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“How can we launch an endowment fund?” 3 steps to help.

Something I’m asked about a lot when it comes to fundraising is the endowment fund. These permanently restricted gifts can be a complex aspect of fundraising to understand, but the following steps can help an organization establish and appropriately utilize an endowment fund.

#1. Understand what endowment really is:

Endowment funds are permanently restricted gifts contributed by donors. The principle of these funds (the actual gift) can never be spent, but the income on the principal can be used for general or specific purposes of the charity as defined by the donor. When the CEO, board members, and the development and finance offices are on the same page with this understanding, you’ll be better able to utilize this great tool.

#2. The board establishes a desired dollar amount and timeline:
For example, if your goal is to establish an endowment that is equal to 3 times the annual operating budget, you must also establish a deadline for when you want to accomplish raising those funds. It’s important for the date to be specific, distant, and time bound. Why? Generally, endowment funds are accumulated from individual donors rather than foundations or businesses. These dollars can take longer to add up (and often, such gifts are end-of-life gifts). Be sure to give appropriate time for the goal to be reached.

#3. Establish a legacy society:
This group or club should have only one membership requirement — a commitment to making a legacy gift. A legacy gift can take many forms, but it often means having members put your charity in their will or end-of-life bequest. Once your legacy society is established, you can also define a goal for what percentage of your board must demonstrate leadership by joining the society. Your board should be leading by example.

The endowment fund is not your quickest fundraising solution. In fact, these dollars often take the longest time to raise! Patience is key when considering endowment. Demonstrate patience with your words, attitudes, and actions. Take your time raising an endowment and it will reap benefits for years to come.

If you have other questions about endowment, I’d love to talk with you or point you to some excellent resources.

Have a great week,

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