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Trustees Face a Balancing Act on Investments, Spending

Trustee Magazine Chowdhury Article

Hospital, foundation boards must invest for the future while meeting present needs 

By Debashis Chowdhury, CFA

In the past few years, hospitals in all parts of the United States have received some of the largest single donations in their history, allowing them to expand services and build newer and more technologically advanced facilities. But this trend forces foundation trustees, particularly those in community hospitals, to make complex decisions about funding current projects while planning for the future.

Most independent hospital trustees understand the need for long-term fiduciary stewardship. Yet, all too often, immediate demands overshadow the long-term planning process. It can be a high-wire act for board members to balance these two needs in an ever-changing landscape of expected and projected investment returns, planned giving projections, and current spending rates. If the national economy heads south, the halcyon days of charitable giving could end in a quarter or two.

As Nobel Memorial Prize–winning economist James Tobin said, “The trustees of endowed institutions are the guardians of the future against the claims of the present.” With some planning, board members can ensure annual spending rates that help their organizations in perpetuity.


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