In our efforts to track and report on the investment performance of foundations, we have found five organizations that publicly report their results Each organization has its own methodology and constituents. For example, the BNY Mellon U.S. Master Trust Universe consists of very large institutions with an average size of $8 billion. The BNY Mellon U.S. Master Trust has close to 500 participating institutions, of which 66 are foundations.
Similar to BNY Mellon, Northern Trust publishes results from its Northern Trust Universe which has over $1.3 trillion in 380 funds (average is over $3 billion), thought it doesn’t break out the performance of foundations separately from endowments like BNY Mellon.
The Council on Foundations does and annual survey in conjunction with the Commonfund referred to as the “CCSF”. The survey is published once a year, typically in August. Past surveys have about 200 – 300 responding foundations, and results are shown by asset groupings.
Wilshire Trust has its “TUCS” which stands for Trust Universe Comparison Service, which groups foundation and endowments together and segments by “large” – over $1 billion – and “small” plans.
Each of the sources of investment performance is helpful and helps provide some context for understanding performance. Unsurprisingly, the various measure tend to have similar results.
It bears noting that each measure has its flaws. Consider the fact that BNY Mellon follows 60 or so very, very big foundations, while 99% of foundations have under $1 billion, same goes for Northern Trust which also lumps foundations and endowments together, as does Wilshire. Another potential flaw is that each may be looking at a distinct group of foundations, as it is unlikely that the same foundation would participate in Wilshire, Northern Trust and BNY Mellon. The CCSF has the advantage of being comprised purely of foundations and has asset size groupings. The drawbacks to the CCSF are not in its constituents, but in its methodology and timing. Since the CCSF is a voluntary survey, foundations can decide to opt in or opt out in any particular year, and since the results are only annual and not quarterly and published 8 or 9 months after the end of the year, the information tends to be stale.
BNY Mellon U.S. Master Trust Universe (here)
The BNY Mellon U.S. Master Trust Universe offers peer comparisons of performance by plan type and size. It consists of 489 corporate, foundation, endowment, public, Taft-Hartley, and health care plans with a total market value of more than $2.4 trillion and an average plan size of over $8.0 billion.