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Feb 18
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The First Shambhala Center Endowment

An endowment is a perpetual savings account, where the principal is protected, and a portion of investment profits can be used for current projects.

By Lisa Johnston

On Shambhala Day 2010, Ulrike Halpern, Boulder Shambhala Center Director, and Jeff Waltcher,
Executive Director of The Sakyong Foundation, signed an endowment agreement and funded it with an initial investment of $60,000. This is the first endowment ever created for the benefit of a Shambhala Center; contributions from 130 people in the Boulder community made it possible!

It began with a $60,000 bequest to the Boulder Shambhala Center in the Fall of 2009. Inspired by this gift, Ulrike approached the Foundation to advise her on launching her first fundraising campaign as center director of the Boulder Shambhala Center. As a Kasung, Ulrike was familiar with the idea of endowments, as the Dorje Kasung had started an endowment with The Sakyong Foundation in 2008. And from conversations with Boulder community members, Ulrike knew that the idea of planning for our future is very inspiring to people. Thus, with The Sakyong Foundation’s support, the Sprucing up Spruce campaign was launched at Harvest of Peace last year, using the $60,000 bequest as half of a total campaign goal of $120,000. The goal was to invest $60,000 in an endowment for the center’s future and the additional $60,000 to spruce up the building at 1345 Spruce Street, home of the Boulder Shambhala Center.

As the campaign gained momentum, (by leaps and bounds with an anonymous $25,000 designated gift to the endowment), Ulrike and a number of BSC advisors met with the Foundation staff and our investment manager to vet their questions and concerns about creating an endowment. The key questions were:

• Why should we consider having our endowment funds held and managed by The Sakyong Foundation?
• What fee will the Foundation charge?
• How do we create an investment strategy?
• What return will we earn and what risk will we be taking?
• Under what circumstances can we take out the money we invested?

Answering these questions resulted in a template that will serve well when other Shambhala organizations are in a position to initiate endowment campaigns. Ultimately, Ulrike and her team felt that The Sakyong Foundation would be better able to promote and protect the Boulder Shambhala Center’s interests and that housing the endowment within the Foundation would have a number of benefits, including the ability to help grow the fund. As Shambhala’s Community Foundation, the Sakyong has asked that The Sakyong Foundation be the primary place to house endowments as they are developed. A certain skill set is required to manage and invest endowed funds appropriately, and it makes sense for Shambhala to have those skills in one organization instead of eventually having many designated endowments in many different places.

So with a tequila toast on Shambhala Day, in Kalapa Suite at the Boulder Shambhala Center, a pioneering first step was made. Ulrike and the Foundation are already envisioning a time in the future when the fund has grown to $1 million dollars, and the yearly investment income meaningfully increases the services the Center can offer to its members and the larger Boulder community.

Perhaps most importantly, a seed has been planted. Recently a sangha member was re-doing her will with attorney Alex Halpern, and said, “I would leave some money to the Boulder Center if they had an endowment.” As legal council and Board member of The Sakyong Foundation, and father-in-law to center director Ulrike Halpern, Alex was happy to say, “Well, actually, there is an endowment now”.


Lisa Johnston works in development for The Sakyong Foundation. She serves on the Dana Group and on the board of Ashoka Credit Union.

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