Private contributions to the Chicago-based Obama Foundation totaled more than $164.8 million in 2018 — down 30 percent from the nearly $232.6 million it raised in 2017 — the foundation's second annual report shows.
Donations from individuals accounted for more than $139.1 million — 84.4 percent of the total — down from 94.9 percent in 2017, while the remaining $25.7 million (15.6 percent, up from 5.1 percent) came from corporations and foundations. The foundation also reported more than $46.8 million in operating expenses in 2018, including nearly $30.9 million (66 percent) in program costs, $9.87 million (21.1 percent) in general and administrative costs, and $6 million (12.9 percent) in fundraising costs. As of the end of 2018, the foundation's total assets stood at $343.02 million, up from $224.2 million in 2017.
According to the report, pre-construction spending through 2018 for the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park totaled nearly $30.6 million, up from $12.8 million at the end of 2017. Last year, the foundation set a goal of spending 32.5 percent of the center's professional services budget with vendors that are at least 51 percent owned, operated, and controlled by women, people of color, people with disabilities, veterans, or members of the LGBTQ community — and exceeded it, at more than 40 percent.
"[W]e need the kind of inclusive, ethical leadership that can channel a people's will into progress that benefits everyone," wrote former President Barack Obama. "We need fresh eyes and diverse perspectives that can help us question and change our current ways of thinking."
The report does not indicate how much of the project's estimated total cost of $500 million has been raised. And while the foundation was handed a victory recently when a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit that aimed to keep the project out of the city-owned park, the report does not provide a new timeline for the project. Nor does it report the racial and gender breakdown of foundation staff.
"Where the rubber meets the road is when you look inside and see what's happening in those organizations," Edgar Villanueva, vice president of programs and advocacy at the Schott Foundation for Public Education and author of Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance, told the Chicago Tribune. "If I were a donor, I would want to know that the foundations are operationalizing their values by having a diverse staff that reflects the community being served."
(Image credit: Obama Foundation)