2018 was a challenging year for the Foundation.
Our assets, reflecting a very difficult investment climate globally, dropped about $4.5 million and ended the year at approximately $33.8 million. This reduction in assets was a result of both a negative return in our investment portfolio and the usual annual payout in grants and administrative expenses, each contributing about half to the asset drop. Our investment portfolio performance, while negative, did outperform our world equity benchmark. Despite this significant drop in asset levels, we were able to modestly boost our grant payout in 2018 to $1,385,000, up $40,000 from the prior year. This year, unfortunately, as we are starting from a lower base, we do anticipate a lower grant budget for 2019. Fluctuating equity values are something we have long been accustomed to, so we do expect stronger future results and an eventual return to the high-end of our annual grant level.
What made 2018 particularly difficult for us, however, was the news that our beloved Executive Director, Kay Treakle was suffering from a very serious health condition and that this would push her into an early retirement. This was an event we were not expecting, nor had ever contemplated. As many of you may already know, Kay retired earlier this year from her position as ED. She will continue to advise and assist us for the remainder of the year in a limited capacity and one that her health will determine.
Kay served as our ED for 13 years, and this tenure marks an incredibly productive period for The Harder Foundation. From an external perspective the comment of “punching above it’s weight class” (or similar phraseology) was something we frequently heard when we inquired about our Foundation’s performance and influence in the conservation community. But this was all Kay. She fully embodied and personified all the good stuff that may have been related to our organization. We simply had the good fortune that Kay had decided to work for us, and given her ever evident talent, skill and experience, we had been smart enough to let her operate unfettered.
In many aspects, Kay will be irreplaceable, and we know that. Fortunately, she had done a lot of great work internally as well. Today we have systems and processes that Kay created and institutionalized that will allow us to continue our fluid operation. Much more important and more critical is that Kay’s work was conducted through her well cultivated group of grantees. We have long appreciated and endorsed Kay’s focus and program and fully intend to perpetuate the great work she’s done with our grantees and conservation colleagues. Our present intention and ambition are to continue Kay’s orientation as best as possible with our existing team. Within the next twelve months we will likely add staff, but for now our energies will be deployed to continue Kay’s long-established program focus.
As we go forward together, please keep Kay foremost in your thoughts and hearts. I continue to treasure that Kay and I have been both colleagues and are good friends, and I look forward to sharing news of our future work and collaboration with Kay over the years to come.
President, The Harder Foundation