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The endowment dream – an MJALibs fill in the blank game
Raising an Endowment
When thinking about an endowment, the possibilities seem endless. Will you have an additional $50,000, $120,000 or even $200,000 every year? Will you be able to cover budgetary shortfalls or expand your services and/or the number of people you serve? Will monetary stress disappear from staff and board meetings?
The Realities of Having an Endowment
For many organizations, having an endowment – whether inherited by the nonprofit’s current staff and board or raised in recent memory – is essential. Most of the time it does what it is supposed to. It helps the budget by providing operating revenue to be used on an annual basis. But, when the organization has a budgetary shortfall – like organizations may be experiencing or expecting during this pandemic – it can be tempting to take principal from the corpus of the endowment. Consider this a warning, it is a slippery slope.
Well, from an MJA new business perspective, it’s a great idea! Organizations often engage us to raise money after they have reduced or depleted their endowments. But, we also give advice to our clients to prevent this from happening. In fact, this is blog post based on an exchange I had with a client just this week.
The Slippery Slope
It starts with an unusual need. A new roof or, let’s say, a pandemic. You need to cover $100,000 one time. So while it feels wrong to take out principal, it may be urgently necessary. But, once you start taking out principal for the annual budget, it is then easier to go to the well again and again for capital needs and budgetary problems. It is much simpler to get board approval to take out more money than spend time and/or money on a real self-examination. That would require looking at the organization, it’s mission, the current needs of the community, reducing expenses, the annual fundraising, etc.
The reduced endowment is a future problem when the lack of annual funding is current problem.
Before long, instead of $75,000 a year towards the budget it is $40,000 – causing a larger annual deficit/budgetary shortfall every year. And then you must spend money to engage us to help you raise funds to increase your endowment. It’s a vicious cycle we are committed to assisting you to avoid.
If you do decide to take out principal, “just this once,” make sure there is a Finance policy in place. To ensure this does not happen again.
So, if you are confronting financial challenges that have you looking at the balance in your endowment as an easy answer, what do you do? It may seem hard to fundraise in this climate. It is different – but not impossible. (Here is a webinar that will give you some tips). Consider a self-examination (we offer a special Organization and Development Assessment to our clients which we can tailor to your needs).
Want Your Own Endowment?
And of course, if you want to raise an endowment, click here to schedule a time to talk. Yes, we are still raising endowments during the pandemic. Our world still needs nonprofits. Nonprofits still need funding. And donors, still have money to donate – maybe not all donors – but many still can, and want, to give.