Monthly Archives

May 2019
  • The Reviews Are In!

    I am grateful for the wonderful reviews that I am receiving for my second book, The Sustainable Endowment. Please take a look at what people are saying…


    “I read the previous book by James Demmert called The Journey to Wealth, which I thought was excellent, so when Sustainable Endowment was released, I previewed it and was immediately hooked after reading the introduction. WOW, not only is it a well-written, but it’s a guideline on how to start a non-profit and most importantly, the ability to maintain a successful non-profit so that one’s good intentions are realized. — Amazon Reviewer


    The prosperity of a non-profit must have a strategic business plan to survive, and this book gives you ten principles for success. Interesting, informative and definitely worth reading.” — Amazon Reviewer


    “So helpful! All the basics covered…” — Amazon Reviewer


    “A pragmatic approach to nonprofit organizations & charities. James Demmert offers both a practical and compelling guide for foundation, nonprofit and charitable organizations of all varieties. His 10 principles serve as a roadmap for establishing and growing nonprofits.

    “This book is filled with enjoyable, witty quotes, which weave together and describe a process to successfully navigate organizational pitfalls in the quest of giving. The most accomplished professional investors have a commonality of process, which James offers from his tenured and successful career.

    Examples of individual stock selection and risk management tools provide a successful and pragmatic framework for his audience. A must read and excellent gift for any nonprofit organizational member.” — Amazon Reviewer


    “Demmert’s book is a must-read for anyone associated with the management of a foundation or endowment’s assets. The nature of ever changing committee members and their life experiences can really wreak havoc, as members like to influence investment decisions and may not fully appreciate the long term nature of an endowment. The Sustainable Endowment clearly outlines the key considerations of the Investment Committee, and Demmert does so in a clear, understandable manner…well done!” — Amazon Reviewer


    “Refreshing in today’s environment, a must read! In the tradition of great leaders who empower others to uplift, Demmert delivers wings in his latest book. Savvy, pragmatic and motivational.” — Amazon Reviewer


    “Important book for those starting a non-profit or struggling with one. I read the previous book by James Demmert called The Journey to Wealth, which I thought was excellent, so when The Sustainable Endowment was released, I previewed it and was immediately hooked after reading the introduction. WOW, not only is it a well-written, but it’s a guideline on how to start a non-profit and most importantly, the ability to maintain a successful non-profit so that one’s good intentions are realized. The prosperity of a non-profit must have a strategic business plan to survive, and this book gives you ten principles for success.” — Amazon Reviewer


    “Amazing!
    Very well written
    Must read for anyone interested in non profits!” — Amazon Reviewer


    The Sustainable Endowment: 10 Principles to Make Your Foundation or Nonprofit Last for Decades is a specialty business title covering foundation and charity endowment investment processes. It is highly recommended for business collections and individuals who have an interest in the structure and investment growth of endowment monies.

    Nonprofit executives receive a primer that assumes a certain level of authority and familiarity with the nonprofit world. This includes a detailed discussion of setting up a nonprofit from the ground up, from selecting an effective board of directors and supportive staff to committee development, to the basics of writing the two key documents nonprofits should have for legal compliance—the Spending Policy and Investment Policy Statement.

    The Sustainable Endowment then details the nuts and bolts of long-term investment strategies from a wealth manager and founder of wealth-management firm, Main Street Research, who sports some 30 years of experience successfully advising nonprofits on endowment-building procedures.

    At each step of the discussion, James E. Demmert focuses on the critical choices specific to the nonprofit culture, supporting his introductory intention: “The core of this book is about how nonprofits can learn to invest their endowment to maximize profitable results while limiting their risk.”

