Combined and Pooled Endowment Funds 2020 Investment Report
In a year of challenges and uncertainty, Case Western Reserve University, like peer institutions across the country, had to navigate a market full of fluctuations. Ultimately, the investment return on the university’s combined endowment—that is, funds the institution manages as well as those held and managed by others—was 1.2 percent for the period from July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020.
The university’s one-year performance was consistent with Cambridge Associates’ 1.1 percent benchmark median return for higher education institutions. Cambridge Associates is a global investment consulting firm that provides research and benchmarks across many funds and industries.
The Combined Endowment includes two categories of long-term resources. The first—known as “Pooled Investment Funds,” or the “Endowment Pool”—involves dollars the university manages directly. This pool constitutes a significant majority of the university’s total endowment. The second category consists of contributions designated for Case Western Reserve that foundations or other organizations manage. These dollars are called “Funds Held By Others.” When the university adds the funds it manages to those held by others, the overall amount is called the “Combined Endowment.”
Endowment gifts not only help secure the institution’s long-term future, but also can support students, faculty and staff in the present day. Over time, these contributions typically generate additional resources through the investment returns they earn. Each year, a small portion of those returns can be spent to support original gift purposes—for example, to provide financial support tied to scholarships, fellowships, professorships, as well as research and programs. These annual disbursements make it possible for the donors’ funds to achieve immediate positive impact while ensuring the gifts’ benefits can continue in perpetuity.
Disbursements made from the endowment to support current needs are among the factors that influence its value in a given year. Other elements include investment returns, investment appreciation, and new donor commitments. For Fiscal Year 2020, the value of the Combined Endowment totaled $1.85 billion.
Case Western Reserve deeply appreciates every contribution the university receives to advance its mission of education and research. Endowment gifts represent an enduring commitment to the institution and its work, and it is the university’s obligation to steward those funds to ensure lasting impact. Meeting this responsibility requires a delicate balance of two priorities that sometimes can be in tension with one another: maximal growth and minimal risk.
The investment approach to endowment funds aims to preserve the value of the original commitment, and also increase its worth through the accumulation of investment returns that exceed disbursements. For this reason, the university has a broadly diversified portfolio that includes domestic and foreign public equities, fixed-income funds, private capital and real assets.
*During 2019 it was determined that the community foundation holding certain trusts has ultimate control. The Combined Endowment Value for 2018 and 2019 was revised accordingly.