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An endowment is funds that are intended to be kept permanently and invested to provide income for continued support of an organization. Organizations with an ongoing mission are smart to invest some of their money and use only the interest from that investment as part of their annual income.
If an organization either does not have enough money to set aside to invest, or if circumstances have required that they dip into the principal of an existing endowment in order to cover some expenses, they might launch an endowment campaign designed to bulk up the principal that is invested.
If you are approached and asked to give to an endowment campaign, ask questions about why they are raising the money, how the interest is used, and then if you choose to donate to the campaign you can feel good about investing in the future of an organization you support.