    The book is no light review of investment principles. It outlines many major pitfalls nonprofit executives need to understand in order to carefully assess financial markets and invest to keep their ships afloat. Demmert warns about the consequences of bad investing: “In addition to the loss of growth in value or income in a down market or during a recovery, the math gets even uglier when nonprofits need to make withdrawals during that time to use in their operations or to fund their causes. Each time you withdraw, you reduce your capital base — and that creates a “double whammy.” Furthermore, the effect of taking capital away from your portfolio while it is in a downward trend or in recovery mode adds tremendous pressure on the percentage of market increase you now require to attain the full recapture of your original investment amount.”

    Charts are peppered throughout the book to provide support for the analysis and recommendations, along with textual explanations about historical approaches to investment management versus the needs of modern nonprofits. Demmert offers many insights specific to economic trends that impact nonprofit endowments.

    Even more important, The Sustainable Endowment juxtaposes its recommendations with supporting statistics, historical precedent, and examples of investment fallacies and truths. This creates a powerful connection between “Smart” investing savvy and the specific concerns of nonprofits to remain sustainable to achieve their laudatory missions.

    With its core of seven basics of investment management geared to the structure, purposes, and special requirements of the nonprofit, The Sustainable Endowment creates a clear blueprint for executive success and is a top recommendation for any business reference library where nonprofit leaders are patrons and readers.

    — Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review


    An engaging breakdown of investment strategies for maximizing security and growth in nonprofit endowments.

    Veteran portfolio manager Demmert (The Journey to Wealth, 2016) draws on decades of experience to point out common mistakes in nonprofit investing. He highlights 10 clearly developed, easy-to-understand principles that nonprofits may use to maximize their assets.

    He begins by focusing on the structures that put nonprofits on courses for financial success, such as a clearly defined staff and board of directors with follow-through, as well as spending policy and investment policy statements that will govern the nonprofit when leadership changes.

    Many suggestions are about organization and delineation, such as Principle 2, which concerns getting the right people with the right experience onto finance and investment committees. The rest of the text focuses on investment itself, showcasing how safe investments are helpful in volatile markets, but that truly maximizing one’s endowment requires “aggressive pro-active management” to both avoid major losses and see major gains.

    He rejects the popular advice to “Set and Forget” one’s endowment in a diversified investment portfolio, as a whole-market crash will substantially reduce assets in that scenario. Instead, he wants nonprofits to understand the strategies that financial asset managers use, stressing how the market is cyclical. This work employs an earnest, thoughtful tone, and it will be clear and understandable to those outside the finance world.

    Even nonprofits with less substantial endowments will benefit from the organizational structures that he suggests. As he points out, “Clearly this new era of investing requires in-depth research, time, and experience. Success today requires a disciplined process and tools that can help manage risk and return.” He also leaves room for new developments in investing and suggests that nonprofits continue to actively evaluate available options.

    A digestible collection of insider tips to maximize nonprofit gains.

    — Kirkus Book Review


    The Sustainable Endowment is a helpful and inspirational financial how-to guide for nonprofit leaders.

    James E. Demmert’s useful book, The Sustainable Endowment, is directed at nonprofits with advice to take charge of their financial futures. Arguing that the world’s financial picture has changed significantly and that nonprofit boards can no longer “set and forget” their asset allocations and endowment funds in various monetary funds, but must take a more active role in money management, the book places the contemporary market in historical context.

    Charts and graphs help to explain the impact that fees and hidden costs have on an organization’s bottom line. The text calls on nonprofit leaders to engage with their financial data down to granular details and empowers them to make difficult decisions about specific stocks.

    The text is focused on managing and growing endowment funds. It uses a mixture of practical and inspirational advice aimed at nonprofit leaders, written in a way that laypeople can understand. Its tools and ideas include having a committee manage funds and advanced notions of asset allocation and risk management.

    The text is organized around ten principles and moves from setting up the right foundation through to drafting spending policies, selecting stocks, and using stop-loss orders. Each technique builds upon those before it, and the text moves in a logical fashion. Chapters begin by recalling the high points of those previous, helping to cut through to the book’s main ideas.

