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The strategic use of pensions by not-for-profit organizations

  • THAD DANIEL CALABRESE (a1) and ELIZABETH A. M. SEARING (a2)

Abstract

Defined benefit pension plans are an important and unexplored aspect of not-for-profit compensation, covering between 15% and 21% of the estimated national not-for-profit workforce. Here we consider whether pension contributions and actuarial assumptions are mechanisms for achieving not-for-profit financial management objectives such as smoothing consumption, managing reported net earnings, and minimizing pension liabilities. The empirical results indicate a variety of these behaviors. Not-for-profit pension plan sponsors use accumulated net assets to smooth consumption. Further, not-for-profits manage reported profits downwards when they exceed expectations by increasing pension contributions, but both minimize contributions and liberalize actuarial assumptions when they underperform relative to their desired earnings targets.

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