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“Endowment is a fairly new tool for Russia”

Head of the Endowment Fund Evgenia Argunova - on a new form of financing

Endowment funds - a relatively new phenomenon in Russia. As a rule, people know little about this form of financing. Yevgenia Argunova, Head of the Endowment Fund of the Northeast Federal University, told more about the institute of endowment funds and how they can be useful.

“Endowment is a fairly new tool for Russia”
Photo: provided by Evgenia Argunova

- Eugene, tell me, when did the endowment fund appear in NEFU?

- The Fund for Managing Endowment Capital of the North-Eastern Federal University was established in 2011 on the initiative of the university leadership to create a source of comprehensive resource support for the sustainable development of the university. In anticipation of the registration of the fund during 2010, a large amount of work was carried out to find the founders, attract stakeholders to create the fund. Since endowment is still a fairly new instrument for our country, the relevant federal law was in effect for only four years, and there was very little practice, we ourselves had to go into the topic in sufficient detail and devote our stakeholders to it. And, as the experience of the fund shows, we did not fail.

- Is NEFU really the first among universities with an endowment fund and are now supporting those who want to establish a similar system at home?

- Not quite the first, I would say one of the first. In 2013, as part of the G10 Club’s network of federal universities, we implemented a pilot project, “Endowment,” which helped to create and develop endowment funds in federal universities. At that time, endowments were registered only at the Southern, Siberian and Northeast Federal Universities.

I think that it was useful and interesting for colleagues from federal universities to exchange experiences, learn new things and introduce this tool in their universities. Today, endowments exist in nine out of ten federal universities. I think it was a very useful initiative.

The use of endowments is not limited only to the field of higher education, there are many successful cases on the creation and operation of endowments in the field of culture and art. A relatively new practice, but also successfully applied, is community foundations. Or, for example, today in the republic there is a demand for the creation of school endowments.

Almost from the moment of its foundation, the NEFU Foundation has been providing expert and consulting support to all those interested in this topic. In 2018, on the sidelines of the Civil Forum of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) in Yakutsk, we held a round table “Endowments - Points of Growth”, where representatives of non-profit organizations could directly ask interesting questions to experts from the professional community.  

- What directions does the fund support in NEFU?

- Today, the fund has formed six target capitals: for the statutory activities of the North-Eastern Federal University, the development of economic and financial education, academic mobility, human resources, research on processing technologies for precious stones and precious metals, the development of the NEFU branch in Neryungri. Income from these earmarked funds is annually allocated to the consolidated budget of NEFU and distributed according to internal regulatory documents and funding requirements.  

- Now everyone is talking about the crisis. Has the crisis experienced an endowment fund? If so, did this affect the work of the fund?

- The crisis phenomena of 2020 have already affected the profitability of this year, but we will experience their consequences next year, since the income from endowment capital will be withdrawn at the beginning of 2021, and it will be much lower in volume from the forecast. Accordingly, the university budget will not receive a part of the desired funding, and we will have to abandon some projects, giving preference to the already assumed obligations, such as the financing of personal scholarships and awards for NEFU students Alexei Nikiforov and Trifon Antonov, expenses for a three-year research project in medical physics , training for NEFU, social support for students.

As for the financing lines for this year, they will be adjusted in connection with the current conditions of the coronavirus pandemic, which has affected all areas of our lives and professional activities.  

- How do you see the further development of the endowment fund institution in Russia and in the world?

- Since its inception, the fund has been actively involved in the life of the professional community, is a co-founder of the Association of University Endowments (UNIVEN), a grant recipient of the Target Capital - Growth Strategy program of the Potanin Charitable Foundation, since 2020 it has joined the ranks of the National Association of Endowments. I believe that it is these kinds of initiatives and projects that are the drivers of the endowment market, thanks to them the community develops, new funds appear, the legal framework is improved, infrastructure and networking sites appear.  

- What other similar initiatives can help universities in the modern world, in your opinion?

- In addition to direct donations or sponsorship to the university, which, in essence, are targeted funds for the purchase of equipment or the payment of grants or scholarships, I think that one of such initiatives can be hereditary funds.

While the legislation on inheritance funds is only two years old, there is no practice in their application, but over time they can become one of the alternatives for sending private donations to support alma mater projects.

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