According to five of our Endowment and Foundation National Practice Group members who recently attended the NACUBO 2018 Annual Meeting, key takeaways include:

1. Sustainable Growth & Strategic Planning 

Higher education institutions are facing a myriad of challenges as they strive to grow: rising costs, fewer new sources of revenue, and constant liquidity pressures.

Planning for growth requires careful consideration of expense controls, in addition to spending policies and debt levels.

At the same time, the need to increase enrollment is driving conversations around acquisitions and campus facility construction and maintenance. Growing sustainably — without permanently reducing the corpus of the institution’s endowment or other assets — can be challenging even with favorable circumstances.

2. Managing Organizational Risk

Risk management is often associated with the risk in an investment portfolio.

This year, however, conversations around risk became broader, with college and university officers thinking about ways to mitigate new types of crises that have become more common in the past decade.

A robust enterprise risk management framework requires crisis communications planning and infrastructure, proactive headline risk management when issues arise with personnel, and strong internal standards toward accounting for liabilities from deferred maintenance.

3. Fundraising & Philanthropy

In light of reduced future return expectations across the board, organizations are re-evaluating asset allocations and spending policies.

As a supplement, higher education institutions are looking more and more to fundraising to mitigate the effect of distributions on principal and/or growth of their endowments.

One area that saw an increased share of attention was planned giving programs. We believe in the benefits of outsourcing the investment and administrative aspects of planned giving to focus more on donor engagement. 

What is the biggest challenge facing your organization?

This year we again held an informal survey on “What is the Biggest Challenge Facing Your Organization?”

Based on 38 unique responses, risk management, liquidity, fundraising/philanthropy, spending policy, and cybersecurity/fraud were the most common challenges.