For nonprofit organizations, managing an endowment is a critical responsibility that comes with a unique set of challenges and ethical considerations. A key decision in this area is whether to manage the endowment in-house or to outsource this task to professionals. This choice involves weighing the capabilities of internal staff against the potential benefits of external insights.
The Risks of In-House Management
Assigning endowment management to a staff member may seem like a cost-effective solution, but it introduces several risks. First, there’s the question of competence. Managing an endowment requires specific investment knowledge and experience that a general staff member may not possess.
The ethics of this arrangement can be complicated. For example, if the person responsible for investing is not performing well, but there is a hesitation to replace them due to personal attachments or organizational politics, the endowment could suffer.
Moreover, emotional attachment to the organization or the mission can influence investment decisions. A common metaphor we use for investment is to point your skis downhill for more control, even if it’s a little scary to go fast in the right direction. This implies that while more aggressive strategies might yield better results, they also come with higher risks, which emotionally invested staff might be reluctant to take.
There’s also accountability to consider. A significant misstep in managing the endowment could lead to difficult conversations with concerned or even angry board members, impacting the organization’s reputation and future funding.
The Value of Professional Insight
Having a professional manage or at least review the nonprofit’s investments can bring several advantages. Professionals are able to identify underperforming assets or opportunities for better returns that might be missed by an internal team. This oversight can make a substantial difference in the growth and sustainability of the endowment.
When contemplating endowment management, nonprofits, particularly those engaged in major projects or handling substantial funds, often face a critical decision. These organizations, while adept at their core missions, may not have the specialized expertise required for efficient endowment management. This situation becomes even more pronounced when dealing with large grants or endowments.
For instance, an organization receiving a substantial grant faces the challenge of managing these funds effectively. The complexities of such financial management can divert attention and resources away from the organization’s primary objectives.
This scenario underscores the importance of focusing on what nonprofits do best – their mission – while considering the outsourcing of intricate financial tasks like endowment management to professionals skilled in this area.
Proper Strategizing Can be an Effective Equivalent to Outsourcing.
For nonprofits, deciding how to manage their endowment funds demands carefully evaluating both in-house management and outsourcing. Each approach has unique benefits and challenges that must be weighed against the organization’s specific needs and capacities.
On the one hand, outsourcing to professional managers can provide access to specialized investment expertise, risk management skills, and an understanding of complex financial regulations. This can be crucial for optimizing the growth and long-term sustainability of the endowment. It also allows the nonprofit’s leadership to focus more on its core mission, as the day-to-day management of the endowment is handled by experts.
On the other hand, managing the endowment internally allows for more direct control over investment decisions. This can be particularly appealing for organizations that have staff with the necessary expertise and resources to manage these funds effectively. In-house management can also align closely with the organization’s values and mission, as decisions are made by those deeply embedded in the nonprofit’s culture.
The choice between in-house management and outsourcing should be guided by a thorough assessment of the organization’s internal capabilities, financial goals, and the specific needs of the endowment. Nonprofits might find that a blended approach, combining elements of both strategies, could offer a more tailored solution, which is why the team at Fairlight Advisors is so passionate about educating and assisting nonprofit leaders on their endowment strategy. To schedule a consultation, call 1-844-309-6248 today.
Latest posts by Fairlight Advisors (see all)
- Embracing Risk: The Path to Agility and Resilience in Nonprofits - February 1, 2024