Thursday, October 11, 2001

Charities' endowments in decline

Stock dip also hits universities

By John Eckberg
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The depressed stock market has eaten away at assets of many local foundations and university endowments over the past 18 months. That's only accelerated since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

        “Our chief financial officer says that losses we have sustained would be close to the Dow Jones Index,” said Beth Reiter, communications director of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation.

        Formed in 1963, the foundation provides philanthropic leadership to eight counties in the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana region and began 2001 with assets of $402.4 million.

        “As of last week, the Dow Jones Index was down about 15 percent.If we follow the index, our assets could be down by $60 million,” she said.

        The foundation received $40.8 million in gifts in 2000.

        The Miami University Foundation's endowment was at $245 million in January but had fallen to $193 million, a 21 percent decline, by the end of September, said Jayne Irvine, vice president for university advancement and executive director of the foundation.

        “It reflected the overall state of the economy and the stock market,” she said.

        The Miami endowment was not alone in its slide.

        In August 2000, the University of Cincinnati endowment topped $1 billion for the first time, said Greg Hand, UC spokesman. On Aug. 31 this year, the endowment was valued at $885.8 million, an 11 percent decline.

        “The value did decline over the year and that is a reflection of the stock market,” said Mr. Hand.

        Dennis F. Vest, president of the Charitable Resources Group based in Sewickley, Pa., predicted that many fall fund-raising campaigns for universities and charities have slipped but will regain traction in the weeks ahead.

        Most annual fund-raising requests were mailed in late August or early September — right about the time of the attacks.

        “We have several college and university clients that found their first mailings were significantly down,” he said.

        With follow-up phone-a-thons, universities found that the more personal approach worked.

        “People who gave in previous years were giving again,” Mr. Vest said.

        UC ended a five-year $328.9 million fund-raising campaign in June 2000 but has seen a dip in smaller giving in recent weeks.

        “The change in the market conditions is another factor,” said Mark Jorgensen, associate vice president for marketing for the UC Foundation, a non-profit corporation that raises private support for the university. “And I think all of us are looking to support the relief efforts.

        “Fair to say that private giving is down. The climate is not particularly good for planned gifts and major gifts. We hear that many if not most fund-raising organizations are experiencing this.'

        Though it has taken a hit, don't expect an immediate reduction in grants from the Greater Cincinnati Foundation.

        To cushion year-to-year market volatility, money for grants is based on a five-year plan, Ms. Reiter said.

        “The community should not feel a negative impact immediately in terms of the amount of grants we make,” Ms. Reiter said.

        About $3.7 million in unrestricted grants was awarded by the foundation last year to about 120 non-profit organizations.

        Total charitable contributions in the United States in 2000 were estimated at $203.45 billion in 2000, an increase of 6.6 percent over 1999, according to the American Association of Fundraising Counsel, an Indianapolis group that monitors foundations.

        “Are people giving less to us?” Ms. Reiter asked. “We don't have any way to determine that yet. There is a concern. Will the depressed stock market make people feel they are tapped out?

        “We don't think so. People respond in times of crisis, and people know there are a lot of local needs.”


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