Market Commentary | Insights Blog

Chart of the Month |  The Confusing State of the Labor Market

The U.S. labor market continues to recover from one of the worst declines in employment since the 1930s. In the early days of the pandemic last April, demand for labor plummeted and the unemployment...
Diversity | Insights Blog

Viewpoint | Diverse Managers

The inclusion of diverse managers in institutional portfolios offers access to a broader array of investment talent. Data indicate that foundations are beginning to recognize and act on this...
Perspectives | Insights Blog

Study of Foundations Key Highlights 2020 [Infographic]

For the year ended December 31, 2020, participating private foundations reported an average return of 13.1 percent while participating community foundations reported an average return of 12.1 percent...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

The Most Overlooked Element of the OCIO Relationship

When properly implemented, outsourcing the investment of nonprofit assets can help institutions establish governance processes, manage a complex portfolio, and navigate operational complexity and...
Market Commentary | Insights Blog

Chart of the Month |  Home Prices Are Up 32 Percent In Five Years – And Still Climbing

Housing demand appears to be slowing down in the first half of 2021, yet home prices have continued to climb at an accelerated pace. This month’s chart highlights the supply and demand factors...
Perspectives | Insights Blog

Commonfund Celebrates 50 Years of Service

On July 1st, 1971, The Common Fund for Nonprofit Organizations commenced operations with a $2.8 million grant from the Ford Foundation under the leadership of President George Keane and the Board of...
Perspectives | Insights Blog

Relax with a Good Book this Summer!

Heading out on summer vacation? Commonfund Institute has compiled a list of readings to accompany you on your travels to the lake, mountains, beach or wherever you might be headed.
Market Commentary | Insights Blog

Chart of the Month | Supply Chain Woes as the Pandemic Recedes in the U.S.

Supply chain woes continue to wreak havoc for retailers who are grappling with a strong rebound in consumer spending. Average six-month spending on durable goods, spurred by over $5 trillion in...
Market Commentary | Insights Blog

Fiscal Year-End and Mid-Year 2021 Market and Investment Review

The new fiscal year beginning July 1st will mark Commonfund’s fifty-year anniversary – and what a memorable year it has been. As we write this letter, we are hopeful that the new year will bring...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

Endowment Management and the Three Primary Responsibilities of a Board

The fourth blog in the “Six Ps of Investment Stewardship” series addresses People, specifically how boards function within an organization. To learn more about the first four principles in the series...
Responsible Investing | Insights Blog

ESG and Sustainable Investing

ESG and environmentally sustainable investment are increasingly capturing the attention of the institutional investment community. To assess the state of ESG and sustainable investing and how they...
Market Commentary | Insights Blog

Chart of the Month | Emerging Markets Trail the Pack Despite Rising Demand and Commodities Prices

As growth continues to rebound around the world and investors return to their pre-pandemic way of life, global market performance is beginning to reflect the divergent speed of normalization within...
Diversity | Insights Blog

How to Invest in Diverse Managers

A U.S. capitalist system where approximately one percent of all capital is managed by women and people of color, who make up 70 percent of the population, perpetuates and increases inequality and...
Diversity | Insights Blog

Celebrating Pride Month: A Resource Guide

Pride month is the promotion of the self-affirmation, dignity, equality and increased visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people (LGBT+) as a social group. Pride as opposed to shame...
Market Commentary | Insights Blog

Digging Deeper into Inflation Fears

The current debate about whether the spike we are seeing in inflation is “transitory” should be reframed as “reflation vs sustained inflation.” Just like many other economic data points (ISM,...
Perspectives | Insights Blog

In Memoriam: George F. Keane

George F. Keane, 91, of 7408 Eaton Court, Sarasota, FL, founder of The Common Fund, and noted philanthropic investment strategist, passed away Thursday, May 20, 2021, peacefully in the Spring Meadows...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

Constructing Investment Portfolios for Endowments

There are fundamental principles of effective endowment management that we have organized into what we call “the 6 Ps of Investment Stewardship” –  Purpose, Policy, Process, Portfolio, People and...
Market Commentary | Insights Blog

Chart of the Month | U.S. Budget Deficit Hits Record Highs

In his first 100 days as President of the United States, Joe Biden has introduced three domestic funding proposals, totaling close to $6.0 Trillion, reflecting a desire to enhance the role of the...
Diversity | Insights Blog

Celebrating Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month

In 1992, the official designation of May as Asian/Pacific Heritage Month was signed into law.  Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month got its start as a congressional bill, inspired by Black...
Market Commentary | Insights Blog

A New Chapter for the Economy

The key driver of the economy, and of public sentiment, has been the aggressive distribution and acceptance of the COVID-19 vaccines. A litany of measures reflects the improved outlook for the U.S....
Diversity | Insights Blog

CASE Commonfund College and University Foundation Award 20th Anniversary

For the past 20 years, the CASE Commonfund College and University Foundation Award has recognized individuals who have contributed to the advancement of the college and university foundation field.
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

Does Good Governance Lead to Better Investment Performance?

