Non-profit

Obama Foundation

Website:

www.obama.org/the-center/

Location:

CHICAGO, IL

Tax ID:

46-4950751

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2020):

Revenue: $171,374,663
Expenses: $40,536,698
Assets: $563,740,541

President:

Valerie Jarrett

Board Chair:

Martin Nesbitt

Founded:

2014

The Obama Foundation is a nonprofit organization formed in 2014, near the end of President Barack Obama’s second term in office, to press for liberal projects and to both oversee the design and construction of the Obama Presidential Center within Jackson Park in Chicago, Illinois. A federal review of the potential environmental impact of the Center began in 2016 when the location was selected, and despite an estimated opening projected in 2021 the review was only completed that year to approve construction. [1] Although the initial cost of the Center’s construction was projected at $500 million by 2020, the Foundation had increased the cost to over $830 million by 2021 to include construction as well as exhibition preparation and post-construction operation. [2] The plans for the new Center include a library, a museum focusing on Obama’s presidency, and space for programs that fit with the foundation’s mission. [3]

The Foundation has been criticized for accepting donations from groups that Obama criticized during his presidency, as well as complaints from residents who live near the future site of the center about the effects of the construction. [4]

Initiatives

As he was leaving the Oval Office, Obama joined his wife, Michelle, in a video imploring Americans to contribute ideas to his foundation, calling it a “living, working center for citizenship.” Part of the foundation’s stated mission is developing “what it means to be a good citizen in the 21st century.”[5]

As plans for the Obama Presidential Center became clearer, some citizens expressed their displeasure. Residents who live near Jackson Park, the future site for the center, voiced their concerns at a planning meeting in July 2017, critiquing ideas on closing roads, moving some natural areas, and determining how to provide economic benefit to surrounding neighborhoods.[6]

The plan to close Cornell Drive, a busy thoroughfare connecting South Lake Shore Drive to the Chicago Skyway, to create five acres of park space around the presidential center also proved controversial.[7]

Leadership

Chief Executive Officer

Valerie Jarret is the current chief executive officer of The Obama Foundation as well as a member of the board of directors. She also serves as the board chair of Civic Nation and the co-chair of The United State of Women. [8]

Board of Directors

Martin Nesbitt serves as the chairman of the foundation’s board of directors. Nesbitt previously served as the National Treasurer during Obama’s two presidential campaigns. Nesbitt also co-founded the private equity firm The Vistria Group. [9] [10]

Connie Ballmer is an American philanthropist and the wife of former Microsoft CEO and billionaire Steve Ballmer. In 2015, they launched the Ballmer Group, a philanthropic fund created to fund progressive-left organizations that provide social services for victims of alleged systemic racism. [11] [12] [13]

Sean Parker is a technology entrepreneur who founded the file sharing network Napster and served as the first president of Facebook. [14] He is the founder and president of the Sean N. Parker Foundation, a private foundation that notably contributed $6.25 million to the Barack Obama Foundation in 2018. [15] [16] [17]

Funding

The Obama Foundation’s IRS 990 form for 2015 showed revenues of $1,916,247 and expenses of $2,820,908. [18]

The organization reported spending nearly $1 million on legal, consulting and marketing in 2014 on that form. Beneficiaries of that spending include the law firm Katten Muchin Roseman LLP with $296,759, marketing firm Blue State Digital with $272,879, marketing firm SKDKnickerbocker with $182,865, and consultants Peter Edward Arendt LLC with $150,000.[19]

The foundation released an updated donor list in July 2017 that revealed eight donors had given more than $1 million each, and another two dozen gave between $10,000 and $100,000. Those donors included venture capitalist John Doerr (who also serves on the board of directors), LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, and Zumiez founder Tom Campion. [20]

According to a Chicago Sun-Times article written by columnist Lynn Sweet, the foundation’s donor list only provides a range of numbers for each donation rather than the exact amount, leading Sweetto decry the practice as “(obfuscating) the amount and (confusing) readers.”[21] The article further points out that mega donations is the preferred method of fundraising for such facilities and noted it hadn’t been stated yet if corporate signage or naming rights to parts of the presidential center might be tied to the gifts. [22]

An unnamed official with the foundation told the Sun-Times that the organization was no longer imposing self-restrictive measures on fundraising amounts after Obama left the White House.[23]

2017 Financials

The Obama Foundation reported raising $233 million in 2017, nearly 95 percent of which came from individuals. Ann and John Doerr, the former an investor and Obama Foundation board member, were contributors. Mary and Jeffrey Zients, the latter a former director of the National Economic Council during the Obama administration, were also top donors.[24]

