Market Commentary | Articles

Fiscal Year-End and Mid-Year 2020 Market and Investment Review

As we enter the new fiscal year, and Commonfund’s 50th year of operations, we leave behind what will likely be remembered as one of the most challenging and memorable fiscal years for the...
Governance And Policy | Articles

Changing the Conversation on College and University Resources

William Massy has spent his entire career at the intersection of academia and administration, as a microeconomist; professor, dean and CFO at Stanford University; author; and now, an independent...
Investment Strategy | Articles

Increasing Giving During COVID-19: Thoughts for Philanthropy

The Council on Foundations has acted to support its members, their nonprofit partners, and the people and communities hit hardest by the impacts of COVID-19 by asking members to sign a pledge of...
Investment Strategy | Articles

Nonprofit Leaders Spotlight | Rochelle Witharana, Chief Financial Officer, California Wellness Foundation

With nearly $1 billion in assets, The California Wellness Foundation (Cal Wellness), is one of California’s largest public health philanthropic institutions. Cal Wellness awards approximately $43...
Governance And Policy | Articles

Intergenerational Equity and Sustainable Investing

Intergenerational equity was defined by economist James Tobin in 1974. He wrote, “The trustees of endowed institutions are the guardians of the future against the claims of the present. Their task in...
Private Capital | Articles

Private Capital Secondaries | An Overview

COVID-19 is impacting the world in unprecedented ways. Today, it is estimated approximately 75 percent of the U.S. population or, almost 250 million people, are staying at home. Globally, over 1.5...
Market Commentary | Articles

Higher Ed in the Age of COVID-19

Commonfund convenes an expert panel to take on the short- and intermediate-term threats that higher education confronts in the face of a national emergency the likes of which have not been seen for...
Governance And Policy | Articles

How Can Trustees Achieve Intergenerational Equity in the Face of Rising Costs?

The Commonfund Higher Education Price Index® (HEPI) is an inflation index for colleges and universities. It has been calculated since 1983 and includes inflation data going back to 1961. Commonfund...
Responsible Investing | Articles

Viewpoint | Responsible Investing: Evolution, Not Resolution

In recent years, responsible investing has received mounting levels of attention from all quarters of the investment management field, from institutional investors large and small to global asset...
Responsible Investing | Articles

The Sustainability Conundrum

Sustainable investing, sometimes called environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing, has been a hotly contested topic for decades, an the debate continues with both supporters and naysayers...
Investment Strategy | Articles

Optimize Luck

Instead of just optimizing for skill, why don’t we optimize for luck? Optimize Luck originated in a group discussion I facilitated for the Investment Institute, a membership organization for...
Private Capital | Articles

Emerging Markets Private Capital — A Focus on China

Commonfund recently hosted a talk on evolving private capital opportunities in emerging markets. Mark Hoeing, Head of Private Equity, moderated the discussion, while Aaron Miller, Head of Venture...
Investment Strategy | Articles

Nonprofit Leaders Spotlight | Dimple Abichandani, Executive Director of the General Service Foundation

Dimple Abichandani is Executive Director of the General Service Foundation (“GSF”), a private grantmaking family foundation that dedicates all its resources to bringing about a more just and...
Diversity | Articles

Diversity and Inclusion on Nonprofit Boards is Effective Stewardship

Many institutions recognize the need for diversity and inclusion on their boards and investment committees. Diverse and inclusive boards can make more effective decisions, design and deliver...
Governance And Policy | Articles

Outsourcing: Writing Your RFP

Once an institution decides to pursue the outsourced CIO or investment office option, it usually leads to the creation of a request for proposal, or RFP.  Considering that the outsourced model is a...
Perspectives | Articles

Viewpoint: Actions Speak Louder than Data

In this Council on Foundations-Commonfund Study of Foundations viewpoint, it's about analyzing and interpreting the data we've collected. What do they tell us? What trends are emerging? How are...
Investment Strategy | Articles

An Investor’s Guide to Private Equity Today

Commonfund recently hosted a panel discussion focused on the current state of private equity and venture capital, with an emphasis on the investor’s perspective of the industry today. The three...
Diversity | Articles

Dynamic Workforce = Dynamic Portfolios

The Surprising Outcomes When Diverse Groups and Homogeneous Groups Tackle the Same Problem In late 2018, Commonfund established a Diversity Office with the objective of benefiting from the strengths...
Market Commentary | Articles

