June 19, 2024

President's Letter - Annual Report 2023

What a difference a year makes! In the Foundation’s 2022 annual report, I had to lead with bad news—that after many years of robust investment gains, there were no safe havens for investors in 2022. But, happily, 2023 was a very good year for the Foundation (and by extension, the Frederik Meijer Garden’s itself since the Foundation is the endowment fund for the Gardens).

In 2023, the Foundation’s investments generated an investment return of nearly 15%. And since endowments are by design very long-term investments, it is important that the Foundation’s investment results remain in the top quartile of all NACUBO endowment funds over the last 10 years (and each shorter period measured in between).

In 2023, we added many new Foundation donors including three donors joining the Perennial Society and seven donors joining the Bonsai Society. At our donor society annual dinner event in June, society donors had fun sitting on the Garden’s amphitheater stage. And we watched an excellent musical group (Whorld) as well as presentations from the Foundation’s Executive Director Sue Veeneman, Gardens President Charles Burke and me, all made from where the audience usually sits. Because it is our donor leaders, the members of our donor societies, that are rightly “on stage.”

We have chosen this year’s report theme as “Envisioning Your Legacy.” At our June 2022 annual event, I spoke briefly of the Bonsai and Perennial Societies members who have passed away and about how the Foundation is the bridge from their lives and their generosity to future generations.

Those society members had envisioned their legacy at the Gardens to be contributing to its financial soundness in perpetuity.

You may have a special, favorite part of the Gardens that you would like to support. Establishing a named restricted fund at the Foundation for that special purpose is an excellent way to forever support your cherished feature or program of the Gardens. Alternatively, you can envision your legacy at the Gardens when you establish a named, unrestricted fund for the general support of the Gardens. That’s what my wife Sarah and I did in 2016, and we have both enjoyed watching that named fund grow in its support of the Gardens.

You can join the Foundation’s Perennial Society with a named fund at a $10,000 level or join the Foundation’s Bonsai Society at the $100,000 level. Please note that neither Society requires an upfront cash donation—you can make this gift as part of your estate plan. Please speak with your estate planning attorney about this soon or contact Sue Veeneman or me for further information. Finally, my two years as Foundation president were both fun and professionally satisfying. The Foundation has been blessed for many years with good governance from an experienced and talented board of directors, good investment performance from a very talented investment committee (assisted by an outside investment consulting firm) and good administration from our executive director and accountant. Happily, for me, I continue to serve on the Foundation’s board and investment committee and will see many of you “envisioning your legacy” in the future as so many have done before.

With great appreciation,

Michael R. Julien