Foundation shows strong performance through volatile times

By Stephanie Smartschan
JFLV Director of Community Development and Operations

Through strategic investment selection, low fees and experienced management, the Lehigh Valley Jewish Foundation has been significantly outperforming its benchmarks for the last two years. 

According to information provided by its advisors at Goldman Sachs, the Foundation’s 2019 and 2020 investment returns have outperformed the average similarly sized nonprofit charitable endowment by approximately 3% to over 6% per year, depending on the chosen reference. These benchmarks include university endowments as well as other institutions with similar risk profiles.

The $33 million community endowment fund, housed at the Jewish Federation, serves to secure the future of Jewish life in the Lehigh Valley. Over the past 10 years, the endowment fund has grown from $18 million, while providing more than $7 million in funding for the Lehigh Valley community. Much of the growth came from appreciation of investments. In addition, many local agencies have decided to transfer their own assets to the Foundation for management and better investment results. 

Two thirds of the Foundation’s endowment fund consists of legacy gifts received from donors who created funds for the benefit of our Jewish community. These funds include donor advised funds, charitable gift annuities, Lion of Judah, Pomegranate and Perpetual Annual Campaign endowments, bequests, supporting foundations and more. 
Approximately one third of the funds belong to local agencies, synagogues and organizations. These assets are held and managed by the community’s endowment in order to ensure management continuity, maximize benefits and minimize costs. The Foundation Committee conducts regular reviews of investment advisors and fees, and recently reduced the fees charged to participating organizations and other funds.

“Our local agencies, synagogues and organizations put their trust in us to manage their funds,” said Jim Mueth, director of planned giving and endowment at the Jewish Federation. “This oversight benefits both the institutions and the community as a whole.”

By pooling the funds, the foundation and its Investment Committee are able to work closely with Goldman Sachs to provide the highest level of account service with the lowest possible fees. The expected long-term returns generate millions in annual income to benefit our community. 

“Co-investing for all the Lehigh Valley Jewish Foundation and participating organization endowment funds provides many benefits, including the reporting analytics and advice from Goldman Sachs for a very competitive fee that would not otherwise be available,” said Mike Miller, chair of the Lehigh Valley Jewish Foundation Committee.

“The Federation Investment Committee has gathered community resources to produce a disciplined, cost-effective portfolio approach with risk exposure appropriate to the long-term needs of the Lehigh Valley community,” said Lewis Gaines, Investment Committee chair. “There is a formal process for selecting investment managers and continuously evaluating portfolio performance against benchmarks, both of which are critical to assuring consistent long-term growth. While short term market moves are unpredictable, a low-cost, balanced investment strategy can successfully generate returns significantly above approaches burdened by high fees and complexity.” 

“The Lehigh Valley Jewish Foundation enables the Jewish Federation to help secure the future of our organization and also the many other organizations we serve,” said Roberto Fischmman, Investment Committee member. “As such, it is a vital part of our community.” 

To learn more about ways that you can strengthen the Lehigh Valley Jewish Foundation with a gift in your will, trust, retirement account or life insurance policy, or about having your organization participate, contact Jim Mueth at 610-821-5500 or