Different gifts help Cornell in different ways. Annual funds support current needs. Endowment funds provide support now and for the future. Both are important, keeping the university strong year after year and for generation after generation. Here is how they work:
Twenty-two annual funds across the university, including one for each college, provide immediate financial support when deans and directors need it most. Donors select which fund they would like to support, with their gifts supporting top priorities like student financial aid, new courses and student priorities, research, and top faculty hires. The uses of these unrestricted funds vary from year to year depending on new opportunities and rising needs.
Annual funds make an immediate impact and must be spent each year. In fiscal year 2017 more than 37,000 alumni, parents, and friends together helped break the $40 million mark, touching every student and every program across the university.
The endowment is the sum of Cornell’s permanent invested capital used to generate funds each year for the university. The total endowment is made up of many smaller endowments, with many designated by donors to support specific areas of the university. Virtually all endowed funds are invested. A portion of the earnings are released every year, at a payout rate determined by the board of trustees, to support university priorities and the purposes specified by donors—without withdrawing from the principal.
Rather than serving as a cash reserve, the endowment is the university’s financial foundation. Preserving and growing the endowment is the best way to guarantee Cornell’s long-term financial health and fulfill its mission.
Cornell provides user-friendly information about its finances.