The governance framework of an institution plays a significant role in its overall success. Based on our work with hundreds of higher education institutions over the past 50 years, we believe that...
Diversity | Insights Blog

Commonfund Trustee, Dr. David A. Thomas, Wins 62nd Annual HBR McKinsey Award

Commonfund's Trustee, Dr. David A. Thomas, wins the 62nd Annual HBR McKinsey Award, for co-authoring the article titled "Getting Serious About Diversity: Enough Already with the Business Case." The...
Market Commentary | Insights Blog

Chart of the Month | The Surprising Relationship Between Money Supply and Inflation

The potential for rising inflation is becoming a top concern for many investors and consumers. Many believe that inflation is already here as evidenced by price increases in commodities, homes,...
Outsourced Cio | Insights Blog

Top 5 Ways OCIO Fees Mislead

Fees are frequently overemphasized by Investment Committees when evaluating an Outsourced Chief Investment Officer (“OCIO”). Committees often believe that fees are a quantifiable and tangible way to...
Perspectives | Insights Blog

How Your Organization Can Nurture Innovation While Balancing Risk

The theme for Commonfund Forum 2021 was “Transformation.” The objective of the agenda was to deliver timely, useful content on core subjects related to nonprofit endowment and financial management...
Perspectives | Insights Blog

Fareed Zakaria Dissects the Challenges Shaping the Post-Pandemic World

The theme for Commonfund Forum 2021 was “Transformation.” The objective of the agenda was to deliver timely, useful content on core subjects related to nonprofit endowment and financial management...
Market Commentary | Insights Blog

Secondary Market Poised for Dramatic Growth

"The secondary market has become a mainstay for investors, both as 1) more investors move into the secondary market and, 2) as a way to manage investors' existing private portfolios. Both sides of...
Perspectives | Insights Blog

Forum 2021 Key Statistics [Infographic]

We recently hosted our first virtual Commonfund Forum. The event brought together institutional investors and faculty members from around the globe to engage in a two-day conference. Commonfund Forum...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

Spending at Independent Schools Impacted by COVID-19

The effects of COVID-19 have been felt across the entire nonprofit sector and the independent schools’ community is no different. For the Commonfund Benchmarks Study® of Independent Schools...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

Managing Financial Challenges During Crisis – A Checklist for Higher Education

Many educational institutions are facing unpredictable financial challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Costs associated with implementing technologies for virtual learning, decreased...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

What Does the NTSE One-year Number Tell You? As it Turns Out, Not Much.

I love the NACUBO-TIAA Study of Endowments. Every year, I eagerly await the annual report from the National Association of College and University Business Officers on the investment performance and...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

Viewpoint | Why are Gifts to Endowments Declining?

For the third straight year, Commonfund Benchmarks Study® of Independent Schools (CSIS) participants reported average new gifts to endowment declined, this year falling to an average of $1.2 million...
Diversity | Insights Blog

From Generosity to Justice | Observations from the President of Ford Foundation

The theme for Commonfund Forum 2021 was “Transformation.” The objective of the agenda was to deliver timely, useful content on core subjects related to nonprofit endowment and financial management...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

What Strategic Decisions are Investment Committees Focused On?

Independent schools have been faced with fundamental shifts in their business model and have adapted to stay true to their educational missions. This year has been particularly difficult for many...
Market Commentary | Insights Blog

Chart of the Month | The Stock Market Rally May Finally Be Broadening Beyond Tech Names

The trend of improving performance of sectors most sensitive to the strengthening economy remained on track in February 2021. For the most part of 2020, the traditional S&P 500 market-cap-weighted...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Allocating to Illiquid Investments

Stewards of endowments have long been advised that allocating to illiquid investments is critical to achieving long-term returns. Rather than trust conventional wisdom, Commonfund conducted research...
Perspectives | Insights Blog

Study of Independent Schools - Key Highlights [Infographic]

For fiscal year 2020, independent schools reported an average return (net of fees) on their endowment assets of 2.8 percent. In this infographic, we report the key highlights from the 2020 Commonfund...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

The Tech Effect and Direct Venture Growth Investing

The venture growth and late stage venture capital (“VC”) market has matured over the last 10 years, and direct investing has emerged as an attractive strategy for Limited Partners (“LPs”) to...
Responsible Investing | Insights Blog

Celebrating Black History Month: A Resource Guide

Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history. Also known as African American History Month, the...
Responsible Investing | Insights Blog

Commonfund’s Second Invitational Diverse Manager Day

Earlier this month, Commonfund held its second invitational Diverse Manager Day with 19 managers identified through our Diverse Manager Portal. These diverse managers1 , from historically...
Market Commentary | Insights Blog

Chart of the Month | Are Bonds Still a Good Hedge for Equity Market Declines?

In the middle of January, the Biden administration announced the details on a new $1.9 trillion stimulus package, including enhanced unemployment benefits, an increase in the minimum wage, and...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

Expanded HEPI Tables Provide Analysis by Institution Type and Region

To more accurately plan for future expenses and budgeting needs most colleges and universities look to the Higher Education Price Index (HEPI). The HEPI is an inflation measure for current business...
Private Capital | Insights Blog

2021 Private Markets Investor Sentiment Survey

Institutional investors continue to increase allocations to private strategies. Commonfund Capital’s fourth annual private markets investor sentiment survey shows trends continue despite the pandemic...
Market Commentary | Insights Blog

Chart of the Month | Beware of High Yield Bonds

Income-hungry investors continued to push yields on speculative grade bonds to new lows despite the challenging business conditions this year. The yield on the Bloomberg Barclays Corporate High Yield...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

Board of Trustees and Investment Committee Roles and Responsibilities

There are fundamental principles of effective endowment management that we have organized into what we call “the 6 Ps of Investment Stewardship”– Purpose, Policy, Process, Portfolio, People and...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

Investment Governance | Are You Asking These Three Questions?

In the midst of a global pandemic, many non-profit business models are being challenged which has put significant pressures on staff, governing boards and committees. These pressures on time and...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

Foundation Spending Strategy – Meeting the Moment in 2020 and Beyond

This year has been incredibly difficult.  One of the most contentious and turbulent presidential elections and transitions in American History. COVID-19 and the consequential social and economic...
Market Commentary | Insights Blog

Chart of the Month | Are Value Stocks Finally Going to Make a Run?

