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April 13, 2013

ISU Foundation cutting eight positions

Reduction takes effect Monday; additional steps being taken to balance budget

TERRE HAUTE — The Indiana State University Foundation is  eliminating eight staff positions and taking other measures to balance its budget and grow its endowment.

“To accomplish this we must reduce our operating expenses to align with our projected revenue,” said Ron Carpenter, foundation president.

The foundation also has proposed a cut in endowment management fees, subject to formal approval by the foundation board of directors next month.

The eight staff positions affected are an associate development officer; a vice president for external relations, based in Indianapolis; director of planned giving; director of scholarships/board relations; two administrative assistants; a gift specialist and a director of gift management.

The staff reductions would take effect Monday, and those affected are being offered severance packages.

“It is emotional for us to say goodbye to our colleagues that have been an important part of our foundation family. We truly appreciate their service to the foundation and their work on behalf of the university,” Carpenter stated in a news release.

With the cuts, the foundation has 31 employees, he said.

ISU is considering those affected by the reduction-in-force for vacant positions within the university, said Dan Bradley, university president.

The foundation also has made “a conscious decision to reduce the management fees associated with our endowment in an effort to grow the funds. The consequences of our choice are difficult as they significantly impact our organizational structure and operations; however, it is a necessary step towards growing our endowment,” Carpenter stated in a news release.

The changes include a projected $1.4 million decrease in endowment fee revenue for the 2014 fiscal year (July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014) operating budget.

The decline in revenue is a result of a proposed change in the organization’s endowment spending policy, Carpenter said. The policy is subject to formal approval by the foundation board of directors at its May meeting.

Historically, the foundation’s primary revenue source has been the endowment management fee. With this new fee structure, the foundation will have cut endowment management fees by more than 75 percent within two years.  

“These proposed changes will decrease the foundation’s operating revenue stream in FY 14 to less than 2 percent. These changes ensure we are able to provide the university with student scholarships, faculty support and programmatic funds in perpetuity,” Carpenter said.

The foundation has acknowledged in recent weeks that it will have less money to give to the university for student scholarships next year. About 200 of 700 endowed scholarships are affected, he said.

The reason is that in recent years, when the  market value of endowed funds fell below the initial gift level, the foundation continued to award scholarships. The recession negatively affected the value of some of the endowed scholarships.

Now, the plan is to stop awarding scholarships from those so-called “underwater” endowments until they return to the initial gift level.

Scholarships for the current year have already been awarded and are not affected.

Both the university and foundation take fees out of the endowment annually, Carpenter said. Last year, it was 4 percent for the university and 4 percent for the foundation.

Now, “No fees will be taken off underwater scholarship” endowments until they are healthy again, Carpenter said.

The reduction in revenue for the foundation requires a reduction in spending, he said.

Bradley said in an interview that the foundation’s policies related to spending “were not sustainable. Eventually, we had to do something.”

By acting now, the endowed scholarships will return to their initial gift value and the overall endowment will grow, Bradley said.

“I don’t think there has been any misuse of funds,” he said. “I think their policies needed to be looked at.”

Students with multi-year scholarships will not be affected, Bradley said.

The university is providing $300,000 in aid to help alleviate the situation for the 2013-14 academic year.

In the news release, Carpenter stated, “We are accountable to our donors, university partners and students. Through increased communication, transparency and responsible policies, we will change our organizational culture and achieve our fundraising goals, which are in direct alignment with the needs of the university.”

The foundation may have to look at cuts in other areas, as well, Carpenter said.

During the tenure of former foundation president Gene Crume, the foundation, through Sycamore Foundation Holdings — a nonprofit subsidiary — brought the Terre Haute REX summer collegiate Prospect League to the community.

While the baseball team will continue this year, “If it doesn’t break even, we’ll strongly have to consider, if we can’t find a buyer, not doing it next year,” Carpenter said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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