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How to Make Your Nonprofit Endowment a Successful Source of Income

Tips from our nonprofit leaders on establishing a successful endowment fund

An endowment fund can be a powerful way to provide your nonprofit with an ongoing source of income. At the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation, we work with nearly 200 organizations and manage more than 400 endowment funds across the state.

While not the only way to raise funds for your organization, an endowment can enhance your nonprofit’s financial stability. Looking for advice on how to build a successful nonprofit endowment fund? Below are some insights and best practices from our endowment fund partners.

When establishing a fund, what advice do you wish you had? What advice would you offer someone else who’s fundraising?

Tara Anderson, director of engagement, Crescent Cove:

Having a variety of funding sources can really help your bottom line from the broader perspective. We always have our annual Gala. We also have a different fundraising event called “The Cove Competition.” The endowment fund is just one of the tools in our fundraising strategy to help support our mission over time.

Jennifer Downham, chief development officer, Minneapolis Parks Foundation:

My advice would be to budget appropriately, and ask your donors what their plans are; ask for their advice.

How did having the Foundation as a partner help you establish and grow your fund?

Anna Zaros, donor engagement manager, Center for Victims of Torture:

What we really appreciate about working with the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation is the personal care and the depth of services they provide. What really worked well, when setting up our endowment fund, was having open communication between our development staff, finance staff and the Foundation’s staff. These open lines of communication made it easy to get everyone on the same page, as well as created clear steps to take to establish the fund.

Mary Margaret Brown, director of development, PROP (People Reaching Out to People):

None of this would have happened without the leadership and support of the Foundation. Elizabeth McCray met with our endowment committee twice to explain the entire process and answer any questions members had as they learned more. She is always available by email or phone if we need help. Due to the size of our nonprofit and our small staff, we did not have the capacity to manage our own endowment fund.

Eric Nesheim, executive director, Literacy Minnesota:

We have an excellent finance and audit committee, but appreciate not having to manage the investment side of an endowment. Our fundraising team has a great rapport with the Foundation staff, especially our gift planner, Mariah Brook. Because of this relationship, we have successfully recruited a board member with estate planning expertise and launched a planned giving program.

These are just a few of the insights our partners shared about the benefits of planning and partnership when establishing an endowment. For more, see our helpful tips on how to build your endowment. You can also check out our nonprofit endowment resources.

Still have questions? Our expert staff are always happy to have conversations about endowments. To learn more about starting a nonprofit endowment fund, contact gift planners Mariah Brook (651.325.4269) or Elizabeth McCray (651.325.4297).

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