A Healthy Endowment Will Help Scripps Through Economic Crises

Gifts to Scripps College’s endowment create the financial bedrock to help the College weather—and move beyond—periods of economic shock.

By Emily Glory Peters

In 1926, the first Scripps College president and board of trustees were entrusted with a crucial mission: to educate the next generation of women leaders. Fulfilling such a mission would also require the prudent development of another area: Scripps’ endowment.

Originally established in part through a $500,000 gift from Ellen Browning Scripps and support from other donors, today Scripps’ endowment comprises a diverse mix of investments valuing around $378 million. These investments and the income they supply form the financial bedrock of the College, helping Scripps weather all kinds of economic storms, from the Great Depression to times of war to the present COVID-19 crisis.

“Scripps’ endowment fund is an important revenue source that regularly provides approximately 20 percent of funding for operations,” explains Diane Holmes, associate vice president for business affairs and assistant treasurer at Scripps. That 20 percent is notable in comparison with The Scripps Fund, the College’s annual fund—which, though perhaps more widely known by Scripps’ donors, makes up between three to five percent of the operational budget.

“Endowment gifts offer donors the opportunity to aid the College through gifts that provide intergenerational support in perpetuity,” Holmes says. “They are essential in building the long-term fiscal health of Scripps, especially in challenging times such as these.”

Safeguarding Scripps’ Future

While COVID-19 didn’t change the mission set in motion nearly a century ago, it hasn’t left Scripps unscathed. A first round of campus-wide budget cuts this spring helped offset the College’s initial $8.5 million loss, while a second round of deep cuts this August allowed Scripps to open remotely this fall, with hopes of returning to in-person instruction in spring 2021. These cuts weren’t easy—and neither was the decision to increase Scripps’ endowment payout. But after modeling several potential outcomes, College leadership ultimately decided to increase the payout from 4.6 percent to 6.6 percent.

As Holmes explains, the increase will help ‘smooth out’ some budgetary bumps while keeping the College aligned with California’s Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act (UPMIFA)—a California law which, along with oversight from Scripps’ board of trustees, rules how we safely steward the endowment. With UPMIFA’s recommendation of keeping endowment payouts under seven percent, Scripps’ new rate of 6.6 percent should provide a much-needed influx of funding while remaining fiscally sound.

Naturally, the limited predictability of the economy will elevate the role donor gifts play in helping Scripps remain agile in the face of shifting financial climates. And even though endowed gifts themselves often come with restraints on how they’re designated and what their maximum payouts can be, notes Holmes, they are essential for signature Scripps programs and resources.

“’Steady stream‘ payouts from the endowment provide reliable income for everything from much-needed scholarships to academic programs,” she says. These payouts relieve Scripps from having to solely depend on major gifts from donors—a revenue source that can become unstable in times of economic shock. Bottom line: A strong mix of financial resources, including a healthy endowment, creates maximum financial flexibility so that Scripps can be simultaneously reactive and proactive in response to crises.

“In facing watershed moments, Scripps’ goal is never merely to survive. We aim to adapt so the College continues to thrive beyond periods of uncertainty, and we are especially grateful for donors committed to helping fulfill our mission for the next century,” says Vice President of External Relations and Institutional Advancement Binti Harvey. “Their gifts to endowment are the ‘rechargeable batteries’ that keep Scripps’ future bright even when the economy goes dark.”

For nearly 100 years, Scripps College has remained unflaggingly committed to our mission of developing the intellects and talents of women leaders. To support our students and their future, please consider making an endowed gift today by contacting Vice President for Philanthropy Enrique Gonzalez-Salgado at [email protected].

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