Endowment Ready

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Is your organization endowment-ready?

An endowment is an organization’s key to a more secure financial future. Endowment funds are invested for future needs, but can also provide a steady revenue source today.
There are no firm criteria to determine if your organization is ready to establish and build an endowment. However, it is important to conduct an organizational self-assessment to help you make this decision. Here are the most important considerations.


Creating an endowment begins with staff who are dedicated to building resources for the organization, including the endowment.

  • Does your organization have competent, qualified fundraising staff to help plan and execute fundraising programs and support volunteer fundraisers?
  • Are there professional development dollars in your budget to support your fundraising staff in acquiring skills to solicit planned and endowment gifts?

Successful endowment building begins with the commitment of the board and staff. They must believe establishing and building an endowment is a priority for the organization. Further, the leadership should be stable, knowledgeable and have the time and talent to participate.

  • Does your senior management and board support the building of an endowment?
  • Do they have an active role in the fundraising process
Strategic Plan

The organization should have a clear mission and a history of gaining and building support for it.

  • Does your organization have a written strategic plan to guide its course over the next three to five years?
  • Have your board and committee members committed themselves to meeting the financial needs of the plan, which must come through fundraising?
Development Plan

A comprehensive and long-range development plan to generate broad support from the community is a fundamental building block for an endowment.

  • Does your organization have a compelling case for financial support from the community?
  • Does it have a comprehensive annual and long-range development plan?
  • Does your development plan include building an endowment?
  • Is there broad-based support from the community?
Financial Health

A balanced operating budget is essential to overall financial health. Organizations that are consistently operating at a deficit should undertake steps to balance the budget prior to planning and raising funds for an endowment. Endowment donors want to know that your organization is meeting current/operating needs.

  • Has your organization been financially stable for multiple years?
  • Are there any estimated shortfalls or volatility in traditional revenue items?
Donor Capacity

It is often the donors closest to your organization who will consider a gift to an endowment, whether it is a gift during their lifetime or an estate gift.

  • Does your organization have major donors who are committed to your mission?
  • Do you have a significant loyal donor base?
Research Tools

Knowing the capacity and inclination of potential and current donors is important for predicting endowment support.

  • Do you have a prospect research program to help identify potential givers?
  • Is your organization acquiring new donors who might support an endowment in the future?
Endowment Strategy

It is important to develop a long-range strategy for how you would use a sustainable resource like an endowment.

  • Do you know how distributions from an endowment could benefit your organization over time?
  • Do you have a plan to launch and build the endowment?
Planned Giving Program

Estate plans support endowment-building strategies. As described later in this guide, planned gifts are a common option for building your endowment program.

  • Does your organization have an established planned giving program or the support to start one?
  • If yes, has your organization considered the establishment of a legacy society to effectively steward those who have included you in their estate plans?

Building an endowment requires that donors are aware of the fund and the role it serves in helping your organization build for the future.

  • Does your organization have a communications plan to build the pipeline of donors, steward them and maintain their interest and involvement in your organization?
  • Is there a written case for support?
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