The month of November saw a sharp rotation into value equities at the expense of technology and communication services companies, causing investors to wonder whether the long-run dominance of growth...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

A Financial Framework for the COVID Crisis

Despite the fall semester looking much better than the worst-case scenarios contemplated in early summer, higher education in America continues to grapple with the enormous challenges that the...
Market Commentary | Insights Blog

Chart of the Month | Recession Impacts on Employment and Wages

It may come as a surprise to many that average disposable personal incomes have increased by 6.6 percent from February prior to the pandemic through August. This is down from a high of 9.8 percent in...
Perspectives | Insights Blog

Study of Foundations Key Highlights 2019 [Infographic]

For the year ended December 31, 2019, participating private foundations reported an average return of 17.4 percent while participating community foundations reported an average return of 18.2 percent...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

The Key Endowment Questions for Challenging Times

During this time of unprecedented challenges, the financial health of colleges and universities is a critical concern. Boards, investment committees, institutional leaders, and their advisors must...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

How to Measure Private Equity Investments

Private capital investors use a particular set of quantitative and qualitative measures to assess performance. While the standard benchmarks used for marketable securities are sometimes applied to...
Outsourced Cio | Insights Blog

Top Ten Tips for Better RFPs

A tightly run RFP process can help ensure your organization will find an ideal investment partner to help you fulfill your organization’s mission. As the second installment of our blog series on the...
Market Commentary | Insights Blog

Chart of the Month | Low Rates Make Record Government Debt Manageable – For Now

Few people would have predicted that U.S. equity markets would be higher today than at the start of 2020 if told that a virus would infect over 7.0 million people in the U.S., cause over 200,000...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

Should We Issue an Investment Manager RFP? 7 Key Considerations

Best practice for nonprofits is to issue a Request for Proposal (“RFP”) for an investment management partner every market cycle. Typically, that is at least every 7 to 10 years, or as it is...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Balancing Purpose, Payout, and Permanence: A Strategy Guide for Foundations

In partnership with the Council on Foundations, the National Center for Family Philanthropy has released Balancing Purpose, Payout, and Permanence: A Strategy Guide. Commonfund Institute is very...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Chart of the Month | Inflation Expectations Surge, Driving Real Interest Rates Down

Chairman Powell’s speech at Jackson Hole during the last week of August confirmed the Fed’s dovish policy stance, giving investors ample support in terms of low rates and a flexible inflation...
Diversity | Insights Blog

Investing in Racial Equity: A Primer for University & College Endowments

Commonfund and Commonfund Institute are very happy to contribute to the new report from Intentional Endowments Network (IEN), “Investing in Racial Equity: A Primer for University & College...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

Observations on Diverse Manager Selection Across Asset Classes

At Commonfund, we believe diverse managers offer clients access to investment talent and valuable investment opportunities and therefore should be explored and invested in. Overlooking the merits of...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Capturing Credit Opportunities in Times of Crisis

Key takeaways During periods of dislocation in high-quality credit, investors should  stay the course within fixed income portfolios and maintain active risk to benefit from the inevitable rebound...
Market Commentary | Insights Blog

Chart of the Month | Markets are Running Ahead of Economic Reality

When investors open their second quarter investment reports, many will be shocked by the magnitude of stock market gains in the second quarter. Their surprise could be voiced by a rhetorical question...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Real Estate – Can’t Touch This!

Few markets have been as heavily impacted by the onset of the global pandemic as real estate.  Real estate is considered a hard asset that “you can touch and feel”, but during a pandemic no one wants...
Diversity | Insights Blog

Diversity and Inclusion: Ways to Make a Change

Across the United States, citizens are gathering to protest the unjust deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery; each of these individuals fell victim to police brutality and racial...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Balancing Risk and Return

Risk surrounds us, and for investment fiduciaries it is inescapable if meaningful real returns are to be sought. While risk and return constitute the axes upon which investment portfolios are built,...
Market Commentary | Insights Blog

Chart of the Month | Measuring Social Distancing with Mobility Trends

We continue to monitor the level of social distancing as an indicator for business activity and improvement in consumer sentiment. Personal spending experienced the largest month-over-month drop on...
Diversity | Insights Blog

In Remembrance

The senseless killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and most recently, George Floyd have once again brought the scourge of racism to the forefront of our nation’s conscience. For many Americans,...
Market Commentary | Insights Blog

When Will this Crisis End? 3 Keys to Recovery

When will this crisis end?  Following are three key issues fiduciaries should keep in mind concerning COVID-19 and this pandemic recession and recovery. The path and trajectory of COVID-19 This is...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Seven Ways to Diversify Your Private Equity Portfolio

A strong private capital program requires consistent, diversified investing over time. It is also necessary to have— or obtain externally— resources for research and due diligence before you invest;...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

Stewardship During This Crisis: Five Things for Boards to Consider

As the world continues to grapple with the social, economic, and public health implications of the current COVID-19 crisis, nonprofit organizations and their boards are working tirelessly to...
Market Commentary | Insights Blog

Chart of the Month | The Fed Rides to the Rescue

The Federal Reserve is determined to support the economy and the normal functioning of capital markets during the COVID-19 pandemic. As of April 29th, the total asset size of the Fed’s balance sheet...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Crisis Response: A Framework for Strategic Decisions

With the equity markets retracing some of the losses that occurred in the first calendar quarter of 2020, endowment market values are likely recovering more quickly than we may have feared during the...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

Five Key Points of the Investment Policy Statement

The central document guiding the management of a nonprofit institution’s endowment—essentially, the strategic plan of the investment committee—is the investment policy statement (IPS). The IPS should...
Perspectives | Insights Blog

COVID-19 and Nonprofits | Five Observations from China

Although the full effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on U.S. nonprofits will not be known for some time there may be something to learn from what we’re seeing in China. China was the first country to...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Do Bear Markets Favor Active or Passive Investing? It Depends.

