Aug. 28, 2018. (Herald file photo)

Staff writer

The Obama Foundation released its annual report for 2018 on June 28, reporting almost $165 million in contributions, 84.4% of which came from individual donors. As of Dec. 31, the Foundation had $343 million in assets, up $119 million from 2017. The Foundation reported that pre-construction costs of the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) were around $30.6 million.

The OPC, which the Foundation will build and operate in Jackson Park but the city will own, will cost an estimated $500 million.

Contributions dropped from the 2017 report, when the Foundation reported nearly $233 million in revenue. The Foundation reported spending around $31 million on programs, $10 million on general and administrative concerns and $6 million on fundraising.

It reported spending over 40% with firms that are owned by women, people of color, people with disabilities, veterans or LGBTQ people. In the Chicago, Washington and New York offices, 24% of operations spending, or $7 million, was with diverse vendors.

The report did not include the number of people employed at the Foundation nor its staffers’ demographic makeup.

In his letter accompanying the report, former President Obama called his namesake foundation “an organization committed to inspiring, empowering, and connecting people with the voice and the vision for a better tomorrow.”

“The world can use more leaders. I saw that clearly during my time in the White House, and I believe that even more today,” he continued. “We need the kind of inclusive, ethical leadership that can channel a people’s will into progress that benefits everyone. We need fresh eyes and diverse perspectives that can help us question and change our current ways of thinking.”

The non-financial sections of the report focused on the Foundation’s leadership training initiatives (e.g. My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, the Foundation Fellows and Scholars and the Community Leadership Corps) as well as the planned features of the OPC campus.

The report discussed the Foundation’s oral history project on the Obama Presidency, in which researchers from Columbia University in New York alongside partners from the universities of Chicago and Hawaii will interview 400 people from Cabinet secretaries to figures from former President and First Lady’s early lives.

The report also discussed plans to provide access to the digitized Obama presidential records at the OPC. It stated that 95% of them were “born digital,” with 30 million additional paper pages to be digitized.

It also briefly detailed the busy legislative history of the OPC in 2018, including profiles of South Siders who support it.

Protect Our Parks v. Chicago Park District, the dismissed federal lawsuit trying to block its construction in Jackson Park that plaintiffs plan to appeal, was unmentioned.