According to its 2017 990 tax form, which the foundation provided to the Democrat-Gazette, contributions to the foundation totaled $26.6 million in 2017, down from $62.9 million in 2016, $108.9 million in 2015, and $172.6 million in 2014. The foundation's endowment, which stood at $267,491 at the beginning of 2013 — when the foundation launched a three-year endowment campaign — topped $207 million in 2017, up from $187.2 million in 2016, with most of that increase, $20.4 million, coming from investment gains. The foundation received $3 million in endowment gifts in 2017, and classified $3.7 million in previously committed pledges as uncollectable. It also listed overall revenues of $38.4 million and expenses of $54.6 million, a gap of $16.1 million.
Foundation officials had previously attributed the 2016 drop in revenues to the "closing out" of the endowment campaign, which wrapped up in 2015, as well as fundraising restrictions voluntarily adopted at the start of Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign for the presidency.
Indeed, the latest declines were foreseeable, foundation CEO Kevin Thurm said in a letter to donors. With the cancellation of the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting, "we anticipated a decline in both revenue and expenses for 2017, largely attributable to the absence of sponsorship and membership contributions for CGI."
The foundation also trimmed its headcount from 578 in 2016 to 398 in 2017, its international offices from ten to four, and its spending on overseas activities from $21.5 million to $15.5 million.
Leslie Lenkowsky, an emeritus professor at Indiana University, said he was "not in the least surprised" by declining revenues at the foundation. Before the 2016 election, "Mrs. Clinton had a chance at becoming president. Since then, she lost. She's likely out of public life. [Bill Clinton's] reputation has been damaged by the fallout of the #MeToo movement, so the organization's not as attractive as it once was," said Lenkowsky. "Success isn't going to be with you all the time, and the endowment will at least give you a bit of a cushion."
At the same time, it's important for the foundation to begin thinking about the long term, said Lenkowsky. "Nonprofits over the years are usually started by people who feel passionate about what they're doing, who are deeply committed to doing it. But such people really need to find a way of institutionalizing their passion and enthusiasm so that when they leave the scene, for whatever reason, there are other people that can pick up and run the foundation efficiently."