Endowments Should Provide Income—Let's Get a Return on Our Investment!

by Kirk Walden, Advancement SpecialistIncome

Endowments, even "small" ones, can begin providing regular income for your organization. But with interest rates so low, where do we go to find that income?

This is where a financial advisor comes in. The board can choose a financial advisor by asking interested parties to "interview" for handling the endowment funds on behalf of the ministry, or perhaps there is a trusted advisor who will invest the funds for the board on a pro bono basis.

To fulfill its fiduciary responsibility, the board appoints the advisor to make day-to-day decisions and report back to the board regularly, so the board is aware of the account's status. This way the advisor is not constantly asking the board, "Can I move this portion of the fund into cash? May I invest in this particular mutual fund?"

In this scenario, the board sets parameters with the advisor and gives the advisor its capacity for financial risk. Boards are generally risk averse; a good thing. But, "no risk" can mean "no return." A board that balances its concern over immediate risk with an eye to long-term objectives does well. In the end, a ministry is going to be more conservative in its investment risk than many individuals, but will always have a percentage of its funds in stock funds.

Two quick notes
First, a ministry may want its stock investments to reflect the ministry's views on abortion, not wanting to invest in companies that choose to support the abortion industry. There are mutual funds available with this in mind. Consult with a financial advisor.

Second, a board does not want to weigh itself down with managing individual stocks given by donors. A good policy is to take any individual stock gifts and sell them, turning the stock into cash. From there, the financial advisor (in the case of an endowment) can invest the funds with the overall investment plan in mind.

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