April 21, 2019  

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The University of Southern Mississippi Foundation’s Endowment Reaches $100 Million Milestone

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With private support from alumni and friends, The University of Southern Mississippi Foundation’s endowment has reached $100 million. In fiscal year 2018, over 3,900 donors contributed gifts totaling $21.3 million, including $15.5 million in outright gifts and $5.8 million in deferred gifts through estate planning.

Through the Foundation, $7.6 million was disbursed to the University in fiscal year 2018 to support various scholarships and programs, which included $3.9 million awarded through nearly 2,200 scholarships.

Significant gifts during the 2018 fiscal year included the following:

  • An $8.7 million commitment from the Luckyday Foundation of Ridgeland, Miss. to renew their support of the Luckyday Scholars Program bringing their cumulative commitment to the University to $35.7 million
  • An anonymous planned gift of $1 million to establish a Presidential Fund for Excellence to support the priority needs of the Institution   

In the last five years, the USM Foundation has seen a 45 percent growth in the market value of the endowment, from $68.8 million to $100 million, which was the market value of the endowment at June 30, 2018. The number of fully-funded endowments has also grown exponentially, from 767 in December of 2013 to 893 in December of 2017. 

“We have experienced steady growth in our endowment and the amount of financial support we are able to provide, which, simply stated, equates to an increase in much-needed assistance to our students and improved financial stability for USM,” said Stace Mercier, the Foundation’s Executive Director. “The Foundation strives to be good stewards of the gifts made by our donors, and we benchmark ourselves against the realm of other university endowments to gauge performance.”

In the most recent NACUBO-Commonfund Survey of Endowments with over 800 participants, the USM Foundation either met or exceeded the average investment performance reported for all institutions in the survey in the one-year and ten-year return categories. Also of note, the amount of contributions to the endowment each year have outpaced the average in the mid-sized endowment category.

Reflecting on the growth of the Foundation, Mercier noted, “When I began as the Chief Financial Officer of the Foundation in 2004, the amount provided in support of the University that fiscal year was $3.7 million.” Just over a decade later, the level of support has doubled. The Foundation’s net assets have also grown, from $52.5 million in 2004 to over $130 million in 2018.

“Watching philanthropy in action has been a rewarding part of my job. We strive to provide meaningful opportunities for alumni and friends to engage with USM and have seen just how transformative gifts to the Institution can be.”

The Foundation’s endowment is a collection of funds created by individual donors who have created a lasting legacy in support of USM. The investments for these individual funds are pooled, but each fund maintains a separate and distinct nature and is used for the purpose designated by the donor. Gifts to the fund are retained in perpetuity and invested to generate earnings.

From the earnings, an annual spending allocation is made available to support the program most meaningful to the donor. Endowments can be created to support both merit-based and need-based scholarships, graduate fellowships, faculty and research support, along with a myriad of other purposes to benefit the University.