U.S. Foundations of all kinds enjoyed much better total annual returns last year — an average 17% net of fees — compared with an average -8.7% in 2002, according to the new Commonfund Benchmarks Study Foundations 2004, which surveyed 270 institutions.
The largest U.S. foundations (those with assets of more than $1 billion) returned an average 20.5% net of fees in 2003, up from -7.7% the year before. Smaller foundations (with assets between $50 million and $100 million) returned an average 15.5% net of fees, compared with -10.3% for the previous year.
In 2003, independent foundations returned an average of 17.8%; community foundations, 17%; and public foundations, 11.7%, according to survey results. The Commonfund survey attributes the differences to greater use of alternatives and diversification by larger foundations.