Jul 22 2019
Foundations and non-profits are busy organizations with a myriad of tasks and goals. Often these organizations are filled with smart individuals with specific talents and backgrounds that make them ideal for the job at hand.
However, not all foundation board members or employees are actually well-suited for overseeing the management of the organization’s finances and investments. The importance of overseeing your assets cannot be overlooked. Your endowment is a key driver of your nonprofit’s survivability and future growth.
So, how can foundations and non-profits create a responsible investment committee to ensure a sustainable future?
The first step in creating a good group of individuals to oversee your finances and investments is to appreciate how important this committee is to your future. While it may seem easy to collect various individuals from within your organization who seem like they will be good “team players,” this method is usually a mistake. Each member of the finance committee should be selected carefully without exception.
In addition, there should be a written investment committee charter that authorizes its formation, purpose, roles, and responsibilities, as well as its meeting schedules.
In selecting individuals to be on the investment committee, it is best to have at least one person with some experience in the financial / investment field. While the other members need not have direct experience, they should demonstrate a willingness to learn about investing through meetings and outside resources.
Every member of the investment committee has a fiduciary obligation to the organization. This requires many important character traits such as high moral character, the commitment to avoid conflicts of interest, a deep knowledge of the foundation’s mission, and of course the ability to attend all meetings. A member with a great background in investing, but who rarely attends meetings, is less than ideal.
To ensure your investment committee stays true to their fiduciary obligations and charter, it is highly recommended that they hire an outside investment manager. In doing so, they can bring in a team that can telegraph the current financial market conditions and can serve as a well-seasoned sounding board for questions and thoughts from the committee. Hiring an outside investment manager also goes a long way to fulfilling the committee’s fiduciary obligations. As with hiring any outside counsel, the committee should have well-planned criteria for this selection and a process to monitor the adviser.
Members of the investment committee are often exposed to differing opinions about the state of the economy or the direction of the financial markets. Some of these thoughts and media opinions can rightly be debated. However, a good committee member needs to bring an open mind, a willingness to listen to the professional investment manager, and above all be non-argumentative. A careful balance of open-mindedness and curiosity usually does the trick!
In the end, a well-formed investment committee will put the odds in your organization’s favor to ensure better communication with the board of directors, to fulfill your fiduciary responsibilities, and to generate successful long-term investment results for a sustainable future.
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.