In the ongoing debate about active versus passive investing, conventional wisdom posits that active investing outperforms passive in recessionary or bear market environments. The question is: Will...
Market Commentary | Insights Blog

Chart of the Month | The Dangers of Timing a Bear Market

It has been well documented that trying to avoid market downturns by selling out of stocks and moving to cash can be damaging to long-term portfolio values. And while there are strong behavioral...
Responsible Investing | Insights Blog

DEI and Crisis Management: Staying the Course in Uncertain Times

The times we are living in are unprecedented. On March 11th, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the spread of COVID-19 constituted a global pandemic. Currently, in the U.S., the virus...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

10 Tips for Stewarding People Remotely

Six key words – Purpose, Policy, Process, Portfolio, People, and Perspective – form a framework for effective endowment stewardship. As trustees, investment committee members, and senior management...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Coronavirus: Five Key Questions for Nonprofit Institutions

There is no question that we are in unprecedented times and will likely remain so for longer than we anticipated even a few weeks ago. The speed at which a new reality has been imposed on all of us...
Market Commentary | Insights Blog

Chart of the Month | A Price War Erupts in the Oil Market

Oil prices declined over 21 percent on March 9, 2020, the largest single-day decline since January 1991 during the Gulf War[1]. There was optimism prior to the OPEC (Organization of Petroleum...
Market Commentary | Insights Blog

Market Commentary: Impact of the Coronavirus on Markets and Portfolios

After a strong calendar year 2019, the S&P 500 reached its most recent all-time high on February 19, up nearly 5 percent since the year began. Now, a week later, the global equity markets have fallen...
Private Capital | Insights Blog

How to Select a Private Equity Manager

Are you are considering investing directly with a private equity manager? If you opt to go direct, you will be tasked with selecting, managing and disposing the assets entirely on your own. It may be...
Perspectives | Insights Blog

Study of Independent Schools Key Highlights [Infographic]

For the fiscal year ended June 30, 2019, independent schools reported a 5.7 percent return in endowment assets. In this infographic, we report the key highlights from the 2019 Commonfund Benchmarks...
Market Commentary | Insights Blog

Chart of the Month | Central Banks Increasingly Accommodative

World markets appeared to be returning to their upward trend in the beginning of February after a volatile start of the year. While concerns about global growth caused by the coronavirus outbreak are...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Long-Term Equity Investors: A Global Perspective

Over the past decade U.S. equities have consistently outperformed international markets, leading many investors to question the role of non-U.S. equities in their portfolio. While the current cycle...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Commonfund’s First Invitational Diverse Manager Day

On January 16th Commonfund held its first invitational Diverse Manager Day. The day was made possible as a result of the success we had from submissions to the Diverse Manager Portal launched last...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

2020 Investor Survey: Private Markets Sentiment

For the third year in a row, Commonfund Capital conducted a year-end annual survey of institutional investors to gauge their sentiment about private market investments. Survey responses totaled 267...
Market Commentary | Insights Blog

Chart of the Month | Election Year Market Trends

As we enter the 12th year of economic expansion since the Great Financial Crisis, investors continue to wonder whether 2020 will be the year when equity markets finally experience a correction....
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Impact Investing Trends - A Market Matures

Investment strategy influenced by altruistic intentions – broadly, impact investing – has long held sway in a small number of portfolios. Historically, impact investing has failed to gain significant...
Private Capital | Insights Blog

Integrating ESG into Private Equity Portfolios

Many investors today, particularly nonprofits, are seeking to align their investment portfolio with the mission of their organization. Commonfund is a signatory to the PRI and as part of our...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

Purpose: What is an Endowment?

A critically important asset for many nonprofit organizations is their endowment, sometimes referred to by a different name such as long-term investment fund. So important is this pool of financial...
Market Commentary | Insights Blog

The Economy and Markets March On

Summary Positive signs on trade drove recent new highs in the U.S. equity markets The Fed continues to be accommodative and employment is strong Growth is slowing but is supported by the consumer,...
Private Capital | Insights Blog

Commonfund Forum Goes Global

During the week of October 14th, 2019 Commonfund Institute hosted our first Forum outside of the United States in Tokyo, Japan. We were honored to be joined by many leading Japanese institutional...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Tactical Allocation: Winning Strategy or a Fool’s Game?

Institutional investors overseeing long-term pools of capital typically define their strategic asset allocation with specific targets and bands or ranges around those targets, which allow for...
Private Capital | Insights Blog

Three Considerations for Your Private Equity Structure

This is the third blog in a private capital series based on our guide, “Succeed in Private Capital Investing”.  You can see the previous blog here. Having determined the size of your private capital...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Announcing the Commonfund Diverse Manager Portal

In the fall of 2018, Commonfund announced the creation of its Diversity and Inclusion Office with the mission to “intentionally promote and foster inclusion and equity across Commonfund and our...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Looking at Gender Lens Investing

What is Gender Lens Investing? Gender lens investing has garnered significant traction in the last decade. Broadly speaking, it aims to achieve financial returns and benefit women.  Given the breadth...
Perspectives | Insights Blog

Study of Foundations Key Highlights [Infographic]

For the year ended December 31, 2018, participating private foundations reported an average return of -5.3 percent while participating community foundations reported an average return of -3.5 percent...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

Traits of High-performing Boards … and Steps Toward Becoming One

Tom Hyatt is a partner in the Washington. D.C. law firm of Dentons US LLP and an authority on nonprofit governance. This blog is excerpted from a presentation he made recently at the Commonfund...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

Back to Basics: The ABCs of Nonprofit Governance Models

Tom Hyatt is a partner in the Washington. D.C. law firm of Dentons US LLP and an authority on nonprofit governance. This blog is excerpted from a presentation he made recently at the Commonfund...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Emerging and Diverse Manager Programs: Worth Doing Well

Michael Rowland is the Commonfund Institute Summer Intern.  He is a rising senior at Case Western Reserve University. He is majoring in Finance and Accounting.  What are Diverse and Emerging Manager...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Recession – Maybe This Time is Different

