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Published on: 01/26/2024 • 8 min read

What is UPMIFA? The Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds explained.

Although UPMIFA might not be an acronym you’re familiar with, its implications could significantly impact your nonprofit organization’s financial decisions. What is UPMIFA? The Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act (UPMIFA) provides guidelines for managing and investing funds held by nonprofit organizations. UPMIFA was enacted in 2006 as a modernized version of the Uniform Management of Institutional Funds Act (UMIFA) and has been adopted by most states with the exception of Pennsylvania.

In this article, the financial advisors at Avidian Wealth Solutions will dive deeper into UPMIFA’s guidelines, explore its fundamental rules, discuss how it influences the financial management of nonprofit organizations, and provide insight into its role in the context of endowment spending.

What is the purpose of UPMIFA?

UPMIFA sets standards for how nonprofit organizations must manage, invest, and spend their funds to ensure responsible financial stewardship. It also allows organizations to have more flexibility in managing their assets, taking into account factors like inflation and economic trends. This enables nonprofits to make better financial decisions that align with their long-term goals and mission.

In essence, UPMIFA intends to promote the long-term financial stability and sustainability of nonprofit organizations.

The origin of UPMIFA: What is the difference between UMIFA and UPMIFA?

UPMIFA was created to address the shortcomings of its predecessor, the Uniform Management of Institutional Funds Act (UMIFA), and to modernize the guidelines for managing charitable funds held by nonprofit organizations. Some key reasons behind its creation include:

  • Outdated regulations: UMIFA, the earlier law governing the management of institutional funds, had become outdated. It didn’t adequately address modern investment practices and didn’t provide enough flexibility for nonprofits to manage their funds effectively.
  • Addressing changing economic realities: UPMIFA was developed in response to changing economic conditions and investment strategies. It sought to provide nonprofits with more flexibility in investment options while maintaining a focus on long-term growth and sustainability.
  • Enhancing prudent management: The act aimed to establish clearer guidelines for the prudent management of charitable funds, emphasizing the duty of care, loyalty, and good faith in managing these assets.
  • Balancing spending and preservation: UPMIFA addressed the balance between spending from endowment funds to meet current needs and preserving the purchasing power of the endowment for future beneficiaries. It offered guidance on how nonprofits could prudently spend and invest these funds.
  • Providing a framework for states: By offering a uniform framework for managing institutional funds, UPMIFA aimed to be adopted by individual states. This provided consistency and clarity in guidelines for nonprofits across different jurisdictions.

What are the key guidelines of UPMIFA?

Under UPMIFA, nonprofit organizations are required to manage their assets prudently and in accordance with specific principles. The most critical guidelines include:

  • Duty of care: Nonprofit leaders must exercise reasonable care, skill, and caution when managing and investing assets.
  • Duty of loyalty: Organizations must prioritize the organization’s interests above their own when making financial decisions.
  • Duty to diversify: Nonprofits should have a diverse portfolio of investments to minimize risk.
  • Duty to avoid inappropriate investments: Assets cannot be invested in ways that could jeopardize the organization’s ability to carry out its mission.
  • Duty to uphold donor intent: Organizations must honor donor intent when managing and spending restricted funds.

Who does UPMIFA apply to?

UPMIFA typically applies to entities that hold endowment funds or funds with a long-term focus to ensure these organizations manage and invest their charitable assets prudently, balancing the needs of the present and the future beneficiaries. DAFs and private foundations are typically not held to this standard. However, the specifics of how UPMIFA applies might vary depending on the state’s adoption and the nature of the charitable institution. 

Specific organizations to which UPMIFA applies include:

  • Nonprofit organizations: Charitable organizations that hold endowments or funds for charitable purposes, such as private foundations, public charities, educational institutions, religious organizations, and other nonprofits.
  • Institutions with endowments: Educational institutions (like colleges or universities) often have endowments that UPMIFA governs regarding their management and investment.
  • Charitable trusts: Trusts established for charitable purposes, where the funds are invested to benefit a charitable cause or organization.
  • Foundations: Both private and public foundations that manage funds intended for charitable purposes fall under the purview of UPMIFA.

Learn more: What to know about creating a foundation for charity

How does UPMIFA influence the financial management of nonprofit organizations?

Keep in mind that because UPMIFA is individually adopted by each state, its requirements can vary depending on your organization’s location. Generally, UPMIFA includes the following key components:

  • Prudent fund management: Nonprofit institutions must manage their funds cautiously, considering factors like fund purposes, terms, economic conditions, and investment strategies. Each investment’s role within the portfolio is also crucial.
  • Investment policies: Nonprofits are mandated to adopt written investment policies adhering to UPMIFA’s minimum standards. These policies cover risk management, investment monitoring procedures, and regular policy reviews.
  • Financial reporting: UPMIFA enhances financial reporting standards for nonprofits, necessitating the preparation of annual financial reports for regulatory agencies upon request.
  • Annual independent audits: Nonprofit institutions are required to undergo an independent annual audit, evaluating their financial management practices.
  • Spending guidelines: While the UPMIFA spending policy allows more flexibility in spending, organizations must maintain a clear and regularly reviewed spending policy. This policy considers each investment’s role, donor preferences, and the institution’s and fund’s needs.
  • Diversification: Institutions are permitted to diversify their investments prudently, aligning with fund terms, organizational missions, values, and the established investment policy.

