April 2015 Newsletter

A consistent request we hear from those who have engaged with the Intentional Endowment Network is for updates on sustainable investing topics, and examples of how colleges and universities are working toward aligning their endowment investment practices with  their missions, values, and sustainability goals. To that end, we are thrilled to launch this bi-monthly newsletter. 

Each edition will include updates as well as an original article from someone in the network. Kicking us off is Jonathan Lash, President of Hampshire College, with a practical framework for creating intentionally designed endowments. 

We will also highlight a story from a different campus in each issue.  Below we share elements of Humboldt State University's process to align its investments with sustainability goals, including a fantastic video with various perspectives from foundation officers, administrators, students, and financial advisors. 

Your contributions to this conversation are welcome and needed. Please be in touch with any questions, news, or ideas for the IEN. 

Thank you for your engagement with this exciting work -- this is your network, and it couldn't happen without your participation -- we look forward to working together to continue to build a healthy, just, and sustainable future! 

Warm regards, 
Tony Cortese & Georges Dyer

 

Updates from the Network 

 

MIT Divestment Debate

In the midst of the controversy on the Harvard Campus, just across town at MIT, Tony Cortese, IEN Principal, was moderating a debate on whether or not MIT should divest from fossil fuels. The debate was an effective, high-profile way to learn about the many facets of divestment and whether a school should consider divestment as a part of its overall response to climate change. 

ASU Forum

On January 15-16, IEN partnered with the Arizona State University Foundation to host a forum for colleges, universities, and private foundations to address how endowments can be positioned to create a more just, healthy and sustainable society. A great group convened with several leaders from large public universities and their foundations. Keynote speakers Michael Crow, president of ASU, and Kate Gordon, who was then leading the Risky Business Project, provided excellent context and fodder for our conversations. 

Videos of speakers and panelists from the event are now available here

Mount Holyoke College Student Forum

On February 21st, 2015, IEN partnered with Mt. Holyoke College and the Responsible Endowments Coalition, to bring together a diverse group of students, senior administrators, and investment professionals to engage in critical dialogue exploring intentionally designed endowments. The student energy and the high level of learning made this a very fulfilling and exciting event. Keynote speakers Jonathan Lash, President of Hampshire College and Reverend Lennox Yearwood, President and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus laid out both the moral imperative and feasible steps that can be taken for creating intentionally designed endowments. 

Videos of panelists and speakers are now available here

Upcoming IEN Events

  • Denver Forum: There is still time to register for our upcoming Forum in Denver on May 7-8, and the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado's "Heroes Dinner" on the evening of May 6. 

  • Portland State Forum: Save that date - November 9-10, 2015 for the Intentionally Designed Endowment Forum at Portland State University

 

Other Upcoming Events

 

Featured Resource: IEN's Website & Listserv 

Part of what the Intentional Endowment Network does is to help collect and organize helpful resources on our website.  A few highlights: 

  • The News Feed provides a curated list of recent relevant news articles. (If you know of any important articles we've missed, please send them our way!) 
  • The Upcoming Events page provides a list of upcoming events from the IEN and other related organizations. (If you have an event relevant to endowment stakeholders that you'd like us to share, please let us know.) 
  • The Past Events page includes links to previous IEN Forums and webinars, including videos of speakers and panel sessions at our events with Hampshire College, Arizona State University, and Mount Holyoke College
  • Join our Listserv to contribute to the conversation, share news and research and ask questions to learn from your colleagues. 

 

School Spotlight: Humboldt State University

In 2013, alongside many other colleges and universities, Humboldt State students began to urge their Advancement Foundation to divest the University’s $28 million endowment from the fossil fuel industry. Together, both the board and the students began to grapple with the concerns that climate change presents and how the investment of one’s endowment can either encourage or seek to mitigate the harm. On April 14, 2014 Humboldt State University’s foundation committed to divesting 10% of their assets from fossil fuels. This step allows the University to test their policies and tactics in tackling these issues. Beyond this, the school is taking steps toward creating an entirely green endowment that donors can make contributions toward. To read Humboldt State University’s sustainable investment policy click here. To watch the video that goes into greater depth on Humboldt's sustainable investing story, please click on the video image to the left. 

Feature Article: How Hampshire Invests

Introduction By Tony Cortese 

In late 2013 IEN co-founder, Tony Cortese, had a conversation with Jonathan Lash, President of Hampshire College and former President of the World Resources Institute (WRI) about the student-led fossil fuel divestment movement on campuses.  We put together a steering committee of leaders and we held the first conference in April 2014 attended by 120 leaders from higher education, NGO’s, foundations and the investment industry. From the April 2014 gathering it became clear that higher education and other leaders needed a support structure to enhance their ability to include endowment investments in their thrust to model healthy, just and sustainable action.  Georges Dyer, IEN co-founder and former SN vice president, and Tony talked with over 100 leaders and professionals and decided to create the Intentional Endowments Network in June 2014. 

Read complete intro. 

How Hampshire Invests

By Jonathan Lash

There is growing debate — much of it driven by students — about the obligation of mission-driven nonprofit organizations to consider non-economic issues in their choice of investments. Society exempts us from taxation because we serve public purposes. Donors support us because they believe that doing so contributes to the common good.

Each institution has its own mission, values, culture, and traditions to consider in making decisions about fiscal responsibility and moral obligation, but it is difficult to understand why an institution would refuse even to discuss the issues. For those of us engaged in education, this is no minor question: College and university endowments total more than $346 billion — funds provided by donors to lend long-term support to institutions they believe in. We have an obligation to those donors to manage their gifts prudently. But the investment decisions we make have more than fiscal impact. We teach by what we do as well as what we say. Our educational mission and responsibility to the future offer compelling reasons to invest in accord with our values. 

Continue Reading.

In the news

A few select news articles we've posted over the past two months…


If you have an original piece you would like to submit for an upcoming newsletter, please email Peyton Siler Jones at jonesp@greenmtn.edu!

For more information about the Intentional Endowments Network and how you can support this work, please contact Georges Dyer at georges@intentionalendowments.org.