    Textbook-like and with occasional personal asides, the book takes the time to define its key terms, ideas, and topics, including the notion of SMART investors—an acronym that stands for Strategic, Modeling, Attention, Reliability, and Trust. Its complex material is presented in a useful way. Its design is attractive and professional and its advice is credible and approachable.

    Effective in encouraging nonprofits to consider how much money is needed for sustainability, the book raises thoughtful questions like how to consider asset allocation, hire an expert, and determine how much it’s safe to spend from the endowment each year. Thoughtful insights and analyses related to financial trends provide important context for considering how to invest. It references techniques and formulas but leaves out the fine points of related calculations.

    Dense and difficult financial material is presented in an educational, if not expert-making, way. A good starting point for nonprofits hoping to secure their legacies, The Sustainable Endowment is a helpful and inspirational financial how-to guide for nonprofit leaders.

    — Foreward Review, Jeremiah Rood. June 20, 2019


    Anyone who has managed a non-profit knows all too well the ever-present need to raise and manage the funding necessary to sustain the organization. In The Sustainable Endowment, author James Demmert has written a guide for doing just that.

    Every year, there are many new non-profit organizations coming on the scene, most with good mission statements, goals and some funding. Some make it to the next level and receive one or more endowments, and even fewer really know what to do with that funding to make it last.

    In this book, you will find ten basic principles from the establishment of good management, creating a clear vision of how the money is invested and spent, how to maintain stability for decades to come, and much more.

    This is a book that is a must-read for anyone involved in or planning to start a non-profit foundation.

    — Linda Thompson, Host of www.TheAuthorsShow.com

    Listen to my interview with Linda Thompson.


    Wishing for the best outcome for all non-profit groups, James E. Demmert has written ten key principles to remember when it comes to running an effective and successful non-profit organization. Being an expert in non-profit investment management, Demmert has a few lines of credentials to back up his advice. Demmert has advice for readers on being a smart investor in their company, along with providing acronyms to help the reader remember ways to be SMART about their business, especially since the business/organization was originally established to help others.

    Within each chapter, there are words of encouragement from powerful figureheads. Along with encouragement are examples of positive and negative situations that are likely to arise during a normal workday. Starting at the beginning of the book, you will explore ways to establish a smoothly running foundation. A big part of that is knowing your staff and the members on your board in order to ensure that your organization is run smoothly and effectively.

    Next, you’ll explore your investment committee and investment manager, along with committee members and your board of directors. Money is always a hot topic, so understanding your spending policy and investment policy will help keep your organization above water, so you need to have both an Investment Policy Statement (IPS) and a Spending Policy.

    Understanding the stock market and various funds, especially in relation to how they have behaved in the past, will help with the booms and the busts from the stock market and with SMART investments. Each type of investment will have to be evaluated for the right risk level, if it is meant to be aggressive or conservative, and what your goals for that type of investment will be. Asset allocation, Rates of Return (RORs), and the bull and bear markets are other topics of discussion as well.

    Full of graphs, charts, and insightful information, The Sustainable Endowment is a must-read for people who are interested in starting, or who have already established, a nonprofit organization.

    The purpose of nonprofit organizations is crucial for the well-being of our society to help those who are in need of help, through financial, physical, educational, or spiritual means. As a nonprofit organization, you are exempt from paying taxes, but with this benefit, it is crucial that you have (or establish) the means to handle your money well to keep the organization going for many years, to improve the quality of life for many more generations.

    With so much to think about when running a nonprofit, it is of high importance that you get the help you need anywhere and from anyone possible, and in this case, you are safe with James Demmert.

    Rachel Dehning, San Francisco Book Review


    The Sustainable Endowment was written for executives and board members of small- to mid-size U.S.-based nonprofits, charities, or foundations. Running a nonprofit requires specialized knowledge and skills, especially regarding foundation management and investing your endowment so it remains sustainable for years to come.

    This book walks you through the basics and best practices of what you need to know to be successful.

    Order your copy today on Amazon

  • Stocks, Bonds, Risk & Return

    Will The Trade War Further Diminish Economic Growth?

