During roughly the first 100 years of the Society’s existence, it was the Fellows themselves who donated the funds needed for all activities.
As early as 1773 each Fellow contributed 4 daler in silver coins – 28 daler in total – and this became the Society’s first treasury. Thereafter the idea of extracting an annual fee was considered distasteful, and Fellows were left to contribute to the Society’s treasury with a endowment of their own choosing, when, and as often, as they could afford it. During the 19th century, endowments were irregular and of variable size and by the beginning of the 20th century the treasury held around 30,000 kr. The first larger endowment (25,000 kr) was presented to the Society in 1906, by Gustaf Retzius and his wife Anna-Hierta Retzius, in memory of Gustaf Retzius’ great grandfather, one of the founders of the Society. Since that time the Society has received 47 endowments (as shown in the list below), and the returns on these endowments continue to provide the funds that support the research grants and prizes that are awarded by the Society each year, nowadays in the vicinity of 25 million kronor per year. Many of these endowments have been donated during recent decennia, and in addition the Society has been the beneficiary of several wills.
The endowments are managed by the Society under the donor’s name, and funds are used for the desired purposes of the endowment or according to the general purposes of the Society. Management of funds occurs in close collaboration with the Society’s Economic Council, which consists of experienced business people and fund managers. Grants are awarded on the basis of applications submitted by researchers. These applications are evaluated by committees, each of which consists of established researchers of high international standing.
Endowments to the Society are free from taxation, as is the Society itself, since all of the returns on the Society’s investments are used to fund research. It is now even possible for a donor to relinquish the right to receive dividends from stocks and shares and thus avoid taxation. Since the evaluation of applications is done on a voluntary basis, only a very small fraction of the Society’s yearly funds are used for administrative purposes (less than 0.5%). Thanks to the careful and skilful management of the Society’s endowments provided by the Economic Council, the Society has a very sound investment portfolio.
If desired, the Society and its officials (particularly its Permanent Secretary and Treasurer) can provide advice and practical assistance to future donors.
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