Johnson Board Fellows: Ray Wu, MBA ’12, and Jinting Xu, MBA ’11
Project: At the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes (CRCFL), Jinting and I did a research project on endowments, and specifically whether the CRCFL was ready to pursue creating an endowment fund.
Challenges: Obstacles in defining the project were being totally realistic with the current operational and financial status of the CRCFL, and how an endowment fund could have both positive and negative effects on the organization. While it was easy to see the potential long term benefits of an endowment fund by adding stability for a "rainy day" in the future, it was important to keep in mind the potential short term pitfalls such as cannibalization of more flexible donations.
Strategy: Our strategy was to first give a brief but relatively comprehensive overview on endowments in general, and how they are set up and used at universities and other non-profits. Then we took a closer look at the CRCFL specifically, and did a cost benefit analysis on whether setting up an endowment made sense at the current point in time. Finally, we looked at other potential options (e.g., pseudo endowments, named gifts, etc.).
Outcome: We decided that at the current point in time, the CRCFL was not ready to set up a classic endowment fund. We felt that other, more flexible gifts, such as named gifts, would be more valuable and made more sense for the organization. However, it was clear that an endowment fund should definitely be kept on the back burner, as there are definite potential benefits in having one.
Value: It was a great experience. We learned a lot throughout every aspect of the project, from developing the project with CRCFL members, to doing independent research using Johnson School resources, to presenting our results at the board meeting, and finally to having a lengthy, rich, discussion afterwards.
Feedback: Bob Riter, executive director of the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes, said: “ Ray and Jinting’s project was valuable to us. As we looked at the possibility of creating an endowment fund, their background helped frame important questions to ask and for the board to discuss. They were very engaged and thoughtful; they clearly wanted to learn about our work and about nonprofits in general. As an organization we want to encourage good people to become involved with the nonprofit world. Yes, we will absolutely want to have another Johnson Board Fellow team next year; we really value their input. We’ve done this for three years running, now, and they are our most capable student consultants.”