Do You Need an Endowment?

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Imagine for a minute, that you knew you could 

  • balance your budget each year, 
  • expand programming when an opportunity arises
  • hire the necessary staff to further your mission

This is not just the daydreaming of a nonprofit executive. This is the reality of an organization with a substantial endowment. And it could be your reality too. 

Endowments take time to build

The thing about an endowment is that it does not have to be raised quickly. An endowment is a long-term strategy to ensure your nonprofit’s future. It’s true, you won’t see a new suite of rooms as a result of this fundraising, but you will see financial sustainability. And if the past few years have taught us anything, security for your mission is essential. Knowing you have income that can be used for paying salaries or modifying programming can help you weather everything from economic uncertainty to lapsing major donors. 

How can you raise money for an endowment?

There are a few different ways to create an endowment. The three main ways are: 

  1. Add a Legacy Campaign to your fundraising efforts
  2. Run an Endowment Campaign
  3. Do a Comprehensive Campaign

Note: If you are an organization that gets a bequest or two every year after donors have died, any of the following campaigns may help you identify those supporters who have already put you in their estate.

1. Add a Legacy Campaign.

The simplest way to encourage legacy giving is to integrate a legacy campaign into your fundraising program*. While this idea, inherently, requires the least effort, creating the materials and listing it in your newsletter will only result in a few gifts. To be successful, you need to develop marketing materials, host events to invite your community to understand legacy giving and how it can impact your nonprofit, market the opportunity, and set individual meetings to encourage and explain the possibilities. And don’t forget to create events to thank these special donors. In other words, if you want to truly build your endowment, it will take effort. 

2. Run an Endowment Campaign.

Conducting an endowment campaign is like running a capital campaign. You create a compelling case for giving and ask individuals/couple/families to make a gift as an investment in the future of your organization. This is a individualized effort that can result in a lot of gifts from your long time supporters. Many of whom, might not be major donors. 

3. Do a Comprehensive Campaign.

Some donors like to give annually, some like to give to see a building built, and others want to ensure the nonprofit is around for the next generation. A comprehensive campaign can appeal to all three. It is creating individual asks, as you would in a capital or endowment campaign, but asking for all three gifts at one time. i.e. “would you consider a capital campaign gift of $100,000, a legacy gift in your estate planning of $250,000, while continuing your annual giving of $10,000 a year for the next five years.” This may seem like a big ask, but when laid out on a nice chart showing the impact, the idea of giving a $350,000 gift — with a $350,000 naming opportunity — is often appealing.  

Timing

Again, endowment fundraising does not bring immediate money. While you may be thinking, I need it now. If your predecessors had done this campaign, you would not be concerned about weathering future storms.


Life & Legacy assists communities across North America, through partnerships with Jewish Federations and Foundations, to promote after-lifetime giving.