News and analysis
November 17, 2013

How The Chronicle Compiled Its Survey of Endowments at Nonprofit Organizations

To compile its annual report on the state of nonprofit endowments, The Chronicle gathered data from 255 foundations and other nonprofit organizations.

The total value of the endowments in the study was $398-billion in 2012 and represents a mix of big and small groups.

For the 254 organizations that provided data for both 2011 and 2012, the median increase in endowment value from year to year was 3.2 percent.

The total value of the endowments increased by 2.4 percent from 2011 to 2012, and 18 organizations grew by 20 percent or more.

The data show that nonprofit endowments are just now beginning to erase most of the losses they suffered during the financial crisis. The 122 groups for which The Chronicle has five years of data are now worth the same amount of money, after inflation, as they were in 2007, as the recession was beginning.

Groups of All Sizes

More than 650 nonprofits from across the United States were asked to provide data about their endowments.

Because most endowment surveys focus only on big groups, The Chronicle makes a deliberate effort to gather information from groups of all sizes.

This year’s survey includes 92 endowments valued below $100-million, 26 of which are groups with endowment values below $5-million.

However, the bulk of the endowments studied are among the biggest in the country. To gather information, The Chronicle sought figures from the 50 colleges with the largest endowments, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers.

It also sought data from the 50 wealthiest foundations and from organizations that appeared on the Philanthropy 400, The Chronicle’s ranking of the charities that raise the most from private sources.

The Chronicle’s survey of nonprofit endowments was compiled by Sarah Frostenson, with assistance from Emma Carew Grovum, Marisa López-Rivera, and Sam Speicher.

Send an e-mail to Sarah Frostenson.