The Global Economy and the Return of Risk

How to think about tariffs, deficits, valuations, leverage, growth and other issues What signals should institutions be mindful of as they make portfolio decisions in the current environment? A panel...
Perspectives | Articles

Viewpoint: Looking Back, Moving Forward - A Decade of Insight from CSIS

Fiscal 2009 was an epochal year. In March, the stock market decline wrought by the financial crisis and Great Recession reached its nadir as investors sensed the worst had passed. With the turn in...
Market Commentary | Articles

Year-End Update and 2019 Investment Outlook

As we bid farewell to 2018 and head into 2019, I am pleased to provide you with an update on developments at Commonfund as well as our perspective on the markets and investing. Our roots as a...
Governance And Policy | Articles

Viewpoint: The Long of It

Endowments, like the organizations they support, are generally intended to operate in perpetuity. To accomplish this goal, those responsible for endowments—trustees or directors—make decisions based...
Governance And Policy | Articles

Viewpoint: The Gift of (Relative) Calm

The calamities known as the financial crisis and Great Recession are now a decade in the past. But far from fading into history, the memories remain fresh. And we are reminded of those days regularly...
Investor Spotlight | Articles

Rust College

Rust College: Where tomorrow’s leaders are students today In the wake of the Civil War, Rust College was founded in 1866 to provide an education for newly-freed slaves. Located in Holly Springs,...
Investment Strategy | Articles

Diversity and Emerging Managers

The benefits of diversity are widely recognized in the work place and among educational institutions and other nonprofits. Yet, the concept of investment management firms that are minority owned and...
Investment Strategy | Articles

Inflation is Expected to Rise. How Can Investors Protect Portfolios?

In March, capital markets entered their tenth year of post-crisis recovery. For diversified portfolios, these have been some of the most profitable times, characterized by strong returns, positive...
Responsible Investing | Articles

ESG Investing Becomes Mainstream

The subject of ESG, or investing in accord with environmental, social and governance principles, arose in several sessions at Commonfund Forum 2018. One session, in particular, was devoted to the...
Private Capital | Articles

Private Capital: Key to Unlocking Growth in Emerging Markets

After a turbulent period, emerging markets have delivered double-digit returns in recent years. Private investments in emerging markets offer a way to diversify beyond the public markets and, in...
Investor Spotlight | Articles

Flagler College

Energetic youth in ‘America’s oldest city’. St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement in the continental U.S., having been founded in 1565. Flagler College is...
Investor Spotlight | Articles

Missouri Baptist Foundation

Managing investments for missions, ministries and churches. The Missouri Baptist Foundation (MBF) has a noble calling: to support and strengthen the good work of the show me state's ministries,...
Investor Spotlight | Articles

University of the Virgin Islands

  These Buccaneers pursue a different treasure. There was a time when pirates plied the waters of the Caribbean in the pursuit of gold and other treasure. The Buccaneers mascot of the University of...
Investor Spotlight | Articles

University Corporation for Atmospheric Research

The Sky's No Limit. It doesn't issue public weather forecasts, but it tracks weather around the globe. It isn't the national hurricane center, but it studies hurricanes as well as other extreme...
Investor Spotlight | Articles

They dig plants at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas

Hundreds of thousands of plant species are scattered all over the earth, but if the plant world had a headquarters it might be the Fort Worth, Texas home of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas...
Investor Spotlight | Articles

The Lincoln University

Founded in 1854, The Lincoln University is the nation's oldest degree-granting institutions for persons of African descent. Lincoln is committed to maintaining a nurturing and stimulating environment...
Investor Spotlight | Articles

Western Washington University

Active minds changing lives. Right-sized, well balanced, with an extensive range of strong academic programs and some enlightening stats that speak to all of it: Western Washington University (WWU)...
Governance And Policy | Articles

Viewpoint: Being Objective

Every year, the NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments® (NCSE) reports new data—on investment returns, asset allocation, risk management, donations and gifts, and much more. But some data points are...
Governance And Policy | Articles

Governance Best Practices: How Does Your Board Measure Up?

