Funding a Perpetual Gift

Funding a Perpetual Gift

My organization is trying to put a financial assistance program in place. We don't have definite figures, but I anticipate needing about $100,000 per year to fully fund the program. What is the best way to fund this - an endowment maybe? Based on what is needed per year, what is the base amount that will be needed to create a "perpetual" fund?


It sounds like you want to have a pool of money in place to generate $100,000 a year for a permanent program. A permanent charitable arrangement like you discuss can be referred to as an "endowment" because it endows the annual gift you want in perpetuity. That is a great way to proceed with any charitable plan (but not an easy way). First we have to talk about a dirty four letter word (so if you're under 18 close your eyes) here it is "inflation". Sorry about that. What you really want seems to be not $100,000 a year forever, but $100,000 a year inflation adjusted, forever. If not, in 50 years, your $100,000 might by dinner and McDonalds (well, not quite, but you get the point). So what you need is a percentage you can pay out each year from a pool of money that will net you $100,000 on an inflation adjusted basis in perpetuity. This can be called a uni-trust payment. This would mean a fixed percentage of the pool of money is paid every year to your charity, the Natinoal Multiple Sclerosis Society. That magic percentage should really be in the neighborhood of 3 to 4%. If you do the math, that translates into an initial pool of funds of about $3.33 million. As that investment pool grows, the theory is that 3% of that will grow and hence keep pace with inflation.

What you might wish to do to start this is coordinate with a wealth management or trust company institution that has a charitable department. They will be able to help you determine te appropriate investment strategy and payout rate for your program, monitor it quarterly to assure that you stay on track as best as possible. A good money management firm with true charitable expertise will also be able to help suport your fund raising efforts and guide you through the management of the fund.

You might need another twist on the above, which will make ongoing monitoring really critical. If you are going to make annual committments that require $100,000 per year, a pure unitrust approach described above won't work becuase you need a minimum distribution amount each year. So if the investment portfolio declines in some years, which it will, then the investments and monioring will even be more critical. Under a pure unitrust approach if your investments declined in a particular year you would only pay out the same percentage, 3%, of the actual portfolio value. You may not be able to do that. So, your investment adviser should undertake projections of how this will play out (they might use some type of Monte Carlo simulation to do so). It might be likely that you really have to set your fund raising goal higher than te $3.33 million to assure an inflation adjusted $100,000 with a floor.

Good luck!

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