GEM Fund Reports

AAUW Asheville Scholarship Endowment, Inc.

Celebrating Nineteen Years of Supporting Higher Education for Worthy Women in Western North Carolina



2021 Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2020 – 2021   

submitted by Pat Ashe, President

 The fiscal year 2020-21 brought significant increases in both fundraising and endowment investments.  This demonstration of the financial health of The GEM Fund continues to strengthen the assessment of its ongoing maturation and success.  The Board entered into a five-year giving agreement with Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (A-B Tech), similar to the one established the previous year with the University of North Carolina Asheville (UNCA).  For the second year in a row, the June fundraiser event had to be cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.  However, the spring fundraiser with a new video and 6 week long mail campaign resulted in the highest donations in the history of The GEM Fund, over $34,500.  Strong investment returns added  $8700 to the Board approved fundraising efforts for scholarship allotment for the academic year 2021-2022.  This resulted in total donations to A-B Tech and UNCA of over $42,000, an unprecedented gift to support the education of women in our community whose prior education had been interrupted or delayed.

Committee Reports


Again due to COVID-19, spring fundraising was done by a mail campaign from mid-May through June.  New this year, however, was a 3 minute video featuring a scholar, donors, A-B Tech and UNCA representatives, and business sponsors.  This fundraiser resulted in over $34,500 from donors, the majority of whom were, as in past years, AAUW Asheville members.  This strong success was supported by 80 donors, 55 of which increased their year over year giving and 32 donors who did not contribute  in 2020.  The board voted that all undesignated funds would go to scholarships for 2021 as well as the foreseeable future.  Additionally, individuals contributed $5475 to the “Birthday Dollars for Scholars” program.

Because of the pandemic, the Board again voted to cancel the 2021 June fundraiser event at Fernihurst. Tentative planning began for a celebration event for scholars and donors in fall 2021.


Susan Ikerd completes her 4th year as the GEM scholarship liaison with our college/university partners  and reports it  continues to be very gratifying to see the results of our efforts. During the past year, and despite the ongoing national pandemic crisis, we were once again able to increase funding to both institutions as well as execute our second very successful virtual fundraiser. We also created the first ever GEM video, featuring our school partners, donors and one of our scholars. Finally, as recommended in the 2020 report, we were able to finalize and confirm responsibility for the scholarship fund payment and reconciliation process between GEM Treasurer, Finance Committee Chair, and College/University Liaison.

College/university relations:

Because of the pandemic, we were unable to meet in person with representatives from either institution this year. That did not deter us from executing a five year gift agreement with A-B Tech, which mirrors the agreement with UNCA. As with the UNCA agreement, this stipulates a minimum gift each year, and establishes GEM as a regular donor rather than an entity that gives on an annual basis. The agreement will enable A-B Tech to plan budgetarily and acknowledge our longterm partnership.

Based on our understanding of the entire scholarship process at both institutions, including fund management related to the Development Office as well as the relationship with the financial aid office, we now have a detailed overview of policies and procedures at both institutions in the Director’s Manual.

During the 2020-21 fiscal year, Susan recommended that we consider the economic situation in allocating funds to each institution. Since the beginning of the pandemic, well over a million women left the job market. The GEM funds are available to students for expenses beyond tuition, including transportation and childcare. We reiterated this to both schools when notifying them of their allocation for 2021-22, and distributed funds on an equitable basis to both schools.


As a result of a second very successful fundraiser, it is anticipated the board will consider increased funding year over year to both institutions for 2022-23. It is recognized that our ability to sustain an increased level of funding is unknowable at this time, and that many of our donors may have used CARES Act funding to “pay it forward.”  That said, 2021 fundraising provided the potential for allocations that would double the 2019-20 award year, which is quite extraordinary. The decision to make an allocation from the corpus of the endowment will be made at the end of the year, after we receive confirmation from both schools that they were able to utilize the funds committed for this year.


