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Survey: Foundations regaining lost ground

| Friday, Sept. 27, 2013, 12:34 a.m.

A large Downtown-based private foundation nearly doubled its investment return in 2012 from the year before, but fell short of the average gains of 140 foundations in a survey released on Thursday.

The survey by the Council on Foundations and Commonfund Institute found the nonprofits' endowments enjoyed double-digit increases, compared to a loss in 2011. It did not make public the names of the foundations.

The Grable Foundation confirmed it posted a net return of 9.1 percent, compared to 4.6 percent in 2011. Grable officials did not elaborate. The foundation had nearly $270 million in assets as of Aug. 31.

The endowments of the foundations surveyed posted an average return of 12 percent in 2012 after fees were deducted. In 2011, the foundations lost an average of 0.7 percent.

The increases are important because they allow foundations to boost how much they give to nonprofit groups. Forty-seven percent of the foundations in the survey reported that last year they were able to increase the money they spend on their mission.

“We are encouraged to see growth in mission-related investing, and even more encouraged that giving is increasing even though the economic recovery has remained (uneven),” said Vikki Spruill, president and CEO of the Washington-based Council on Foundations, in a prepared statement.

The McCune Foundation, Downtown, declined to disclose its investment return, but Executive Director Henry Beukema said its endowment was worth $349 million as of Sept. 25. A year ago, he said, it was worth $345 million.

He said the difference cannot be used to figure the rate of return because the foundation gave away $21 million last year, including some of the principal of its endowment. It's part of a plan to spend away the assets of the foundation and go out of business during the next 16 years, according to the will of its benefactor, the late Charles L. McCune.

Unlike most foundations, McCune has a trustee, PNC, which invests its money. Most foundations have a board committee that hires a financial firm to invest its money.

Officials at the Heinz Endowments, Richard King Mellon, Buhl, Benedum and Eden Hall foundations did not respond to requests for an interview.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or bzlatos@tribweb.com.

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