How Endowments Work

Creating a legacy

An endowment fund is a permanent, self-sustaining source of funding. Endowment assets are invested. Each year, a portion of the value of the fund is paid out to support the fund’s purpose, and any earnings in excess of this distribution are used to build the fund’s market value. In this way, an endowment fund can grow and provide support for its designated purpose in perpetuity. When you establish an endowment fund, you create a permanent legacy of support for Duke.

Duke University’s Endowment

The mission of Duke University’s endowment is to support the people, programs, and activities of the university in perpetuity. Over the years, growth of the endowment through investment return and charitable giving has enabled the university to provide scholarships and fellowships to students, build faculty excellence, launch new programs and research efforts, and support a wide range of important needs.

As of June 30, 2017, the University’s endowment was comprised of more than 5,100 individual funds totaling approximately $7.9 billion.


Duke’s endowment assets are managed collectively. Much the way individual investors pool their assets in a mutual fund, each of the individual funds comprising the university’s endowment owns units in Duke’s Long Term Pool (LTP).

The Long Term Pool is managed by DUMAC Inc., a professionally staffed investment organization controlled by Duke University.  While the downturn of the market in 2008-09 led to a disappointing one-year outcome, DUMAC has consistently placed among the top of its peers for long-term performance results.

For the year ending June 30, 2017, the LTP achieved a one-year return of 12.7%. During that time frame, the MSCI All Country World Index (which measures global equity markets) returned 18.8%, and the Bloomberg Barclays Aggregate Index earned -0.3%.

Learn more about DUMAC, its investment performance, and its risk management.


The university employs spending and investment policies designed to provide a stable flow of support for the university’s annual operations while preserving the future purchasing power of the endowment. 

The spending rate policy is approved by the Board of Trustees. Under this policy, the rate is 5.5% of the average value of Long Term Pool units over the three previous calendar year-ends. A 5.75% rate is used for funds that support financial aid. These rates are subject to a 10% maximum annual growth to help smooth the effect of market fluctuations, while allowing Duke to build its endowment over time. 

As of June 30, 2017, about 21% of the endowment was designated for support of financial aid, and 18% was designated for support of specific faculty positions. Nearly one-third of the endowment was designated for unrestricted support of the university or one of its schools or budget centers.

Learn more about endowment giving.

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