Since our founding in 1971, a core element of the Commonfund mission has been to provide insights on a broad range of governance, policy and investment challenges. An engaged governing board is...
Private Capital | Articles

What’s the Difference? Time-Weighted Return vs. Internal Rate of Return

Investors often ask about the difference between time-weighted return (“TWR”) and internal rate of return (“IRR”). In general, TWR is used by the investment industry to measure the performance of...
Investor Spotlight | Articles

Northampton Community College Foundation

The dictionary defines a foundation as “an underlying base or support.” Of course, there’s another type of foundation, defined as “funds given for the support of an institution.” Northampton...
Investment Strategy | Articles

Hedge Fund Land: An Expensive Amusement Park?

In a series of articles, we have addressed two recent investment “fatigues” experienced by institutional investors: Active vs. Passive; and Global (ACWI) vs. US benchmarks.  In this article, we...
Responsible Investing | Articles

Viewpoint: Increased Responsibility

Introduction In recent years, growing attention has been paid to the use by endowed institutions of so-called responsible investing practices. The three main practices — environmental, social and...
Governance And Policy | Articles

Not So Free: Implications of New York’s Excelsior Scholarships

Key Insights While opening opportunity to many New York families, the recently enacted Excelsior Scholarship Program will likely stress the financial resources of small private colleges and...
Investment Strategy | Articles

The Misperception of Illiquid Investments

With many market participants expecting low nominal returns across traditional asset classes in the coming years, the challenge of structuring a portfolio to achieve CPI +5%, or long-term purchasing...
Investment Strategy | Articles

CIO Roundtable: Is the Endowment Model a Crowded Trade?

Stuck in the past or ever-evolving? The endowment model gets a hard look eight years into the current market cycle. With core tenets of the endowment model seemingly under stress for the last several...
Perspectives | Articles

Viewpoint: Counting the Cost

How much does investment management cost? Fiduciaries, donors and stakeholders at endowed institutions have a strong interest in finding a good answer to this question, particularly in this era of...
Investor Spotlight | Articles

Center for Natural Lands Management

These words—to protect, preserve and defend—come from the oath of office sworn by the President of the United States. At the Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM), they refer to an unwritten but...
Governance And Policy | Articles

Viewpoint: A Firmer Foundation

How long is the long term? A year ago, private and community foundations appeared to many observers to have recovered from the losses suffered in the 2008–09 global financial crisis. Double-digit...
Investor Spotlight | Articles

The William Penn Foundation

Fast Philly facts: The city is the site of the first library, hospital, medical school, stock exchange and zoo in the U.S. It’s the only World Heritage City in the U.S. William Penn founded the city...
Investment Strategy | Articles

Active Management Fatigue and What to Do About It

Active management has struggled for several years, raising questions about whether active management can ever outperform again. Traditional active manager style tilts, like value and size, have...
| Articles

What’s Next for Cash Investors?

In the static low-rate environment of recent years, it seemed as though there was no “what’s next” for cash. Today, that has changed, as there are major forces reshaping the regulatory and interest...
Investment Strategy | Articles

Ideas for Next Gen Energy Investing

Advances in alternative energy technologies promise to reduce the world’s dependence on fossil fuels. Largely, however, they remain just that—a promise. So, where are the opportunities to invest in...
Investment Strategy | Articles

Unhedged Commentary: The $3 Trillion Question

Reprinted from Institutional Investor’s Alpha Spring 2016 issue The growth of the hedge fund industry over the past decade has been tremendous, with more and more institutional and retail investors...
Governance And Policy | Articles

The Big Picture: Integrating Investments, Finance and Development

Most things function a lot better when all the moving parts work together—nonprofit institutions included. The synergies afforded by collaboration across organizational boundaries may be the most...
Investment Strategy | Articles

Asset Allocation with Private Equity

Reprinted from Volume 17, Number 1, 2016 of The Journal of Investment Consulting by Mark J.P. Anson Private assets such as private equity and venture capital have long been a thorn in the side of...
Investment Strategy | Articles

Emerging Markets: Balancing Risk and Reward

Investors poured $2 trillion into emerging economies between 2009 and 2014. Then prices for a basket of commodities fell—dragging crude oil down to levels not seen in a decade and dashing investors’...
Investment Strategy | Articles

Rethinking Risk and Diversification

Asset allocation is still the foundation on which better risk-adjusted returns are built. But asset allocation has changed, along with all the associated tools for pursuing return and managing risk....
Perspectives | Articles

