perspectives | 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...
perspectives | 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...
perspectives | 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...
perspectives | 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...
perspectives | 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...
perspectives | 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...
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...
perspectives | 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...
perspectives | 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....
perspectives | 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...
perspectives | 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...
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...
perspectives | 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...
perspectives | 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...
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...
perspectives | 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,...
perspectives | 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...
perspectives | 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...
perspectives | 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...
perspectives | 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...
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...
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...
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...
perspectives | 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...
perspectives | 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...
perspectives | 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

Top Five Private Capital Investor Concerns

At the end of the year we sent out a short survey to learn more about investors’ headline concerns about the private capital markets today. Investors also shared their expectations about returns and...
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...
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....
perspectives | 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...
perspectives | 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...
perspectives | 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....
perspectives | 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...
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...
perspectives | 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...
perspectives | 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...
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...
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...
perspectives | 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...
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...
perspectives | 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...
perspectives | 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...
perspectives | 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,...
perspectives | 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...
perspectives | 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...
perspectives | 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...
perspectives | 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...
perspectives | 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...
perspectives | 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...
perspectives | Insights Blog

Sample Investment Policy Statement 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...
perspectives | 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...
perspectives | 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...
perspectives | Insights Blog

10 Point Checklist to Get Governance Right

The regulatory and legislative landscape continues to become more rigorous for nonprofit organizations. In an atmosphere of increasing calls for accountability, boards and senior staff need to take...
perspectives | 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...