William Oberndorf graduated from Williams College in 1975 and received his M.B.A. from Stanford Business School in 1978. Oberndorf has spent much of his life on the West Coast, cofounding Mill Valley, California investment firm SPO Advisory Corp. Oberndorf recently retired from SPO and now manages Oberndorf Enterprises.
Oberndorf and his wife Susan move their philanthropy through the Bill and Susan Oberndorf Foundation, which unfortunately doesn't have much of a web presence, or a clear way to get in touch. In 2013, however, the foundation held close to $80 million in assets and gave away around $8 million. Much of the couple's grantmaking is focused on the Bay Area where the couple has a number of interests. Here are a few must-knows:
1. The Couple Has a Major Interest in Education Reform
In the early 1990s, Oberndorf co-founded American Education Reform Foundation, whose purpose is to "promote, through legislative action, the granting of publicly funded scholarships that will allow primarily low-income parents to opt out of the public school system if it is not working for their children."
Recent education philanthropy in the Bay Area has involved SF School Choice Alliance, KIPP Bay Area Schools, which received a $10,000 grant in 2013, and Gateway Public Schools. Money has also recently gone to San Francisco Education Fund, whose mission is to "harnesses the power of the community to equip every public school student with the skills to succeed in college, career and civic responsibility," and BASIC Fund, a privately funded organization providing partial-tuition scholarships to low-income families across the Bay Area.
2. Money Has Also Gone to Bay Area Universities
Millions have also streamed to various outfits associated with the University of San Francisco system, including the UCSF Foundation, which received around $3.3 million in 2013, and around $4.3 million in 2012. Oberndorf is chairman of the University of California San Francisco Foundation. A steady stream of money has also gone to Stanford, where both Oberndorf and Susan graduated. In 2010, more than $2 million went to Stanford.
3. The Couple Also Has an Interest in Health
Recent money has gone to Gladstone Institutes, "an independent and nonprofit biomedical research organization whose focus is to better understand, prevent, treat and cure cardiovascular, viral and neurological conditions," UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital, Stanford School of Medicine, and Cancer Prevention Institute of California in Fremont. Cancer appears to be a particular interest of the couple, and it's worth mentioning that one of SPO's founders, William J. Patterson, passed away from a brain tumor.
4. The Environment is Another Interest
Recent money has gone to California Trout, a nonprofit "whose mission is to protect and restore wild trout, steelhead, salmon and their waters throughout California." Sums have also gone to Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, San Francisco Zoological Society, and San Francisco Parks Alliance, among others.
5. Assorted Sums Have Also Gone to Arts and Culture
Large sums have gone to California Academy of Sciences, which was once chaired by Oberndorf's business partner, William J. Patterson. In 2013, the Oberndorfs gave California Academy of Sciences around $1.3 million. In 2012, the outfit received $1.75 million. Other recent support includes grants to San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
6. The Foundation Supports Policy Outfits and Others
Money has also gone to policy outfits across the country. In the Bay Area, this includes the Hoover Institution and Pacific Research Institute, "a nonprofit [that advocates] for personal responsibility and individual liberty in national and state issues."
Additionally, recent sums have gone to community and human services outfits such as San Francisco 49ers Foundation, San Francisco Food Bank, San Francisco Free Clinic, San San Francisco YMCA, Napa Valley Community Foundation, Meals On Wheels of San Francisco and the Tipping Point Community, a "nonprofit that fights poverty in the Bay Area." In 2013, a $100,000 grant went to Tipping Point Community.
The Oberndorfs clearly have a lot of interests in the Bay Area and grantseekers should keep the couple on their radar.