The July Federal Open Markets Committee (FOMC) meeting signaled the end of central bank rate normalization with the first rate cut in more than a decade. The last time the FOMC cut rates was in...
Diversity | Insights Blog

Commonfund Hosts Girls Who Invest at NYC Event

Girls Who Invest (GWI) is an organization focused on bringing more women into the field of asset management, a goal that Commonfund strongly supports. Every year, GWI invites rising juniors into...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

The 5 Top Stewardship Imperatives

Christopher K. Merker, PhD, CFA, is a financial advisor and director of Private Asset Management at Robert W. Baird & Co. and an adjunct professor at Marquette University. He is also the co-author of...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

Higher Ed: Philanthropy is an Adjunct, Public Policy Deserves Tenure

In the last few months, high profile nonprofit institutions have come under intense scrutiny for ethical dilemmas pertaining to the stewardship of resources meant to support mission. This is Part...
Private Capital | Insights Blog

Building a Private Equity Allocation

Building a private capital allocation that makes a difference to your portfolio takes time and dedication. The first step is deciding to make a meaningful allocation to private capital. Then, to...
Perspectives | Insights Blog

The Case for Using the Higher Education Price Index® (HEPI) to Define Inflation for Colleges

When calculating return targets for an endowment portfolio, a conventional piece of the equation is often the Consumer Price Index (CPI). CPI plus 5% is the common short-hand formula for institutions...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Investment Manager Fees Part II: Creating Alignment

In Part I of this blog series, “Investment Manager Fees: Out of Sight, Out of Mind”, we discussed our approach to determining the value of an asset manager and how we might calculate a fair price for...
Perspectives | Insights Blog

Nonprofit Hospitals - Big Business in Nonprofit Clothing?

In the last few months, high profile nonprofit institutions have come under intense scrutiny for ethical dilemmas pertaining to the stewardship of resources meant to support mission. This is Part Two...
Perspectives | Insights Blog

Summer Reading from the Stewardship Academy Faculty

As the last week of June approaches, investment stewards begin to prepare for summer – a time for relaxing, reflecting, and reading. We asked faculty members from the Investment Stewardship Academy,...
Diversity | Insights Blog

Museums and Cultural Institutions: To Accept or Not to Accept, That Is the Question

In the last few months, high profile nonprofit institutions have come under intense scrutiny for ethical dilemmas pertaining to the stewardship of resources meant to support mission. In a three-part...
Responsible Investing | Insights Blog

Commonfund Forum: A Carbon Neutral Event in 2019

In just two years Commonfund will celebrate its 50th anniversary as a non-profit investment manager for educational endowments, foundations and other tax-exempt investors. Throughout those almost...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Investment Manager Fees: Out of Sight, Out of Mind

One of the most pressing questions facing fiduciaries is that of investment management fees. We think it is a healthy and necessary discussion, as even small fees can have a big impact on performance...
Risk Management | Insights Blog

Risk Management and Operations: 5 Takeaways from Commonfund Forum 2019

The majority of investors’ attention is often focused on the performance of the funds or managers in their portfolio.  And rightfully so.  The numbers that appear on statements month after month will...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Taking a Fresh Look at Spending Models

Investors have limited control over the returns their portfolios generate. They have more control over their spending. That doesn’t make it easy. Compared to some earlier periods, volatility in the...
Perspectives | Insights Blog

Surprising Stewardship Lessons from the Miracle on the Hudson

“When you’ve suffered a complete loss of engine thrust over the largest city in America, you must act quickly and independently to address the developing situation. But, you must also trust in the...
Outsourced Cio | Insights Blog

5 Key Questions: Comparing Fees of OCIO Providers

The market for Outsourced Chief Investment Officer (“OCIO”) services has boomed over the last decade.  Today, OCIO assets under management are by some estimates nearly $1.5 trillion, 2.5 times the...
Perspectives | Insights Blog

Donor Advised Funds: Changing the Philanthropic Landscape for Higher Education

Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) are the fastest growing giving vehicle in philanthropy. The Council on Foundations defines DAFs as: “A type of charitable giving fund that is established by a donor with an...
Perspectives | Insights Blog

A sit-down with Richard Fisher

As a follow-on to the Commonfund Forum 2019 panel discussion, The Global Economy and the Return of Risk, Richard Fisher, former President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas,  further...
Private Capital | Insights Blog

Private Market Investing vs Public Market Investing, What’s the Big Difference?

The first step of successful private market investing is to learn what private capital is, what its risks and rewards are, and how it differs from public market investing. Private capital provides...
Perspectives | Insights Blog

Commonfund Forum 2019 Attendee Statistics [Infographic]

Commonfund recently hosted its 21st annual Commonfund Forum in Orlando, Florida. The event brought together institutional investors to engage in a two-day conference to explore cyclical trends and...
Perspectives | Insights Blog

Study of Independent Schools Key Findings [Infographic]

Schools participating in the Commonfund Benchmarks Study® of Independent Schools (CSIS) for the 2018 fiscal year reported an average return (net of fees) on their endowment assets of 7.4 percent. The...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

The Fallacy of Manager Diversification – How “Horse Races” Can Increase, Not Reduce Risk

On the surface, hiring two (or more) multi-asset managers to manage an entire portfolio may seem like a good idea. Intuitively, it would seem to reduce manager concentration risk, and provide...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

How to get Started in Responsible Investing

The biggest challenge in implementing any type of responsible investment program is in clearly defining and prioritizing those issues most relevant to an organization. Although it may seem a...
Private Capital | Insights Blog

5 Steps to Success in Private Capital Investing

Investors participate in private equity markets for two main reasons: to pursue increased investment return and to add portfolio diversification. Even well-informed investors who are experienced in...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Stormy Markets, Steady Institutional Investors

This blog is reprinted with permission by Net Assets, published by the National Business Officers Association (NBOA).  The original article can be found here. Investment guidelines enable...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