2020 Financials

According to their released 990 financial report from 2020, from its founding in 2014 through to the end of 2020, the Foundation has raised over $719.8 Million. In the year 2020, the Foundation reportedly raised $171 million, whereas its total expenses were $40.5 million and net assets reported at $560.6 million during that same year. The 990 report also showed that 58.23% of the $171 million raised, or $100 million, was from corporations and other large foundations. [25] Amongst the list of new donors that contributed over $1 million to The Obama Foundation in 2020 were basketball star Michael Jordan and George Soros’s Open Society Foundation. As of 2o20, the report also showed the Foundation plans to raise $1.6 Billion over a period of 5 years, “to build and open the Obama Presidential Center, sustain our programming and operations and plan for the future.” [26]

2021 Financials

According to their 2021 financial report from 2021, the Obama Foundation raised $160 million, while “$76 million came from foundations and corporations and about $84 million from individuals.” [27]

References

  1. Cherone, Heather. “Feds Give Obama Presidential Center Green Light After 4-Year Review.” WTTW News, February 4, 2021. https://news.wttw.com/2021/02/03/feds-give-obama-presidential-center-green-light-after-4-year-review ^
  2. Sweet, Lynn. “Obama Foundation reveals $830M needed to build, operate Obama Center in first year.” Chicago Sun-Times, August 17, 2021. https://chicago.suntimes.com/columnists/2021/8/17/22629390/obama-center-cost-foundation-funding-michael-jordan-george-soros ^
  3. Obama Foundation: About page. Accessed August 25, 2017. https://www.obama.org/about-the-foundation/ ^
  4. Cholke, Sam. “Obama Luster Wears Off Library Plans, But Critics Still Split On Problems.” DNAInfo. July 14, 2017. Accessed August 25, 2017. ^
  5. Calfas, Jennifer. “Obamas asks Americans to help ‘Obama Foundation.’” The Hill. January 20, 2017. Accessed August 28, 2017. http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/315240-obamas-to-create-obama-foundation-after-white-house ^
  6. Cholke, Sam. “Obama Luster Wears Off Library Plans, But Critics Still Split On Problems.” DNAInfo. July 14, 2017. Accessed August 25, 2017. https://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20170714/south-shore/obama-presidential-library-center-jackson-park-president-barack-opposition-south-shore-golf-course   ^
  7. Spielman, Fran. “Golf course merger requires another road closing in Jackson Park.” Chicago Sun-Times. May 8, 2017. Accessed August 25, 2017. http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/golf-course-merger-requires-another-road-closing-in-jackson-park/ ^
  8. “Obama Foundation Democracy Forum.” The Obama Foundation, Accessed November 15, 2022. https://www.obama.org/democracy-forum-2022/ ^
  9. Obama Foundation: The Board. Accessed August 28, 2017. https://www.obama.org/whats-next/leadership/the-board/ ^
  10. Adeniji, Ade. “The Obama Foundation Is Picking up Steam. Who’s on Board and Where Is Funding Headed So Far?” Inside Philanthropy, November 22, 2022. https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2022/11/22/the-obama-foundation-is-ramping-up-whos-on-board-and-where-is-funding-headed ^
  11. Davies, Megan. “Black Lives Matter. Always.” Ballmer Group. September 18, 2020. https://www.ballmergroup.org/news/black-lives-matter. ^
  12. Obama Foundation: The Board. Accessed August 28, 2017. https://www.obama.org/whats-next/leadership/the-board/ ^
  13. Adeniji, Ade. “The Obama Foundation Is Picking up Steam. Who’s on Board and Where Is Funding Headed So Far?” Inside Philanthropy, November 22, 2022. https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2022/11/22/the-obama-foundation-is-ramping-up-whos-on-board-and-where-is-funding-headed ^
  14. Kirkpatrick, David. “With A Little Help From His Friends”. Vanity Fair. September 6, 2010. Accessed May 1, 2019. https://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2010/10/sean-parker-201010 ^
  15. Sean N. Parker Foundation, Return of a Private Foundation (Form 990-PF), 2018, Part XV Line 3 https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/display_990/274389819/02_2020_prefixes_27-30%2F274389819_201812_990PF_2020021317143784 ^
