(Retitling this thread, which is now focused on the endowment)
As a meta note, it is a true delight that our primary concerns surrounding the endowment, 5 years in, are that it is flourishing well beyond expectations*. An extremely warm thank you to everyone who has made that possible, it sets an anxious part of my mind at ease :)
So according to the financial statements for the last five years, the WMF had a revenue surplus of over $100 million over that time period (measured as increase in net assets, from $77.8 million to $180.3 million). But over the same period, the Foundation also accumulated $100 million in Tides Foundation funds (i.e. the Endowment, reported to have passed $90 million in early February, and the $8.7 million in Tides Advocacy).
This means that the Foundation has actually had a revenue surplus of more than $200 million over the past five years, averaging over $40 million per annum.
That's not usually what revenue surplus means!
A key reason for a strong endowment, and the primary one that many of us have wanted one, is as a source of long-term support (specifically: for critical operations) that is managed independently, and can not be simply used as a cash reserve.
As explained on Meta, it is inaccurate to think of the endowment as "an investment that the WMF is the beneficiary of". The endowment is there to support the Projects, rain or shine.
To quote from my initial proposal
(NB: past proposals may not reflect current or future endowment goals; among other things I don't know that we've ever tried to narrowly define and optimize core services ;
2. Would it be possible to provide, say, monthly updates for the Endowment on Meta?
Once a year is standard and would suffice here, I should think.
3. Could a mention of the Endowment, and the fact that the posted expenses include $5 million paid to the endowment, be added to the FAQ?
(The FAQ refers to the most recent audited accounts, and thus is still a live document. For Awards and grants, which includes the $5 million paid to the endowment, the FAQ summary is: "We increased our awards and grants as we continue our commitment to support our Affiliates, Organized Groups, and Community Members."
I agree with clarifying the 'Awards and grants' category. I try to keep track of the % of total global donations that are redistributed as awards and APG or other grants (current guess: 9%?
), and must remember to subtract the endowment transfer each year. It would be excellent if that were called out as its own line item.
* I remain of the opinion that the endowment should be doing even better, as a hedge against the growth in complexity and maintenance cost of our toolchains and services -- that we should implement a policy assigning a minimum % of all windfall gifts or donations over the expected target to the endowment. But it may make sense to revisit that in earnest once the Endowment org & what it supports are more crisply defined.