What’s in the Data? HEPI 2018 Highlights

Commonfund Higher Education Price Index (HEPI) data show that inflation for colleges and universities was 2.8 percent for fiscal year 2018, a decline from last year’s 3.3 percent but higher than the...
Responsible Investing | Insights Blog

Identifying an “E” Factor

Over the past year the Commonfund investment teams have undertaken research to identify and isolate a new factor associated with the environmental sustainability of a stock (or a portfolio of...
Responsible Investing | Insights Blog

Applying the Endowment Model to Diversity and Inclusion

Commonfund recently launched a Diversity Office, a formal, cross departmental effort focused on diversity and inclusion. The mission of the Commonfund Diversity Office is to intentionally promote and...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

A Cost-Effective Approach to Hedge Fund Allocations: Part 2

Let’s start with a quick recap of Part 1 of this story, which can be boiled down to three main points:  Investors often spend too much for market beta, paying “2 and 20” for hedge funds that deliver...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

A Cost-Effective Approach to Hedge Fund Allocations: Part 1

At the risk of beating a dead horse, hedge funds are not an asset class.  This is especially true in the way in which Commonfund selects and constructs its hedge fund portfolios: focusing...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Are You Ready for the Next Crisis?

Ten years ago Lehman Brothers failed, representing the largest bankruptcy in history, and accelerating a global financial crisis that would knock many non-profit portfolios backward. This came on the...
Perspectives | Insights Blog

7 Major Findings - Commonfund Benchmarks Study of Healthcare Organizations

Fifty-six healthcare organizations participated in the 2016–2017 Commonfund Benchmarks Study® of Healthcare Organizations. These organizations reported an average investable asset pool of $2.1...
Responsible Investing | Insights Blog

Viewpoint: Responsible Investing - Read All About It

The new and newsworthy in this year’s Council on Foundations–Commonfund Study of Investment of Endowments for Private and Community Foundations® (CCSF) is headlined by responsible investing. No other...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Five Questions to Ask Your Advisor: Costs of Portfolio Management

Costs matter. With expectations for lower market returns over the coming years, every basis point of net performance is particularly important. Furthermore, the compounding effect of high fees can...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

The Four P’s of Investment Decisions: Lessons from the Commonfund Institute

Three days after becoming Executive Director of the Commonfund Institute, I found myself at Yale University in New Haven giving welcoming remarks at our annual educational program.  Although I will...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Equity Portfolio Construction – Through a Risk Factor Lens

At Commonfund, we aim to build multi-manager, active risk equity portfolios with a clear objective of consistent outperformance versus passive policy benchmarks. Our approach is to take intentional...
Responsible Investing | Insights Blog

What are the Differences Between SRI and ESG?

The Challenges of Terminology There are a great many terms referring in some way to practices related to responsible investing: socially responsible investing; mission-related investing; impact...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Bonds: Unwanted and Unloved but not Unnecessary

Well, the party may finally be over. Like the college dean who shuts down the campus party, the Fed has finally taken away the interest rate punch bowl that investors have enjoyed for so long. It may...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Real Estate Credit Environment: Risk Off - Risk On

Earlier last year real estate markets received a scare as CMBS spreads widened, particularly in lower rated and more junior tranches.  Additionally, one of the most respected U.S. real estate...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Investing in Diversity

At Commonfund, we scour the globe to find investment managers that we believe have the ability to consistently produce excess returns (alpha) over and beyond their benchmark. But alpha alone is not...
Diversity | Insights Blog

10 Key Takeaways from Commonfund Forum 2018

Commonfund recently hosted its 20th annual Commonfund Forum in Orlando, Florida. The event brought together 400 institutional investors from the U.S., Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Canada, Chile...
Perspectives | Insights Blog

Forum 2018 Attendee Statistics [Infographic]

We recently hosted our 20th annual Commonfund Forum in Orlando Florida. The event brought together institutional investors to engage in a two-day conference to explore cyclical trends and tactical...
Perspectives | Insights Blog

Key Findings from 2017 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments [Infographic]

For the fiscal year ended June 30, 2017, educational endowments reported a 12.2 percent return as the 10-Year return fell to 4.6 percent. In this infographic, we report the top findings from the 2017...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Baring Their Teeth – FAANGs Take a Bite Out of the Equity Market

Narrow market leadership in the U.S. and Emerging Markets proves challenging for active managers Narrow markets are not uncommon to equity investors. They tend to manifest themselves during the best...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

A Gap In Reality

With the release of the annual NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments (NCSE) comes the obligatory comparison of 1-year returns. “How did we do relative to the 12.2 percent average return” is a...
Perspectives | Insights Blog

Despite Strong FY2017, Endowments Report Decline in Ten-Year Return

Despite 12.2 percent return for FY2017, educational endowments report a decline in their 10-Year return while large institutions lead increase in effective spending rate Data gathered from 809 U.S....
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

When Leaks Turn into Floods: Challenges Facing Higher Education

2017’s tax legislation is the latest in a growing list of challenges facing higher education. The new excise taxes on endowment earnings of the largest private universities, coupled with the...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Bonds May Not Be Loved, But They Shouldn't Be Forgotten

Summary TODAY, THERE IS A GOOD DEAL OF HAND WRINGING OVER THE RISK OF RISING RATES. WHILE RISING LONG-TERM RATES COULD BE A HEADWIND FOR CORE FIXED INCOME, AS LONG AS RATES RISE FAIRLY MODESTLY THE...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

Tax Reform: CPI Plus More

It was another taxing weekend (literally) at Commonfund as we digested 1,097 pages of the conference agreement for the tax reform bill (the “Tax Act”) and its implications for our country and for the...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

The Tax Man Cometh (And Not Just for the Ivies)

UPDATE: Since this blog was published there have been further developments related to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  Please see our post Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: CPI Plus More for our latest thinking....
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

Spending Policy: Is Yours Ready for the Next Downturn?

