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Sustaining generations of visionaries: the power of giving through SFU's endowment

Endowment Supporters Event

February’s Endowment Supporters Virtual Reception brought together a range of SFU’s community members for an update on the financial performance of SFU’s endowment and a dynamic discussion about the power of giving.

Through their thoughtful commitment, donors to SFU’s endowment touch countless lives and have a lasting impact—providing guaranteed sources of funding to support students, faculty, programs and facilities far into the future.

At a virtual reception hosted by SFU Vice President of Advancement & Alumni Engagement, Erin Morantz, in February, endowment supporters in approximately 100 households had a unique opportunity to hear first-hand about the difference they are making, and how the endowment—and the people it supports—are contributing to a sustainable and resilient society.

While enjoying a custom-delivered charcuterie board, attendees learned more about the endowment’s stable financial performance from SFU VP Finance & Administration, Martin Pochurko; a panel of special guests then shared their insights during an invigorating discussion and Q&A hosted by SFU VP Research & International Dugan O’Neil.

Pochurko noted that endowments build a legacy of support that spans generations and the SFU endowment is responsibly invested to advance, in perpetuity, the strategic vision of generous donors and the university. The annual income provides stable funding that promotes long-term planning and allows the university to recruit the best students and faculty and create outstanding programs. He reported that the endowment investment portfolio returned 23.3% over the year due to strong market recovery since market downturn in Q1 2020 and in the 2022 fiscal year, the endowment will provide at least $24 million in spending allocation. 

During the Q&A, Professor Tammara Soma from SFU’s School of Resource and Environmental Management, and Farina Fassihi, an MA graduate student from the School of Urban Studies, described the concrete impact the endowment has on their research. SFU alumni and endowment supporters Ian and Yvonne Reddy shared inspiring perspectives from their experience of giving to the endowment and the overall power of such giving. 

Making the impossible, possible

“Gifts from donors make the impossible, possible,” said Soma, research director of co-founder of the Food Systems Lab at SFU. “And I know I am doing my absolute best as a researcher because of their trust in me and in the institution.”  

“As a community engaged research scholar,” she says, “I’m passionate about conducting research that results in tangible impact for food security. And I know these research projects may by high-risk, but they’re also high-reward. In supporting creative outputs, it might not necessarily fit in a neat box. So, endowed gifts provide the flexibility for research institutions like SFU to promote research innovation and support researchers who dare to think of new frontiers.”

Farina Fassihi reports that the endowment gift greatly improves the quality of research she is able to undertake and removes some of the financial barriers she faces as an international student who cannot access as much of the federal or provincial funding to cover research costs.

“This award meant that I could collect more survey data because I was able to provide incentives to participants and this in turn provided richer data results.”

Time. Talent. Treasure. 

Ian and Yvonne Reddy noted that supporting SFU came from a deep appreciation of community culture and the way SFU was not only about teaching and imparting knowledge but about sharing in the joy and excitement of discovery.

“I think SFU is among the special few educational institutions that has a deep community and culture of sharing,” said Ian, who explained how the Reddys have approached their phases of giving back by time, talent, and treasure.

“When we couldn’t give in dollars, we gave time to our careers, and that was invested back in the university. When we moved to Silicon Valley, we turned to talent. We were connecting faculty, visiting student groups. We were helping share our connections with SFU. When we were able, we wanted to give back by way of treasure by thoughtful planning […] We wanted to create endowments for SFU. We had planned for it and early, well before we could afford it.”

Sustaining generations of visionaries

SFU provided the educational foundation that allowed Yvonne and Ian to give back financially. In thinking through sustainability, Yvonne notes, “it isn’t just about energy, housing, or transportation, it’s about reaching goals and helping somebody else sustain their mission or reach their goals.” 

Soma concurs. “We’re not just seeing a trickle-down effect, we experience waves of positive transformation from the institution and from the gift. As researchers, students, and staff, we have the skills to navigate the waves and we also create waves of change but the endowed gift is like a boat, a foundation, that carries us to reach our destination 

Yvonne noted research by SFU Psychology’s Dr. Lara Aknin and her Helping and Happiness Lab, which demonstrates a clear correlation between generosity and happiness.

“We need to encourage people to start giving on a small scale,” Yvonne says, “and once you realize how good it makes you feel, you’re more inclined to start giving on a larger and larger scale. If you can’t give now, you can always give in the future and you’ll feel just as good about giving in the future as you do right now.” 

“All of the audience are visionaries supporting visionaries,” Soma exclaimed, “and their investment in my success will continue to bring them a positive legacy into the world.” 

For those who missed the virtual event, details on the endowment’s financial performance and highlights of some of the endowments’ impact can be found in our Endowment Stewardship Report