The Benefits of Outsourcing Mitigation Endowment Management

Mitigation funds protect and conserve lands within their geographic focus area.
Mitigation funds protect and conserve lands within their geographic focus area.

In 2012, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB 1094. The San Diego Foundation, amongst many organizations, environmentalists and lobbyists, was instrumental in assisting with the initial passage of the law.

As it pertains to community foundations, the law expanded the assurances and privileges for third-party institutions like community foundations to hold mitigation endowments.

Since its passage, land-managers, project proponents and other pertinent stakeholders have asked why community foundations are a benefit to the process. What makes place-based organizations a better option than managing an endowment on their own?

Place-based Philanthropy

The Council on Foundations defines community foundations as grantmaking public charities that are dedicated to improving the lives of people in a geographical area. They bring together the financial resources of individuals, families and businesses to support effective nonprofits in their communities. Their primary focus and purpose is to benefit the local communities that they serve.

Since its inception in 1975, The San Diego Foundation has eclipsed $850 million in assets and continues to build investment strategies to create sustainable growth for our mitigation and other fundholders.

In the short time since the passage of SB 1094, mitigation funds have grown to represent more than $55 million of Foundation assets.       

Why outsource?

Having worked with organizations and governmental agencies of varying sizes, bandwidth is a major issue across the board, particularly investment management when workloads are heavy. Additionally, land trusts are hesitant about mitigation work due to the perception that a “forever” revenue stream will result in an endless obligation.

The Foundation has a dedicated team of experts including an in-house Chief Investment Officer and a Board of Governors Investment committee with more than 150 years of combined global and domestic investment management experience that helps support organizations with limited bandwidth.

The purpose of The Foundation Investment Committee is to:

  • Protect the corpus of The Foundation
  • Preserve the spending power of the income from the fund
  • Maintain a diversified portfolio of assets in order to meet investment return objectives while keeping the level of risk commensurate with that of the median fund in a representative foundation and endowment universe

In addition, The Foundation has power in the market due to the size of each of our respective funds. So how does that work?

Pooled funds are assets from many individuals, organizations and corporations that are aggregated for the purposes of investment. Investors in pooled funds, such as our endowment portfolio, enjoy a benefit called economies of scale. This means fund holders have unfettered access to fund investments not accessible to individual investors, lower costs/fees and access to our 50 expert investment managers.

Renewed Focus on Mission and Obligation

I often consider the mission of community foundations and I see that mission as having two primary focuses. One is grantmaking to better the lives of those in the region. The second is to protect the corpus of our assets to allow for growth in the (aforementioned) grantmaking.

I then consider the mission of many of the land trusts and environmental organizations we work with. These missions have a similar refrain – to protect and conserve lands within their geographic focus area.

The two missions of our organizations differ, but they are very clear and synergistic.

Outsourcing frees up much needed time and resources to allow environmental organizations to provide oversight and focus on their mission of conservation in our region.

Learn more about Mitigation Funds