In most Investment Policy Statements there is often a reference to two important, but conflicting, objectives: one, to preserve the purchasing power of the long-term portfolio in real terms, and two,...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Emerging Market Equities Turn the Corner

As we progress through calendar year 2017, we have witnessed the continuation of the equity bull market started in 2009. One difference however, is that leadership has turned (finally!) to non-U.S...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

On Complacency | Why Risk Management Always Matters

Like nearly everything in the financial markets, risk is cyclical.  History repeats itself.  The echoes of past crises are always heard in present ones, yet new crises are rarely predicted and not...
Outsourced Cio | Insights Blog

A Primer on Outsourced Investment Management

Once seen primarily as a solution for small institutions with limited resources, outsourcing of the investment management function is now widespread, with a broad range of long-term investors –...
Perspectives | Insights Blog

Key Findings from 2016 Council on Foundations-Commonfund Study of Foundations [Infographic]

For the fiscal year ended December 30, 2016, participating private foundations reported an average return of 6.4 percent while participating community foundations reported an average return of 7.3...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

How Much Beta is in Your Equity Portfolio?

Leveling the Field in the “Tug of War” Between Active and Passive… Active Equity Manager Universal Objective: Outperform the Passive Alternative It’s undeniable that every active equity manager’s...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Making the Case for Investing in Natural Resources

The natural resources sector is often characterized as cyclical, as producers and service providers experience underlying exposure to and commensurate volatility of commodities in the oil and gas,...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Thoughts on the Role of Credit in Institutional Portfolios

While most institutional portfolios have allocations to investment grade corporate credit, as a strategic allocation high yield and emerging market credit (liquid credit) are sometimes overlooked....
Risk Management | Insights Blog

WannaCry? WannaRun, WannaHide! Managing Cybersecurity Risk

Over the last year there has been no shortage of things to keep investors, asset managers, and risk managers concerned. Despite these exogenous shocks most equity markets have continued to shake off...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Flexing Your Global Portfolio Can Lead to ACWI Fatigue, but Don't Throw in the Towel Yet

Like the build-up of lactic acid in your muscles after a strenuous workout, the underperformance of Morgan Stanley Capital International All Country World index (MSCI ACWI) vs. the Standard & Poor’s...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Active Fee Management: Notes from the Front Lines

Few topics get investors’ attention as much as fees.  We wouldn’t be human if we all didn’t want to know, in detail, how much something costs.  In the world of investing, fees are an even more...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Maintaining Purchasing Power in Today’s Environment | CPI + 5%

At Commonfund, we understand the challenge institutions face of maintaining the purchasing power of their endowment. In fact, achieving a rate of return sufficient to cover inflation, distributions...
Perspectives | Insights Blog

Key Findings from NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments [Infographic]

For the fiscal year ended June 30, 2016, educational endowments reported a -1.9 percent return as the 10-Year return fell to 5.0 percent. In this infographic, we report the top findings from the 2016...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

The Crowded Liquidity Trade

The liquidity markets have experienced one of the largest disruptions since the inception of SEC Rule 2a-71 in the early 1970’s.  Over the past few months, we have seen a massive shift of investor...
Perspectives | Insights Blog

Commonfund Forum 2017 Attendee Statistics [Infographic]

We recently hosted our 19th annual Commonfund Forum in San Antonio Texas. The event brought together institutional investors to engage in a three-day conference to explore cyclical trends and...
Perspectives | Insights Blog

10 Key Takeaways from Commonfund Forum 2017

Commonfund recently hosted its 19th annual Commonfund Forum in San Antonio Texas.  The event brought together about 450 institutional investors from the U.S, Puerto Rico and Canada to engage in a...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Long-Term Trends for Long-Term Investors

Nonprofit institutions have the distinct advantage of having the longest time horizon of any investors – often perpetuity.  This affords an opportunity to consider investments based on secular trends...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

What do the Cable Television and Hedge Fund Industries Have in Common?

These industries may seem an odd pairing, but both are in the midst of a disruption-led, industry-wide rationalization process. The two industries share in common a historically evolved “bundling”...
Perspectives | Insights Blog

Constraints Faced by Healthcare Endowments

As a result of the evolving landscape of the healthcare industry, organizations are increasingly being shaped by pressures affecting both the revenue and expense sides of the income statement. On one...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Private Credit Opportunities – Direct Lending to U.S. Middle Market Companies

Much has been made of the challenges endowment, foundation and nonprofit investors face in achieving a CPI+ five percent return target. One way to improve the probability of attaining this goal is to...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

Does Your Investment Policy Statement Account for Risk?

Successful investing for long-term funds requires a strategic plan. This is true despite – indeed, because of – the fact that the future is unknowable. The plan must be specific, embodying in...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Healthcare Endowment Management: 3 Questions to Consider

Mounting cost pressures are forcing small and mid-sized nonprofit healthcare organizations to consider adopting endowment management practices similar to those used elsewhere in the nonprofit sector....
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

Drafting Your Investment Policy Statement: 10 Critical Issues

Endowed institutions differ in their missions, capabilities and resources, and investment policy statements naturally mirror these differences.  In that sense, there is no single ‘right’ investment...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Venture Capital - Looking Forward and Upward

Beginning in the second half of 2015, there was growing caution that started to impact pricing and investment activity in early 2016. This valuation cooling period and subsequent shift in mindset...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

A False Sense of Diversification?

As we have undergone the process of re-underwriting all of Commonfund’s equity managers and funds over the last 6 months, we have tackled anew the age old question of how many funds does one...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

How Does Board Structure Affect Performance?

