Former President Bill Clinton outlines foundation's future, responds to critics

President Bill Clinton visits the Mtitu School in Lugalo Village, Iringa Region, Tanzania. Photo by: Max W. Orenstein / Clinton Foundation

The Clinton Foundation released its annual report and outlined where it will focus its efforts on Thursday, a future many have wondered about in the wake of presidential election results that saw Hillary Clinton unexpectedly lose to Donald Trump.

While a press release from the organization points to a few changes, the foundation largely intends to keep operating the programs it has been investing in going forward. The biggest change is the closure of the Clinton Global Initiative, which was announced already last year. For all the controversy CGI in particular generated this election season, it was seen by many in the development community as a transformative effort in both raising the profile of development challenges and fostering partnerships across sectors.

Clinton Foundation partners consider life after the election

Bill Clinton's announcement that the Clinton Foundation will no longer accept foreign and corporate donations if Hillary Clinton is elected president may have been about politics and perceptions, but it would also have real implications for some of the foundation's branches.

In a letter introducing the annual report, former President Bill Clinton reflected on the past year and the “unprecedented attacks that were misleading or outright false” that the foundation endured. He said the attacks often came from people who didn’t understand the foundation’s work and pointed to the assessments of the major charity review organizations, which have all rated the foundation highly. But he also shared how that has helped shape the foundation’s focus moving forward.

“Beginning in early 2016, the foundation’s senior leadership, Chelsea, and I devoted much time and thought to how the foundation should operate if Hillary were elected president,” he wrote in the letter. “While the election didn’t turn out as we hoped, the process of reviewing each of our initiatives helped us prioritize our work going forward, based on where we are having the greatest impact today, what we have to do to preserve and expand that work, and how we can break new ground in creating jobs, raising incomes, and improving education and health through diverse networks of cooperation that focus on how to do good things faster, better, and at lower cost.”

It seems that much of the foundation’s focus on domestic issues in the United States — from childhood obesity and health to literacy and leadership development programs including the Presidential Leadership Scholars — will continue with few changes and may expand.

“Since 2001, the Clinton Foundation has worked to improve lives around the world and build upon President Clinton’s incredible legacy of public service. We are dedicated to this mission, and will continue to create opportunities for people to build better futures for themselves, their families, and their communities,” the foundation said in a statement. “This year, we’ll build on what we know works by growing and scaling existing programs that have been most effective in improving lives and expanding opportunity.”

Former President Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton will continue to oversee the work of the foundation, but Hillary Clinton is not mentioned in the annual report or in the press release the foundation sent about the changes. She stepped down from her role at the foundation in 2015.

The annual report outlines the foundation’s finances in 2015, which included $298,833,812 in total revenue and support. The majority of the funds came through contributions, according the report. That’s down about 11.5 percent from $337,985,726 in total revenue and support in 2014.

The foundation had $264,624,857 in expenses in 2015, with about 56 percent going to the Clinton Health Access Initiative, about 10 percent going to the Clinton Global Initiative and about 11 percent going to management and general expenses. The rest was divided among other programs.

The Clinton Health Access Initiative, which works to tackle HIV/AIDS and provide anti-retroviral treatment, spun off into an independent entity in 2010 but is affiliated with foundation.* CHAI’s work will continue, according to the foundation.

The foundation’s Clinton Global Initiative, which brought together organizations from different sectors to make commitments to tackle major global challenges will be ending, as the organization announced last year. The annual meeting in September was the last, and while a small team will stay on at the foundation to see through ongoing partnerships, continue limited facilitation and run the CGI University program, most will be out of a job.

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Network members are likely to sustain and even further develop their commitments to Haiti, the group's chair said on Monday, indicating how the legacy of CGI will live beyond the annual meeting.

Earlier Thursday the foundation announced that it will be holding the 10th annual CGI University, a meeting for university students from around the world who are focused on addressing some of the world’s greatest challenges, in Boston, Massachusetts, in October.

The Clinton Development Initiative, which works to improve farmer livelihoods in several African countries, will continue its work in Rwanda and Malawi, but projects in Tanzania will be refocused to work with smallholder farmers near the program’s commercial farm. The foundation has found that farmers in Tanzania are more spread out than in other regions where it works and thus it is “more challenging to reach scale and, ultimately, sustainability with our model,” in a statement. In April 2016 the Clinton Development Initiative opened its first of three health centers near the Anchor farm in Malawi; the other two are scheduled to open this spring.

The Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership will be transitioning into an independent organization during the next year. The program seeks to address poverty through market-based solutions, and has impacted about 600,000 people in Asia, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean. CGEP announced last year that it would become an independent entity if Secretary Clinton won the election in an effort to continue its work, but the foundation has confirmed that despite the election outcome those plans will proceed. At the time it said it will have independent governance and funding and is likely to change its name.

In 2016 CGEP launched two new pilots focused on supply chains — one in Indonesia in partnership with Unilever working coconut sugar farmers and one in Côte d’Ivoire working with soybean and maize farmers. That work will continue in 2017.

The Clinton Foundation’s work in Haiti will be spun off and continue under the J/P Haitian Relief Organization with support from the Digicel Foundation, according to the Clinton Foundation.

The foundation will also continue to provide support for small island nations through the Clinton Climate Initiative. So far the initiative has partnered with 25 island nations on clean energy and climate mitigation. And its program will continue to emphasize the role of women and girls, according to the release.

Update, Feb. 3, 2017: This article has been updated to clarify that while the Clinton Foundation files consolidated financial statements including the Clinton Health Access Initiative, CHAI does not receive money from the foundation.  

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About the author

  • Adva Saldinger

    Adva Saldinger is a Senior Reporter at Devex, where she covers the intersection of business and international development, as well as U.S. foreign aid policy. From partnerships to trade and social entrepreneurship to impact investing, Adva explores the role the private sector and private capital play in development. A journalist with more than 10 years of experience, she has worked at several newspapers in the U.S. and lived in both Ghana and South Africa.