This is the one aspect of an otherwise stellar year that has been a bit of a challenge. Both schools operated remotely for the entire academic year, and students, staff and faculty worked and studied off cam- pus.  A-B Tech did provide thank you notes from the scholars, but UNCA was unable to obtain acknowledgements of the scholarship from any of the recipients as their in-person practice to obtain these wasn’t possible. We did, however, receive from UNCA a detailed historical report on all GEM fund activity.  Both UNCA, with four mid-year graduates, and A-B Tech ,with one recipient who only attended the spring semester ,will have additional funds available from the 2020-2021 allocation to be spent in 2021-2022, following assessment of final reconciliation reports .

2021-22 recommendations:

  • Determine level of unspent funds at both schools, and request that all funds be awarded for the current academic year
  • Create corporate fundraising plan
  • Attempt to contact past UNCA scholars for testimonials and inclusion in V.2 of GEM video.

Donor Relations

 The GEM Board continued to acknowledge the many generous supporters during the fiscal year. Betsy Kirk made sure that official thank you notes were sent to all donors in a timely manner and that, in the case of tributes of honored friends or loved ones, that those notifications were sent, as well. In the past all GEM donors for the fiscal year were acknowledged in the fall edition of “GEM Chips.”  As this publication is not planned, a communication document from the board thanking all donors and listing their names will be distributed to AAUW Asheville members and all 2021 donors in the fall.

Communications and Publications

Alice Doner, Communications and Publications Chair, published one “GEM Chips” in the fall of 2020..  This edition included a summary of the Annual Report, a listing of all donors during the prior fiscal year, and scholarship news.  For the spring mail fundraising campaign, Alice continued to use her design talents to draft copies for the fundraiser group of the various documents needed.  She also updated the annual brochure and sent out necessary communications to branch members and other GEM friends and family.  Board President Pat Ashe sent monthly communications to the branch editor for inclusion in the branch newsletter.


Performance Report

The GEM Fund ended the fiscal year on June 30th with a balance of $438,311.24. The investment endowment portfolio at Decker Wealth Management closed the year with $355,148, an increase of

$66,634 from the starting balance of $288,514. This number is net of all additions and distributions and also net of fees.

Returns were 22.9%. Our designated benchmark, the 60% MSCI world equity /40% Bond Asset Allocation Benchmark, returned 23.3% over the same period. The GEM Fund was more conservatively positioned and yet kept pace with the benchmark.

GEM’s Asset Allocation at fiscal year end was 11.2% cash, 56.6% equity and 32.2% fixed income (Convertible bonds and Preferred stocks were classified as bonds and REITs as equity.)

The GEM Board voted to add $8,715 from fundraising in the year to the endowment fund (12/10/20 deposit.) The GEM Board voted to distribute $8,077 from the fund for scholarships, following all parameters of the Endowment Policy criteria. These funds were distributed on 1/22/21. This results in a $638 addition to principal. The fund also paid $1,265 in fees to Decker Wealth -a .35% fee. This resulted in a net $627 removed from the fund.

Financial Policies and Practices (FPP)

In June of 2021, the Board voted to change the FPP to clarify the distribution amounts to the colleges. The June distribution  will now be the amount agreed to in the contracts with the 2 schools,

currently $5,000 a year. The remainder of the  funds are to be paid in the fall after receipt of scholarship recipients’ names, with a deadline for the distribution of 12/15.

Summarized Statement of the GEM Fund fiscal year end positions (2020-2021)

As of June 30, 2021, the GEM Fund has the following assets:

$355,148 in the investment portfolio of the Endowment Fund, with a net $638 in principal contributions and $65,996 in growth; and $83,163.24 in local banks.

A more detailed report is attached that was provided by Decker Wealth Management.

2021-22 GEM Board:

In May the GEM Board approved the following GEM Board members and officers for the 2021-22 fiscal year:

  • Pat Ashe, President
  • Deborah Fulton-Helmer, Treasurer
  • Susan Grabel Secretary
  • Lina Evans
  • Tina Garrett
  • Jan Huskey
  • Susan Ikerd
  • Betsy Kirk
  • Johanna Manasse
  • Millie Massey
  • Lois Sutton
  • Karen Wallace-Meigs, AAUW Asheville President