Invest in Vanderbilt’s Future by Supporting the Endowment
Vanderbilt’s endowment is the single most important financial underpinning for the university, ensuring the long-term sustainability of our mission. In fact, we owe the university’s very existence to an endowed gift made by our founder and namesake, Cornelius Vanderbilt. Almost a 150 years later, that gift, along with countless others, continues to help Vanderbilt flourish as a world-class hub for education, research and innovation.
The vast majority of planned gifts are directed for endowed purposes. These gifts become donors' lasting legacies at the university, benefiting students, faculty programs or other special interests. In particular, Vanderbilt serves as a trustee for a number of charitable remainder unitrusts, giving donors access to the Vanderbilt endowment’s strategy, returns and oversight by the university’s investment team.
To find out more about the impact and performance of Vanderbilt’s endowment, please contact the planned giving office at (615) 343-3113.
What is the endowment? The role of Vanderbilt’s endowment is to provide a permanent source of support for the university’s students, faculty and programs. While current-use gifts support the university’s immediate needs, the endowment ensures long-term sustainability.
Vanderbilt’s $6.9 billion endowment includes more than 2,900 individual funds with unique restrictions and designations. As with a mutual fund, these assets are pooled and invested collectively. When donors make endowed gifts, shares are purchased in the university’s endowed pool. The value of the shares reflects investment returns after the annual endowment payout.
Who manages Vanderbilt’s endowment? The university’s Office of Investments manages the endowment under the direction of the Vanderbilt University Board of Trust Investment Committee. Vanderbilt maintains a highly diversified investment portfolio designed to mitigate downturns in any one sector of the economy. The Board of Trust also periodically reviews the endowment’s payout rate to ensure that the university’s current needs are met while also safeguarding the endowment’s future.
What does Vanderbilt's endowment support? The endowment provides a permanent source of support to advance the university’s mission of teaching, research and service. See the Endowment by Use chart on the left for more information.
Why does Vanderbilt devote so much of its endowment to scholarships and financial aid? In academic year 2019–20, more than 64% of undergraduate students and more than 83% of graduate and professional students received financial assistance. This is a result of our generous endowment donors’ intentions to support scholarships, allowing Vanderbilt to recruit increasingly talented and diverse students. The university launched Opportunity Vanderbilt in 2008, its bold initiative to replace all undergraduate need-based student loans with grants and scholarships. Scholarship support is a top priority for all undergraduate, graduate and professional schools.
What is the payout? A portion of the endowment’s value is distributed monthly to support the donor-designated purpose such as scholarship, faculty or program support. This distribution is known as the payout. Currently, the payout rate is 5% of the average per unit market value for the prior three calendar years. In fiscal year 2020, the endowment paid out more than $311 million.
What percentage of Vanderbilt's annual budget does the endowment fund? In fiscal year 2020, 25% of the endowment distributions came from the university’s operating budget. The remaining 75% came from other sources such as grants and contracts, student tuition and fees and current-use philanthropy.
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