Financial endowment

A financial endowment is a legal structure for managing, and in many cases indefinitely perpetuating, a pool of financial, real estate, or other investments for a specific purpose according to the will of its founders and donors.[1] Endowments are often structured so that the inflation-adjusted principal or "corpus" value is kept intact, while a portion of the fund can be (and in some cases must be) spent each year, utilizing a prudent spending policy.

Engraving of Harvard College by Paul Revere, 1767. Harvard University's endowment was valued at $53.2 billion as of 2021.[2]
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation headquarters complex in Seattle as seen from the Space Needle

Endowments are often governed and managed either as a nonprofit corporation, a charitable foundation, or a private foundation that, while serving a good cause, might not qualify as a public charity. In some jurisdictions, it is common for endowed funds to be established as a trust independent of the organizations and the causes the endowment is meant to serve. Institutions that commonly manage endowments include academic institutions (e.g., colleges, universities, and private schools); cultural institutions (e.g., museums, libraries, and theaters); service organizations (e.g., hospitals, retirement homes; the Red Cross); and religious organizations (e.g., churches, synagogues, mosques).

Private endowments are some of the wealthiest entities in the world, notably private higher education endowments. Harvard University's endowment (valued at $53.2 billion as of June 2021)[3] is the largest academic endowment in the world.[4][5] The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the wealthiest private foundations as of 2019 with endowment of $46.8 billion as of December 31, 2018.[6][7]

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