The Council on Foundations’ 2016 Endowments and Finance Summit has come and gone, and based on the exceptional turnout and post-event buzz it appears to have been an enormous success. Over 200 foundation leaders, including chief executive officers, chief financial officers, chief investment officers, board members, and board investment committee leaders, came together to consider the future of the philanthropic sector and how to strengthen it.
Gatherings of this kind help foster the knowledge interchange foundation executives require to maintain the sector’s vibrancy. Such gatherings also feed into an important area of work for the TIAA Institute, which is why I was eager to once again co-chair the Summit Working Group, along with Ken Jones, Jr., vice president and CFO of The Annie E. Casey Foundation, and Vikki Spruill, president and CEO of the Council on Foundations. The TIAA Institute was especially proud to also serve as Education Partner at this event.
Attendees at this year’s sold-out affair were provided an abundance of opportunities to network and discuss investment trends, challenges, solutions and best practices to enhance their work. Among the many highlights was a panel organized by TIAA on how smart asset allocation is a driver of long-term returns for institutional portfolios. Leaders in the sector shared how an institution's unique risk/return desires, spending requirements, and other characteristics must be understood before striking the optimal asset allocation. It was an important conversation in an environment where endowment professionals have to prepare for continued market volatility and low investment returns, which threaten the sector’s ability to support critical programming.
The good news is that most foundations have not retracted spending despite uncertain market conditions. Instead, their relentless commitment to advancing a social mission has galvanized them to develop innovative solutions to unique investment challenges. The TIAA Institute shares this commitment. We invest in the summit, and promote the innovations that emanate from it, because we see the positive change it creates. If you were among this year’s attendees, I know you must feel likewise.
Stephanie Bell-Rose is a Senior Managing Director of TIAA and Head of the TIAA Institute.