The truth is that many non-profits who think they can’t possibly raise an endowment actually could, if they were willing to put in the hard work, and wait for the reward, over a number of years.  Mega-charities like large universities and hospitals, and some new organizations with major donor support, can simply run a two-year endowment campaign to raise an eight figure endowment fund.  For smaller non-profits, it takes a much more thoughtful plan.

What is an Endowment? Simply put, an endowment is a pool of funds raised by a non-profit organization which is then invested, and which provides returns or on-going income to the non-profit, either for a designated purpose or for general operating support.

Should I Raise an Endowment? Small non-profits, those raising $5 million per year or less, should generally focus on expanding their general and annual fundraising programs before thinking about an endowment program.  Likewise, charities that don’t yet have a planned giving program should plan one before launching an endowment campaign.  That being said, mid-sized non-profits can use mid-sized endowments to increase their reach and let them reach that next level of charitable fundraising.

Putting Together a Leadership Team | If you are launching an endowment fundraising effort, the best way to start is by putting together an endowment leadership committee to head up your fundraising efforts.  Find people who are committed to your organization, able to give a sizeable gift themselves, and willing to make asks to their colleagues and friends. 


1.   Have a Strategic Plan for Your Non-Profit –  Endowment donors are giving because they want your organization to be sustainable.  Make sure you have a plan in place for the future… and share that plan with donors and prospects.

2.  Have a Reasonable, but Visionary Goal –  Set an endowment fundraising goal that is reasonable, but also reasonably big and game-changing for your non-profit.

3.  Put Together a Professional-Looking Prospectus – As you approach donors, you’ll want to have a professionally designed prospectus that explains your organization, why you are raising the endowment, what the endowment income will fund, and what level gifts you are seeking.  Major donors want to see your plan and understand your effort, and you want them to see that you are serious and committed to the process.

4.  Seek Leadership Gifts First – The best way to publically launch an endowment is with 25-50% of the goal already raised.  If you’re launching a $10 million endowment campaign, approach your endowment leadership team, your organization’s key donors, some supportive foundations, and other prospects to try to raise $2-$5 million in commitments before you publically roll-out your campaign.

5.  Focus on Multi-Year Gifts –  Remember, many people who couldn’t write you a check for $100,000 right now could write you a check for $20,000 each year for the next five years.  Focus your endowment fundraising on raising major multi-year gifts, and make it easy for your donors to give by offering yearly or monthly invoicing and automatic credit card payments for those that are interested in them.

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Author:  Joe Garecht