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Other - JANUARY 11, 2019

Endowments and foundations facing a conundrum

by Released

CAPTRUST Financial Advisors (CAPTRUST) has released its inaugural Endowment and Foundation Survey results. The survey primarily focused on nonprofits with long-term investment assets between $10 million and $100 million and included responses from more than 150 public and private foundations focused on religious, educational, and other charitable missions.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • Returns: More than 72 percent of organizations had return expectations in the 5 percent to 8 percent range, and more than 10 percent of respondents expressed return expectations of greater than 8 percent.
  • Volatility: The most common definition of risk was “volatility of investable assets,” while the least common definition was “volatility of spending.” Many respondents expressed concern over declines in spending due to portfolio losses but not volatility itself.
    • 44 percent of respondents were only willing to lose up to 5 percent of their portfolio values, and 56 percent were willing to lose 5 percent or greater to accomplish their return objective. There was a clear disconnect between respondents' willingness to experience losses and their stated return objectives.
  • Fundraising: Most organizations use websites (94 percent), Facebook (72 percent) and email (72 percent) to promote fundraising, while social media platforms such as Twitter (30 percent), LinkedIn (22 percent) and Instagram (9 percent) were utilized far less.
    • Adoption of newer platforms such as Apple Pay and Venmo to accept donor funds is small but may rise as these platforms become more established.
  • Governance: 12 percent of respondents do not maintain a formal spending policy, and 55 percent of respondents maintain their spending policies separate from their investment policies.

“We saw a need for a nonprofit survey to provide insights into the $10 million to $100 million segment, which we think is underserved and has unique needs,” said Grant Verhaeghe, CAPTRUST senior director and asset-liability practice leader. “The survey statistically validated a number of things we are hearing from clients and uncovered several issues that deserve more conversation. This segment of the market is very fragmented, so it's not surprising to see so much inconsistency.”

Eric Bailey, a financial adviser at CAPTRUST, said in an Institutional Investor article: “They are taking more risk than they currently say they want to be taking. In today’s interest-rate environment, you cannot achieve 7 to 8 percent returns with any large allocations to fixed income.”

The CAPTRUST Endowment and Foundation Survey includes more than 50 questions across four primary areas, including investment strategies, spending policies, governance and fundraising, and provides insights and best practices for nonprofits interested in peer benchmarking. This is the first iteration of what CAPTRUST believes will become an annual market study.

To view and download CAPTRUST's 2018 Endowment and Foundation Survey results, click here.

Or click here to replay a recent webinar featuring subject matter experts Bailey, Grant Verhaeghe, and James Stenstrom reviewing the results of the CAPTRUST Endowment and Foundation Survey.

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