    Investors have witnessed a number of strange occurrences in recent months, if not years. Though stocks have staged a big rally this year (most of it in January), this has merely been an attempt – unsuccessful as of yet – to recover from 2018’s 20% decline that stocks experienced towards year’s end. Even more interesting and odd is the fact that stock prices are lower today than they were in January 2018 – over 16 months ago! What gives? Why are stocks stuck in this long trading range and when will markets allow us to get back to making significant long term returns?

    Source: Bloomberg

    Global stock markets are tied to economic growth and corporate profits. One need look no further than 2017 as a reminder – a period when economic growth exceeded 3%, corporate profits skyrocketed and stock indexes and your portfolio of stocks soared upwards of 20%. Those were the days!

    However, as we review the past few quarters, economic growth rates have decelerated from over 3% to something closer to 2% or less. The Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank GDPNow model’s most recent estimate is that the US economy is growing at just a 1.3% annual rate in the current quarter. And the Atlanta Fed’s model is not alone: the Economic Cycle Research Institute runs a historically reliable Weekly Leading Index that also shows the US economy is slowing to a stall.

    Lastly, the decline in long term US Treasury yields (lowest level in 2 years) and falling commodity prices are signs that the economy is not on solid ground. Investors would be wise to keep these facts in mind.

    The slowdown in global and US growth is largely attributable to the Federal Reserve’s rate hikes in 2018 which in turn led the punishing 20% decline in stocks. Add to that the month-long US government shutdown and the now real effects of tariffs and it is plain to see why the economy has drifted to a slower pace. In the meantime, it is quite clear that corporate profit growth is feeling the effects of this slowdown.

    Though some companies such as MasterCard, Unilever, and NextEra have been able to generate respectable growth in this slowing economy, many others have missed earnings growth expectations – most specifically in sectors that are sensitive to the economy such as the industrial and consumer discretionary sectors. If the economy continues to slow – or more importantly recede (as in recession) – earnings and stock prices could be in for a further downside slide. Therefore, the key to managing your way through a slower economy is to make sure your portfolio has companies that can generate profits regardless of the economy and also be flexible about your level of stock exposure.

    Just because the economy has slowed doesn’t mean that the market needs to spiral into a wicked bear market (more than the last 20% decline). If the economy can maintain this slower than normal growth rate, there are plenty of companies you can add to your portfolio to potentially make handsome profits this year, particularly in the healthcare, select technology, financial and consumer staples sectors.

    As you know, in an effort to put the odds in your favor for a good year of performance, we have been patiently waiting for stock prices to experience a normal correction after the big rebound in January. That correction appears to be underway as of this writing (~4% off high) – this should give you great opportunity to add more stock exposure in companies that can generate profits in this slower than normal part of the economic cycle. Of course, if the correction appears to be gaining steam on the downside (which would probably be due to negative news about the economy, profits or further tariffs) I may suggest you slow such purchases. Remember: when economies – particularly those threatened by tariffs – are weak, stocks can really take it on the chin.

    Throughout history stocks go up about 80% of the time – however, the 20% of the time stocks are not going up is usually tied to the economy – and this time appears to be no different. The stock market doesn’t deliver consistent year-to-year returns and never has. The important part for investors is to dodge the grizzly bear markets (declines of 35-60%).

    Successful long term investing takes patience and discipline and a keen eye for what the market has done recently (in this case nothing for almost 18 months); and as well an eye for where the economy and profits will take us as we go forward. Once this period of economic weakness stabilizes or even contracts, we could have many years of bull markets and profits to look forward to in the “80% of the time” mode. The stock and real estate markets have been and, as far I can see, will continue to be the best places to grow wealth over the long term.

    Protecting capital in bear markets allows you to reach your long-term goals, whether those goals are to retire, meet your organization’s spending policy guidelines or leave a greater legacy for the next generation. In that spirit, continue to monitor the global economy, the effects of continued tariffs and to manage the risk of your portfolio through your allocation to stocks, sector management and the use of carefully placed stop-loss orders.

