Like most people, you probably keep your money divided into two general piles: a checking account for covering day-to-day (or month-to-month) expenses, and a separate account for savings. That money in savings supports your long-term financial health; you try to invest it wisely, hoping to get a good return, and you try not to touch the principal, instead drawing on the interest if needed.
Organizations, nonprofits, and schools aren’t much different. At Rivers, the annual fund is our “checking account,” covering ongoing and foreseeable operating expenses. And the endowment represents our savings, supporting financial aid and auxiliary financial aid, faculty development, and more.
Endowment assets are invested, so that they can provide over time ongoing, self-sustaining funding. And operating budgets typically rely on a certain amount of revenue from the endowment to fund projects. In this way, a robust endowment helps provide stability in uncertain times.
“The Rivers endowment is a critical component of the school’s long-term financial sustainability. Not only does it supply much-needed operational support for things like faculty support, financial aid, and general program support, but it also provides stability for the school,” says Jon Wasserman ’88, director of finance and operations at Rivers.
Endowments grow through wise investment of their assets—but they also need direct donations to grow and thrive. As Wasserman says, “While organic investment gains are an important component of building endowment reserves, gifts to the endowment are the single biggest driver of growth for the school’s ‘savings account.’” Growing Rivers’s endowment has been a priority of the FutureMakers campaign, and we are excited to note that donors have pledged over $11 million to support our financial aid endowment. This priority has paid off, enabling the endowment to grow 20 percent from 2014 to 2019. But the task of increasing our endowment is never finished. As compared with our peer schools, Rivers still has one of the lowest endowment draws to support our operating budget—we draw 3 percent from our endowment, while most of our peer schools are able to draw in the double digits.
It’s our endowment that allows Rivers to offer crucial learning experiences to all Rivers students. Since the launch of the campaign, several new endowed funds have been established, supporting such areas as financial aid, auxiliary financial aid, and faculty support. Those areas, important at any time, are especially vital during these challenging times. A robust endowment allows Rivers to navigate market downturns while keeping tuition at manageable levels.
It’s important to have a healthy checking account, but it’s absolutely crucial to have a robust savings account. It’s what keeps a temporary setback from becoming insurmountable. When you give to the endowment, you’re helping to build a stronger Rivers that can weather whatever challenges come our way.