Viewpoint: Seven Years On

How long is the long term? A year ago, endowments appeared to many observers to have recovered from the losses suffered in the 2008-09 global financial crisis. Double-digit investment returns had...
Governance And Policy | Articles

Top Five Questions of Nonprofit Fiduciaries

The turbulent start to the New Year has led governing boards, investment committees and staff to question what’s next for the markets and what they should do about it.  Below are the top five...
Responsible Investing | Articles

Impact Investing: Balancing the best of responsibility & opportunity

Impact investing is showing growth around the world. According to the most recent J.P. Morgan/Global Impact Investing Network Impact Investor Survey, the number of institutional investors engaging in...
Governance And Policy | Articles

Viewpoint: Changing Our Minds

It is often said that we live in a world of change, but it is surprising how slowly that change can occur. Seven years after the onset of the Great Recession, many business school students are still...
Outsourced CIO | Articles

Multi-Asset Investing: Form Follows Function

The design axiom captures the purpose of multi-asset investing Interest in multi-asset investing is growing and the inflows confirm it: Institutional assets committed to multi-asset investing are...
Outsourced CIO | Articles

Of Apples, Oranges and Onions: Assessing OCIO Performance and Fees

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. When...
Private Capital | Articles

Global private equity: what and why

What and Why An article in the previous issue of Insight sought to discern the difference between perception and reality in private equity investing generally, and included a companion article...
Perspectives | Articles

Smart money, crowded trades?

For investors building multi-manager portfolios, a look at an alternative hedge fund beta. Approaches to stock selection vary widely across the hedge fund universe, even among managers practicing the...
Risk Management | Articles

Greenhouse Effect

Investment returns of less well-diversified portfolios have flourished in the accommodative market environment created by central banks. But what will happen when rates rise? In the last five years,...
Perspectives | Articles

Working capital: challenge and opportunity

On campus, the thinking about operating asset management is changing with the times. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and Great Recession, liquidity was the primary concern on university...
Governance And Policy | Articles

Evolving Challenges in Nonprofit Governance

Commonfund recently convened an expert panel moderated by Myra Drucker (standing, left), Chair of the Board, TrustedPeer Inc. and former chair of the Commonfund Board of Trustees. The roundtable...
Responsible Investing | Articles

ESG: Sharpening the Point

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors are a topic for active discussion in board rooms. Here’s an update on Commonfund’s thoughts and actions and how ESG may relate to you. In general,...
Private Capital | Articles

Private Equity: Perception and Reality

For a variety of reasons, some investors believe that private equity may have lost its edge as a key allocation for their portfolios. This perception may overlook reality. A closer examination...
Outsourced CIO | Articles

Nonstop Nonprofit-Dedicated OCIO

Why an OCIO that's dedicated to serving nonprofits may be preferable to a general practitioner As the OCIO model has evolved and expanded in recent years, a number of financial providers have entered...
Risk Management | Articles

Risk: The Fuel that Generates Portfolio Returns

Risk management: the process of harnessing risk in pursuit of better investment returns In a broad sense, how should nonprofit institutional investors think about investment risk and risk management?...
Investment Strategy | Articles

Viewpoint: A Different Kind of Climate Change

How have cultural, religious and social service institutions’ investment portfolios changed in response to the financial and market environment that has prevailed over the last several years? While...
Governance And Policy | Articles

10-Point Checklist: Get Governance Right

Follow this checklist and you'll be on your way…  For nonprofit organizations of all kinds, the regulatory and legislative landscape continues to become more rigorous—which should not come as a...
Investment Strategy | Articles

6 Keys to Choosing the Right Outsourced CIO

Today, few OCIOs that serve nonprofits are total institutional partners. Six questions can help you find one who takes a holistic approach. Not long ago, the definition and scope of an “Outsourced...
Private Capital | Articles

‘What, me? Illiquid?’

Although it has been five years since the collapse of Lehman Brothers—an event that transformed a bad recession into a global financial crisis—the scars of that traumatic episode remain etched in the...
Responsible Investing | Articles

ESG and Your Institution: Doing Well by Doing Good

Investing according to environmental, social and governance principles is maturing into a distinct discipline. Robust research results dispute the conventional wisdom about performance trade-offs. If...
Governance And Policy | Articles

Long-Term Care

Facing cost pressures and a new regulatory regime, healthcare organizations — especially those in the small and mid-sized range — should consider adopting the principles of the endowment model....