Charitable Foundations See Endowments Drop
She said they're optimistic that the markets will continue to improve, but it likely will take several years for the endowments to recover what they lost in 2008.
"We were fortunate to not have the losses that so many other foundations had," Denne said.
The Gates Foundation, started by Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates and his wife in 1994, has been giving out more money each year since its inception. It announced that while it wouldn't reduce distributions in 2009, growth of the distributions would slow.
The foundations surveyed in the Commonfund Study reported average investment returns of 9.9 percent in 2007.
Jarvis said some foundations are selling assets and opening lines of credit with financial institutions to make sure they can meet their commitments in 2009.
But foundation endowment managers aren't ready to give up on the stock market, he said.
"Our chief investment officer is fond of saying, if you want to have no risk, you also have to accept that you'll get no return," Jarvis said.