TPE Endowments - a Creative Way to Give

Many non-profit organizations have supporting endowments that provide a guaranteed and dependable source of income. Here is a blog post to provide an overview of importance of TPE's endowments. 

The Prairie Enthusiasts has historically been dependent on annual giving and grants to support its financial needs. Many non-profit organizations have supporting endowments that provide a guaranteed and dependable source of income. Harvard University, for example, is supported by an endowment valued at more than 36 billion dollars. While we never expect to be in the same league as Harvard, TPE has begun to develop its own endowments. Increasing their size is critical to the long-term strength of our organization. 

TPE Trust is a separate entity that has been created to manage the investments we have. The trust manages a number of separate endowments. Most endowments are to support a specific site. At the end of 2017, for example, these ranged in size from $5,551 to $378,727. The total was just over $900,000.

The terms of the trust provide that an annual distribution can be made that is equal to 4% of the average value of the fund at the end of the previous 12 calendar quarters. This is a common method of determining the amount of distribution in the non-profit world. It's designed to accomplish two things. First, because it's not based on the value at the end of one quarter or one year, the amount of distribution is not subject to dramatic swings in the stock market. Second, it's small enough that even after the 4% distribution is made, the value of the endowment should continue to grow and keep up with inflation. 

Up to this point, most site stewards have declined to take the annual income to which they are entitled. This income has been added to the endowment to enable it to grow.

Not all endowments are for sites. For example, due to the generosity of Olive and John Thomson and of Dennis and Joan Thomson, TPE has an endowment to hire interns to work at Schurch-Thomson and at Mounds View. At the end of 2017, this endowment held more than $137,000. The 2018 distribution should be over $5,000. This has funded a very successful internship program. In preparation for this article, I asked Grace Vosen, a former intern, for her observations. She wrote:
                “I was an intern with Empire-Sauk in 2015. We worked at three sites: Mounds View Grassland Preserve in Blue Mounds, Pleasant Valley and West Dane Conservancies in Black Earth. I had never seen such vibrant prairie remnants, and it delighted me to visit them day after day. An experienced volunteer or restoration professional guided us at each site. Although we spent most of our time controlling invasive species, we had lessons on plant ID, seed collecting and ecosystem management. These lessons helped me realize that I love getting up close and personal with native plants.
                I was already studying natural resources in college, but the internship narrowed my focus. In 2016 and 2017, I returned to Mounds View to work part-time as a seed collector. I also began leading work parties and attending Empire-Sauk chapter meetings.
                Of the six interns that year, two (including myself) are now at UW-Madison pursuing master's degrees related to restoration. Two perform restoration and horticultural work at the UW Arboretum. One is helping with a bird and small mammal monitoring project in Texas, and the sixth is Field Manager for the Canyon Country Youth Corps in Utah.”
Grace's account is testimony to the fact that the internship program is not only having a positive effect on the sites in which they work but on the interns as well.

We also have endowments to support easement monitoring and legal defense. Monitoring is required annually. The monitor checks each site to report on the current status and whether there are any violations of the easement terms. The legal defense fund is there to handle litigation if we find easement violations.

The TPE endowments are relatively small compared to many organizations. This is in part because we are a relatively young organization. The largest gifts come to endowments through estates, whether it's through a will, trust, beneficiary designation or otherwise. We urge you to consider TPE Trust in your estate plan. If you have a site you especially care about, you can designate your gift to be used for that site.                

And remember, we also appreciate funds for the endowment, which provides for any site where the need is greatest. If you want it to be used to fund interns, you can designate it for this purpose. We also have an endowment to fund operations, unglamorous but critical to the organization. If you have questions on specific endowments or on methods of making your gift, you may contact Chris Kirkpatrick, our Executive Director, at [email protected]or 608-638-1873, or Jack Kussmaul, Chair of the Fund Raising and Endowment Committee at [email protected] or 608-988-4309.

Please remember, the financial health of TPE depends on your generosity.

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