  16. Obama Foundation: The Board. Accessed August 28, 2017. https://www.obama.org/whats-next/leadership/the-board/ ^
  17. Adeniji, Ade. “The Obama Foundation Is Picking up Steam. Who’s on Board and Where Is Funding Headed So Far?” Inside Philanthropy, November 22, 2022. https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2022/11/22/the-obama-foundation-is-ramping-up-whos-on-board-and-where-is-funding-headed ^
  18. Guidestar: Obama Foundation IRS 990 form for 2015. Accessed August 28, 2017. http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2015/464/950/2015-464950751-0cf0c419-9.pdf ^
  19. Guidestar: Obama Foundation IRS 990 form for 2015. Accessed August 28, 2017. http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2015/464/950/2015-464950751-0cf0c419-9.pdf ^
  20. Obama Foundation: Contributors. Accessed August 28, 2017. https://www.obama.org/contributors/ ^
  21. Sweet, Lynn. “Obama Foundation first corporate donors: Exelon, Microsoft give $1 mil.” The Chicago Sun-Times. July 14, 2017. Accessed August 25, 2017. http://chicago.suntimes.com/chicago-politics/obama-foundation-first-corporate-donors-exelon-microsoft-give-1-mil/ ^
  22. Sweet, Lynn. “Obama Foundation first corporate donors: Exelon, Microsoft give $1 mil.” Chicago Sun-Times. July 14, 2017. Accessed August 25, 2017. http://chicago.suntimes.com/chicago-politics/obama-foundation-first-corporate-donors-exelon-microsoft-give-1-mil/ ^
  23. Sweet, Lynn. “Obama Foundation first corporate donors: Exelon, Microsoft give $1 mil.” The Chicago Sun-Times. July 14, 2017. Accessed August 25, 2017. http://chicago.suntimes.com/chicago-politics/obama-foundation-first-corporate-donors-exelon-microsoft-give-1-mil/ ^
  24. “Hope’s Next Act: Who’s Giving Big to the Obama Foundation-And Why?” Inside Philanthropy. Accessed September 17, 2018. https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2018/9/14/hopes-next-act-whos-giving-big-to-the-obama-foundationand-why. ^
  25. “Obama Foundation reveals $830M needed to build, operate Obama Center in first year.” Chicago Sun-Times, August 17, 2021. https://chicago.suntimes.com/columnists/2021/8/17/22629390/obama-center-cost-foundation-funding-michael-jordan-george-soros ^
  26. “Obama Foundation reveals $830M needed to build, operate Obama Center in first year.” Chicago Sun-Times, August 17, 2021. https://chicago.suntimes.com/columnists/2021/8/17/22629390/obama-center-cost-foundation-funding-michael-jordan-george-soros ^
  27. Adeniji, Ade. “The Obama Foundation Is Picking up Steam. Who’s on Board and Where Is Funding Headed So Far?” Inside Philanthropy, November 22, 2022. https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2022/11/22/the-obama-foundation-is-ramping-up-whos-on-board-and-where-is-funding-headed ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Anne Filipic
    Former COO and former program officer
  2. Robbin Cohen
    Former Executive Director
  3. Julianna Smoot
    Board Member
  4. Valerie Jarrett
    Chief Executive Officer
  5. John Doerr
    Former Board Member
  6. David Simas
    President
  7. Wally Adeyemo
    Former President
  8. Ian Simmons
    Supporter
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: July 1, 2014

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2020 Dec Form 990 $171,374,663 $40,536,698 $563,740,541 $3,085,877 N $171,102,620 $0 $393,895 $4,306,610
    2019 Dec Form 990 $141,308,493 $54,783,253 $439,375,134 $9,829,875 N $139,662,706 $0 $1,682,892 $3,784,790 PDF
    2018 Dec Form 990 $164,674,309 $45,888,380 $355,887,803 $12,867,784 Y $163,949,264 $0 $648,749 $3,573,127 PDF
    2017 Dec Form 990 $232,148,718 $21,271,265 $229,077,622 $4,843,532 N $231,993,748 $0 $101,127 $2,716,182
    2016 Dec Form 990 $13,182,092 $4,871,276 $13,448,613 $2,559,816 N $13,175,732 $0 $29 $1,146,581
    2015 Dec Form 990 $1,916,266 $2,820,908 $3,990,573 $1,412,592 N $1,916,247 $0 $19 $635,263 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $5,434,877 $1,952,254 $3,670,839 $188,216 N $5,434,877 $0 $0 $0 PDF

    Obama Foundation

    5235 S HARPER CT STE 1140
    CHICAGO, IL 60615-4281