UUCS Endowment Fund History – Honoring the Past, Giving to the Future
Our church was established in 1887, and our Endowment Fund began sometime during the following 100 years. Details of the beginnings are lost to us, until about 1990, when the fund had a balance of around $10,000. Not much for a church with over a century of history.
Jane Bowen took an interest, followed closely by Donna Borden Rhodes, who has been involved in nurturing and growing the fund for close to 30 years. Significant donations from the estates of Katherine Gellhorn and MaryLee Chesnut in 1999 brought the fund to over $100,000. Now the fund was large enough to really matter. Groups could apply for disbursements for specific projects annually. Between 2003 and 2011, Endowment distributions of over $30,000 funded the folding doors now in the Thoreau Room, sound panels for the sanctuary, Transylvanian gate, the large metal gate and fencing into the Memorial Garden area, refurbishment of the Gerald Kissin Memorial Tower, installation of the Harold Balazs light fixtures on the front walkway, RE tables and chairs, grass in the back yard area, CO2 sensors, and support for the ministerial search that found us the Reverend Dr. Todd Eklof.
The fund was invested in a Vanguard account, and managed by team members Tom Mosher and Dan Eacret until it grew to over $200,000 by 2011. At that point, the team determined the fund was large enough to need professional management. The investment goals remained, first, to guard the principal, and second, to grow the fund.
The Endowment Team researched fund management options, contacting a number of churches, speaking with local investment advisors, and investigating the UUA’s Endowment program, called the Unitarian Universalist Common Endowment Fund, or UUCEF. The Team decided the UUCEF was the best option. It offered professional management, solid returns, and focused on investments that reflect our UU values.
The first UUCEF deposit was made in December 2011, with the balance of the funds transferred over the next few months, as investment instruments matured. In 2013, when the fund was just under $300,000, the Board determined not to make any disbursements until it reached $500,000. At that point, the fund volume would allow a significant contribution to the annual UUCS budget, expanding our revenue base and reducing the Church’s dependency on pledges. Projections estimated that would occur between 2019 and 2022.
Due to generous contributions and excellent investment returns, the Church reached that milestone earlier than anticipated, in 2017, resulting in a distribution of $17,000 to the UUCS operating budget for 2018 – 2019. The distribution for fiscal 2019 -2020 is $15,000, reduced due to market volatility. The budgeted distribution for 2020 -2021 is $26,000. The Endowment Team hopes to be able to recommend a distribution every year, based on prevailing conditions, while preserving principal and maintaining a healthy fund balance.
UUCEF combines funds of over 300 congregations and UU related groups, with assets just under $200 million shown on their audited financial statements dated June 30, 2019.
Current Endowment Team members are as follows: Dan Ecret, Mary Giannini, Karen Dorn Steele, Sue Stiritz
February 15, 2019 and updated January 1, 2020