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Clinton center shows staying power; giving, grants $24.2M in ’18, down from ’17 but still ongoing

by Frank E. Lockwood | November 14, 2019 at 7:23 a.m.
FILE — In this Nov. 8, 2016, file photo, then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and her husband former President Bill Clinton, greet supporters after voting in Chappaqua, N.Y. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

Despite taking flak from then-candidate Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation is still raising tens of millions of dollars, money that helps support the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, as well as charitable efforts around the globe.

The nonprofit group received contributions and grants of $24.2 million in 2018, down from $26.6 million the previous year, according to forms filed this month with the Internal Revenue Service.

The 9% drop isn't surprising, according to Leslie Lenkowsky, a professor at Indiana University's Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

The 42nd president and the former secretary of state are no longer the dominant political forces they once were, he said.

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Yet people are continuing to give, he said.

"The key thing here is the Clinton Foundation continues to be in business," he said.

The Arkansas-based foundation has proven more successful and more enduring than the foundation that bore the current president's name, Lenkowsky said.

Trump, sued by the state of New York and facing allegations that he misused charitable assets, agreed in December to dissolve his foundation. Last week, a New York state judge directed Trump to pay an additional $2 million to charity, ruling that Trump had "breached his fiduciary duty" while serving as a foundation director.

"Mrs. Clinton may have lost politically to Donald Trump, but, philanthropically, she and her family are big winners," Lenkowsky said.

Started in 1997 and originally called the William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation, the nonprofit focused initially on raising funds to build Clinton's presidential center.

Since then, the vision has expanded.

In addition to the Clinton Presidential Center, which includes the presidential library and museum, the foundation is involved in numerous other efforts, including:

• The Clinton Global Initiative University, which draws student leaders from more than 100 countries to discuss real-world problems and solutions. The 2018 event took place in Chicago. The 2020 gathering will be held in Edinburgh, Scotland.

• The Clinton Global Initiative Action Network on Post-Disaster Recovery. Hurricane Maria, which destroyed much of Puerto Rico in September 2017, took an incredible toll in the Caribbean. The action network, launched in its wake, focused on storm preparedness, recovery and resiliency. Sessions were held in April and August 2018 in Miami, in January this year in Puerto Rico and in June in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

• The Clinton Climate Initiative, which "develops scalable projects that can be tailored to local conditions while also serving as innovative models for tackling global climate change." In 2018, the foundation helped launch a utility-grade solar farm in St. Lucia, an Eastern Caribbean nation that relies on fossil fuel for nearly all its energy.

• The Clinton Development Initiative, which helps farmers in Malawi, Rwanda and Tanzania "increase their economic potential" by promoting "best agriculture practices" that increase crop yields and promote sustainability and profitability.

• Too Small to Fail, a program promoting early child literacy.

• The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, which focuses on promoting exercise and nutrition programs for children.

In 2014, at the peak of a multiyear endowment drive, giving to the foundation reached $172.6 million. In 2015, the year Hillary Rodham Clinton stepped down from the board to run for president, donations dropped to $108.9 million.

In 2016, with Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail, donations were $62.9 million.

Partisan election year attacks may have made some donors skittish, according to Lenkowsky.

Some observers even questioned the foundation's staying power, he said.

"I think there were a lot of people who felt that the Clinton Foundation might go down with Mrs. Clinton's unsuccessful bid for the presidency, but it clearly has continued," he said.

The Clinton Foundation downsized sharply after ending one of its marquee events -- the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in New York City.

The gathering, held at the same time as the United Nations General Assembly, had been a magnet for world leaders, business magnates, celebrities and philanthropists.

The final event was held in September 2016.

With giving down and the endowment drive complete, staffing decreased, from 578 employees in 2016 to 398 in 2017. In 2018, the number of employees dipped to 377.

As it did in 2017, the foundation continues to have six offices.

In addition to Little Rock and New York City, the Clinton Foundation has space in Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi and Colombia.

The Clinton Foundation's future stability is bolstered by "a very sizable endowment for an organization of its size," Lenkowsky noted.

Starting with just $267,491 at the end of 2012, it grew quickly, reaching $59.1 million at the end of 2013, $150.8 million at the end of 2014, $183.7 million at the end of 2015 and $187.2 million at the end of 2016.

After reaching $207.1 million at the end of 2017, it fell 4.8%, to $197.2 million the following year.

It was a rough 12 months for many investment portfolios -- the Dow Jones industrial average fell 5.6% during 2018.

The endowment is one of several revenue sources, according to foundation spokesman Brian Cookstra.

"In 2018 our work was funded with individual contributions, institutional grants, savings from prior years, and interest from our endowment," he said in a written statement. "We remain committed to operating programs that are effective, efficient, and sustainable."

The foundation reported gross receipts of $61.8 million in 2018, down from $89.6 million in 2017.

Total revenue equaled $30.7 million, down from $38.4 million in 2017.

Total expenses were $47.5 million, down from $54.5 million the previous year.

Expenses surpassed revenue by $16.8 million, similar to the 2017 figure -- $16.1 million.

Net assets or fund balances were $292.4 million at the end of 2018, down from $323.5 million in 2017.

The foundation reported expenses of $12.9 million in 2018 for the Clinton Presidential Center. It generated $1.55 million in revenue for the year.

In 2017, the center's expenses were $12.4 million, while its revenue reached $1.66 million.

In a written statement, Clinton Foundation Executive Director Stephanie S. Streett highlighted the center's contributions to the state and its drawing power as a cultural and educational institution.

"The Clinton Center continues to serve as a cornerstone of the community that offers a variety of special events, exhibitions, educational programs, and lectures throughout the year," she said. "Since opening in 2004, we have had more than 4.8 million visitors from across the globe, including 399,000 students and educators who have toured the Clinton Center at no cost.

"Our permanent and temporary exhibits provide educators and students with a multidisciplinary learning experience and we create all lesson plans based on approved Arkansas Department of Education standards. Also in 2018, the Foundation's Opioid Response Network began work with communities of faith in Central Arkansas to mobilize resources for people struggling with substance use disorders."

Clinton Foundation revenue down

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Print Headline: Clinton center shows staying power; giving, grants $24.2M in ’18, down from ’17 but still ongoing


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