    I hope this update finds you well and that you enjoyed the Memorial Day Weekend.


    The Sustainable Endowment was written for executives and board members of small- to mid-size U.S.-based nonprofits, charities, or foundations. Running a nonprofit requires specialized knowledge and skills, especially regarding foundation management and investing your endowment so it remains sustainable for years to come.

    This book walks you through the basics and best practices of what you need to know to be successful.

    Order your copy today on Amazon

  • James Demmert Gives Back!

    A Tiburon resident since 1990, James was honored as 2018-19 “Citizen of the Year” for his longstanding support of, not only the Tiburon chamber and its community events, but many local, county and national organizations.

    James and his company, Main Street Research, have found many ways to give back to the community. Every quarter, Main Street gives a percentage of its profits to a charity. These have included the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Marin Food Bank, USO, World Villages for Children, American Lung Association and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

    On the Tiburon peninsula, James is a supporter of many charities and schools, has been a sponsor of the Chamber’s Friday Nights on Main since its inception and donated 40 flat-screen monitors to the Belvedere-Tiburon Library as well as giving back to the Tiburon Landmarks Society. It is also one of the first financial services firms to receive the Bay Area Green Business designation for running a truly green business.

    For the past 10 years, Main Street Research has had an internship program for college students, giving them the opportunity to “test the waters” of an investment firm. “Some of them love it and go on to work in the business,” James says, “ and others decide it’s not for them – and that’s o.k., too. This is one way I can pay it back.”


    The Sustainable Endowment was written for executives and board members of small- to mid-size U.S.-based nonprofits, charities, or foundations. Running a nonprofit requires specialized knowledge and skills, especially regarding foundation management and investing your endowment so it remains sustainable for years to come.

    This book walks you through the basics and best practices of what you need to know to be successful.

  • Why Many Nonprofits and Public Charities Fail to Survive

    Many nonprofits and public charities fail to survive – at a time when their need is unquestionable

    As an investment manager, I have witnessed time and time again that nonprofits lack focus on long-term financial sustainability. A critical challenge faces all nonprofits and charities—how to remain financially sustainable.

    Research indicates that about one in eight nonprofits fails within five years and one in five fails within ten years. The boards of nonprofits usually put a lot of their focus on fundraising, but this neglects their other responsibility – how to invest their endowment so it won’t deplete over time.

    The use of nonprofit organizations to address social and environmental problems is increasing. The National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) reports that in 2018, there were 1.56 million tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations registered in the U.S. The majority of these (1.09 million) are public charities – organizations to which the public donates contributions. The remainder includes private foundations, and other types of nonprofit organizations, including chambers of commerce, fraternal organizations and civic leagues.

    Nonprofits spend a great deal of time and effort fundraising each year, but many do not maximize the value of their endowment by investing it wisely. This wastes their resources and increases the risks that they simply run out of money if their fundraising declines over time.

    The number of nonprofit organizations has been increasing in recent years. This is attributed to many factors, including a recognition that the world faces many social and environmental problems that governments do not have money to address.

    Millennials have a keen interest in getting involved in nonprofit sector work, but often do not have the financial or executive experience necessary to do the proper planning for revenue development and long- term survival.

    Many organizations exist to help nonprofit boards of directors learn leadership, planning, and financial management skills. I especially recommends that once a nonprofit reaches the $500,000 endowment mark, they formalize an Investment Policy document and begin working with an investment manager who can assist them with endowment investment decisions. This step is also necessary to ensure that boards of directors fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities to their stakeholders.

    ***

    The Sustainable Endowment was written for executives and board members of small- to mid-size U.S.-based nonprofits, charities, or foundations. Running a nonprofit requires specialized knowledge and skills, especially regarding foundation management and investing your endowment so it remains sustainable for years to come. This book walks you through the basics and best practices of what you need to know to be successful.