The structure of a board has an important influence on its effectiveness, and being cognizant of these matters is essential to improving a board’s performance. In this article, we’ll discuss four...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Real Estate – Rates, Rates, Rates

“There are three things that matter in property: location, location, location”. While the age-old adage still holds in many respects, real estate risks, as with the risks associated with all asset...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

Fiduciary Responsibility: A Board’s Purpose and Roles

Excellent boards are made, not born. Achieving excellence in board governance requires success in four crucial areas: capable leadership, a sound organizational structure, attention to fiduciary...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

Where Did Our Operating Income Go?

Treasury managers face a new challenge to an old problem. Their institutions historically have relied on operating investment income to provide a necessary influx to operating budgets. Prior to 2008,...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

It's Not Easy Being Active

It’s not easy being an active equity manager these days. As the chart below depicts, active managers have just come through the worst period for returns in several decades. The chart shows the...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

Five Laws that Led to Uniformity in Nonprofit Governance

With each state having its own court system, uniformity among the states did not exist. While there was agreement on basic common-law trust principles, variations still emerged. As the American...
Responsible Investing | Insights Blog

Better Understanding Responsible Investing Practices

How can you do the most good, with limited resources, when facing enormous problems? That question lies at or near the heart of every decision at a foundation. This is true of the grant dollars which...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

A Framework for Nonprofit Governance

Two important laws enacted in the last 15 years have had an impact far beyond the intent of their original authors, causing major, if little-noticed, changes in nonprofit governance. The...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Integration of ESG Factors in Practical Steps

In the current climate of slow global economic growth and resource constraints at many institutions, integration of ESG considerations in an organization’s investment portfolio may be perceived as a...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

Bridging the Gap: Carbon and Fiduciary Responsibility

Most institutional investor discussions and actions regarding global warming have been at two ends of the spectrum: either divest from fossil fuels entirely or remain fully invested. A better...
Responsible Investing | Insights Blog

Responsible Investing for Foundations

Commonfund and the Council on Foundations are thrilled to announce the release of the 2016 Council on Foundations – Commonfund Study of Responsible Investing. It is the largest and most detailed...
Outsourced Cio | Insights Blog

Top Ten Risks for Practicing CIOs

A Chief Investment Officer’s primary responsibility is to identify and clearly communicate his/her portfolio’s risks to his/her Board, Investment Committee and/or client(s).  About eighteen months...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

Common Concerns about Responsible Investing

Discussions about whether responsible investing strategies help or hurt investment performance are complicated by the fact that, there are several broad categories of responsible investing practice...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

Operating Charity Implements a Risk-Based Investment Policy

An operating charity in the Northeast is in the process of implementing a risk-based investment policy for its $30 million endowment. The organization’s seven-member Investment Committee includes...
Outsourced Cio | Insights Blog

Deciding on an OCIO Provider: Three Factors to Consider

There are three main factors an institution will need to weigh in deciding if working with an OCIO provider is right for them. Those are: Degree of Discretion: What role do the institution’s board...
Responsible Investing | Insights Blog

Responsible Investing: Terminology and Background

The terms socially-responsible investing (SRI), mission-related investing, impact investing and environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing – all frequently grouped under the heading of...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

What is an OCIO?

Outsourced investment management, once primarily a solution for small institutions with limited resources, is now used by a broad range of long-term investors. When properly implemented, outsourcing...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Hedge Funds: How Many (or Few) Does it Take?

It’s straightforward to get an answer to that question, at least superficially: draw at random from a manager universe, build hypothetical portfolios with the selected managers, track performance,...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Is Currency an Asset Class?

Currency risk can best be described as the surprise impact that currency exposure has on an investment portfolio. Although currency risk typically confounds investors, it is easy to measure – it is...
Responsible Investing | Insights Blog

Sample Policy Rider for Responsible Investing

A number of clients and prospects have asked how their Investment Policy Statement (IPS) can be amended to accommodate responsible investing strategies. In response, we have prepared a rider which...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

Six Key Questions To Ask OCIO Providers

“Outsourced CIO” (or OCIO) is a term that might not be familiar to many. In the past it has been defined as a traditional consulting model in which the process of interviewing potential investment...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

New Environmental Regulations and the Impact on Fiduciaries

Developments in world financial markets seem to occur more quickly every year, requiring ever-higher levels of expertise and experience on the part of investment committees. Climate change is a more...
Investment Strategy | Insights Blog

Size: It's Complicated

Assets under management (AUM) among hedge funds has always been characteristically top-heavy, with the majority of capital in the hands of a relatively small number of managers. While the hedge fund...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

Calculating Investment Management Costs

The following methodology may be of use in helping you to understand more fully what your organization pays for investment management costs. Identify the fees you pay at the overall portfolio level...
Risk Management | Insights Blog

The Curious Case of Risk Exposures in Diversified Portfolios

Our research at Commonfund has found that a 70/30 stock/bond portfolio  has north of 99 percent of its risk, as measured by standard deviation, allocated to equities. Thus, portfolio risk typically...
Outsourced Cio | Insights Blog

5 Things to Consider When Choosing an OCIO

Nearly all CFOs and investment committees consider it. And more than ever are acting upon it: investigating the possibility of an Outsourced CIO (OCIO) to manage their institution’s investments. The...
Risk Management | Insights Blog

Defining Risk For Your Organization

Merriam-Webster’s defines risk as the “possibility of loss or injury.” The financial profession — borrowing from Modern Portfolio Theory — uses the standard deviation of a portfolio’s returns to...
Governance And Policy | Insights Blog

What is ESG Investing?

Generally speaking, Environmental Social and Governance, or ESG for short, is used to describe a group of characteristics that can have a material impact on the long-term success of a company and,...
Private Capital | Insights Blog

How liquid are Private Capital Investments?

In the wake of the Global Financial Crisis, institutional investors were rightfully concerned about the liquidity profiles of their long term portfolios. Although markets have recovered substantially...