Nonprofit Chronicles

Journalism about foundations, nonprofits and their impact

The people who run billion-dollar foundations like to talk about their grants. They pump out press releases, produce slick videos, post on social media, publish annual reports and compile searchable databases, all calling attention to the ways they give away money. But how do they invest their money? Many won’t say. Fewer than half of 15 of the biggest U.S. foundations, which …

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John Bogle didn’t sign the Giving Pledge. He didn’t have the money. (You need $1bn.) But Bogle did more for the world than most of those who signed. Bogle, the founder of the investment giant Vanguard, died last week. His story is a reminder that how you make your money matters more than how you …

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Culture trumps strategy, it’s often said in business. At companies and nonprofits alike, culture can be defined as “the way we do things around here.” It’s tough to change culture. Culture helps explain the way that most foundations invest their endowments. The way they do things — the way they’ve always done things — is …

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We’re gradually learning more about the investment performance of foundation endowments. The news is not good. The Chronicle of Philanthropy yesterday published my story about foundation endowments. [Paywall] The peg was the Ford Foundation’s decision to publish the investment returns of its $12.1bn endowment for the first time in several years. Ford has done well–its endowment …

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America’s foundations spend many millions of dollars every year on investment advice. What do they get in return? Bubkes.* You read that right: Money that could be spent on charitable programs — to alleviate global poverty, help cure disease, improve education, support research or promote the arts —instead flows into the pockets of well-to-do investment advisors and asset …

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With a collective $800bn in assets under managements, America’s big foundations spend vast sums of money to buy investment advice. They’re getting little, if anything, of value in return. Their own investment offices, and the Wall Street banks, hedge funds, private equity firms and consultants they hire, when taken together, deliver investment returns that lag …

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Last week, ExxonMobil added Susan Avery, a physicist, atmospheric scientist and former president of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institutions, to its board of directors. Shareholder advocates, led by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), which has been organizing shareholder campaigns at ExxonMobil for nearly two decades — yes, two decades — welcomed the appointment. …

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