What is the history of the Foundation for World Education (FWE)?
The history of FWE begins in the early 1950s when its founder, Mrs. Eleanor Montgomery, was inspired by the work of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, pioneers in the field of spiritual evolution, transformation of consciousness, human unity, and a divine life upon earth. Mrs. Montgomery was particularly moved by the work being done at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education and asked Mother, “How can I help?” The Mother replied, “Return to America and raise funds for the school.”
In the beginning, Mrs. Montgomery raised funds for the Ashram school through friends and a yearly monetary gift from her financier husband, A. Moore Montgomery. Eventually in 1955, at the Mother’s behest, a foundation was incorporated in New York City under the name “Sri Aurobindo International Center Foundation, Inc.”
With the Mother herself as president, the original board consisted of a group of disciples. The Foundation provided supplies for the Ashram school. There were other donations, such as the electronic organ Mother played.
Mrs. Montgomery also formed a study group in New York City that met on a regular basis from 1955 to 1963. She brought noted personalities such as French Jesuit author Teilhard de Chardin and scholars from the Ashram and around the world to the meetings.
By 1974, Mrs. Montgomery had changed the name of the foundation to the Foundation for World Education (FWE), so that its work could embrace related activities and be more widely accessible. When Mrs. Montgomery passed away at the age of 74 on Mother’s birthday, February 21, 1983, she left her entire estate to FWE. In 1984, a Board of Directors was formed, which continues the tradition of responsible stewardship, deep consideration, and integrity.
What do you mean by the statement that the FWE is an “evergreen fund?”
Through responsible management of its endowment as well as receipt of donations and bequests, FWE provides a continuous stream of funding for current and future generations.
What is a “rolling average” and why does the Foundation use it?
Among the best practices of endowments and foundations is the use of the spending fraction of a rolling average, based on the total return of the endowment. The process helps insure a more reliable and even flow of financial resources than other methods of distribution.
The average is called “rolling” because it averages the previous five years end-of-the-year value of the endowment, adding a new year each successive year and dropping off the earliest year in the process.
The Foundation strives to distribute approximately 5% of this number each year. By using a rolling average for the previous 5 years, the effect of market peaks and troughs are smoothed out.
This process has resulted in a continual granting stream every year for well over 20 years. The FWE has disbursed considerably more funds over its lifetime than the value of the original Eleanor Montgomery endowment which was in the $1,300,000 range. As an “evergreen fund” the FWE endowment does not seek to grow capital for its own sake, but to support granting indefinitely.
In addition to the endowment, the FWE has three restricted funds, which are not part of the general granting endowment, but whose grants go to other Integral Yoga purposes determined by those who made the gifts.
What are the Foundation’s expenses?
All board members serve in a voluntary capacity. As with any organization, there are operational costs. For FWE, these include our annual face-to-face meeting, supplies, publication of our annual newsletter, board development, investment advisory and administrative services. These costs vary slightly from year to year. Since the FWE is not a fundraising organization, operational costs are included as part of the yearly budget, including grants—an amount determined by the rolling average and our desire to make approximately 5% of that amount available each year in perpetuity. This percentage is considered a best practice for endowment-based philanthropies and has to do with the sustainable level of distributions that an endowment can make and still have a reasonable opportunity to grow and stay ahead of inflation. This is a direct consequence of the decision to be an evergreen foundation.
What are the fees involved?
All FWE funds are fully invested. All investment products have internal fees. These fees are determined and vary according to the nature of the investment. They cover the internal expenses of the investment, e.g. a mutual fund has an internal cost associated with the compensation to the investment managers, its cost of within the portfolio, etc. The FWE does not pay these fees directly. They are included in the “net asset value” or share price and are assessed of all investors in that investment product. This internal fee is called an “expense ratio.” The Foundation pays no commission above the internal fees to any entity because all investments are acquired at net asset value.
What is the Foundation’s relationship to investing?
The Foundation recognizes and has been intentional in expressing the relationship between Spirituality and Money, knowing that this vital energy is derived from the Divine, as naturally as any other creative energy. This is part of our aspiration in maintaining an evergreen approach to money.
The FWE follows the principle of “values investing” which means we seek to have alignment between our values in Integral Yoga and how the investments are managed and what the investments support in the marketplace. This is sometimes known as socially responsible investing or sustainable investing.
What is the composition of the board?
The board is made up of 7 to 9 voting members. Board members are chosen from among those with a consciousness of the work of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother and whom the Board feels will make a positive contribution to the work of the Foundation. Board terms are for 3 years and may be renewed upon agreement of the board and the member.
What are board initiatives?
Usually we respond to requests for support through grant requests. Occasionally the Foundation identifies some aspect of the yoga to highlight and support specifically. For example:
- Integral Psychology: Conferences in India and the US
- Collaborations between US centers
- Planned Giving: Partnership with AVI USA
- Spirituality and Money: Talks and a DVD on the spiritual essence of money
- Integral Education: Auroville-Antioch New England Partnership, scholarships for Awareness Through the Body workshops in the US, and conversations on Integral Education in Auroville.
I appreciate the FWE’s model for giving in perpetuity. How can I participate?
Contributions, bequests, long term giving, and tax advantaged estate planning are all welcome. We also support the establishment of special or restricted funds for areas of giving that are of interest to you.
For U.S. tax filers, contributions may be partially or fully deductible for federal income or estate taxes. Please check with your CPA or tax preparer to confirm your specific circumstances.
Know that your gift to the FWE is a gift to future generations and to conscious evolution in diverse fields of human endeavor.