What can organizations do to be UPMIFA compliant?

Given the variations among states, it’s crucial to collaborate with your financial advisor and legal team to confirm adherence to the specific UPMIFA regulations in your location. Generally, most states require similar provisions. Start by confirming compliance with the following:

  • Implement written investment policies: Organizations must adopt written investment policies aligned with UPMIFA’s minimum standards. These policies should outline risk management strategies, investment monitoring procedures, and a framework for periodic policy evaluations, among other critical practices.
  • Conduct an annual independent audit: Institutions are obligated to undergo an independent annual audit, scrutinizing the organization’s financial management practices.
  • Establish and maintain a transparent spending policy: Organizations must create and sustain a clear spending policy that is regularly reviewed and updated. This policy should consider donor preferences, the role of each investment within the overall portfolio, and the institution’s and fund’s needs.
  • Prepare and submit annual financial reports: Organizations should compile annual financial reports and furnish them to overseeing regulatory agencies upon request.
  • Educate staff and board members: It’s essential to ensure that all staff and board members are well-versed in UPMIFA and its stipulations through proper training and awareness programs.
  • Seek legal counsel: Leaders should engage legal experts to verify that their policies, procedures, and investment strategies align with UPMIFA.
  • Regular policy and procedure reviews: Periodic reviews and updates to policies and procedures are necessary to adapt to changes in the charitable sector and financial markets.

What are the consequences of noncompliance with UPMIFA?

The penalties stemming from a failure to uphold the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act vary depending on the state and the specific nature of the violation. Under certain circumstances organizations might take corrective measures to rectify noncompliance, potentially lessening the penalties they face, but this is not always the case. Understanding the state-specific UPMIFA requirements is crucial for organizations, as common penalties for violations may include:

  • Financial repercussions: Organizations failing to adhere to UPMIFA may face fines or penalties, with amounts being contingent upon the state and the gravity of the violation.
  • Legal repercussions: Noncompliant organizations could face legal action by the state, regulatory bodies, or individuals, potentially leading to civil or criminal charges against the organization, its staff, or its board members.
  • Loss of privileges: Violations might result in the loss of tax-exempt status or specific licenses, impacting the ability to receive tax-deductible donations, avoid income taxation, or in some cases to operate at all.
  • Reputational damage: Breaching UPMIFA may erode trust in the organization, making it challenging to attract new donors or volunteers.
  • Mandatory reporting: Noncompliant organizations may be compelled to file exhaustive reports detailing the noncompliance circumstances and the measures taken to rectify the issues.

Continue reading: How do charitable donations affect taxes?

Looking for a co-fiduciary and financial partner for your endowment or foundation? Let’s talk!

So, what is UPMIFA? Knowing how to stay UPMIFA compliant is absolutely essential for nonprofit organizations as it provides an essential framework for the prudent management, investment, and spending of institutional funds. Navigating the intricacies of UPMIFA endowment regulations can be complex, and having an experienced financial partner like Avidian Wealth Solutions by your side can provide invaluable guidance in ensuring your nonprofit organization effectively achieves its financial responsibilities and sustainability goals.

Avidian seeks to adhere to UPMIFA standards when working with endowments and private foundations by following several key practices:

  1. Prudent management: Avidian prioritizes prudent management by assessing the investment needs and goals of the endowment or foundation, considering its long-term objectives and risk tolerance.
  2. Diversification: Avidian emphasizes diversification in investment strategies, spreading the endowment’s or foundation’s assets across various asset classes to minimize risk and maximize returns.
  3. Regular monitoring and review: Avidian monitors the performance of the investments regularly and makes strategic adjustments to holding over time, ensuring portfolios align with the goals and standards set by UPMIFA. 
  4. Stewardship of assets: Avidian acts as stewards of the assets, considering the duty of care and loyalty, making decisions in good faith, and in the best interest of the endowment or foundation.
  5. Education and compliance: Avidian works together with endowments and foundations to review and adhere to UPMIFA standards, striving for compliance with relevant laws and regulations governing charitable funds.
  6. Reporting and transparency: Avidian provides regular reports and transparent communication to endowments and foundations regarding the performance of their investments, fees, and any changes made to the investment strategy.

Schedule a conversation with us today to meet with one of our financial advisors in Houston, Austin, Sugar Land, or The Woodlands

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