About the NSF

National Speleological Foundation

Serving caves and cavers since 1964.

Get to know us better

We throw money into holes in the ground!

For the last 60 years, the National Speleological Foundation has been supporting caves and cavers across North America! The financial services we provide to cave-focused non-profit organizations has generated tens of thousands of dollars to help preserve and protect our underground treasures. We encourage you to join us in continuing our shared mission.

An Introduction to the National Speleological Foundation

The National Speleological Foundation (NSF) is the investment part of the National Speleological Society (NSS). For more than 60 years, the foundation's primary responsibility has been to invest and protect the NSS Life Member Fund. There are other NSS funds that are managed along with the main account of Life Member Fund. Other cave related organizations have also opted to invest with us.

NSF board members
NSF Board

Board members of the National Speleological Foundation.

- Courtesy of Doug Soroka

The foundation was created by Bill Stephenson in 1964 to manage the NSS's three trust funds: The Life Member Fund (LMF), the Headquarters Fund, and the Ralph W. Stone Research Fund. When someone becomes a life member of the society, the NSS takes on the responsibility of providing regular membership for as long as that person is still alive. Each year, the foundation pays the NSS the equivalent of that members's annual dues. The remainder of the life membership payment is invested to cover any future increase in dues.

Historically, the life member fund was invested and managed by past NSS presidents. Bill Stephenson realized that more expertise was needed for managing the fund. As a result, the National Speleological Foundation was formed of appointed cavers with financial experience. This also prevented the use of the fund for anything other than its intended purpose. Currently, the NSF returns over $100K each year to the NSS to cover dues for the life members. The NSS also has other special funds that are NSF-managed and are used for grants of science, exploration, preserve maintenance, and awards.

Some of the agreements allow the NSF to make loans to the NSS. In 2003 the NSF loaned $175K to purchase the Great Expectations Cave Nature Preserve. In 2016, the NSF loaned $345K for the mortgage on the society's new headquarters property in Huntsville, Alabama. All have been paid back.

1941 NSS Meeting
1941 NSS Meeting

NSS founder Bill Stephenson presides over what's believed to be the first meeting of the society.

- Courtesy of the Paul Damon Collection

In 1994, the NSS decided that the foundation required a greater amount of independence. The NSF was reorganized as a separate non-profit corporation supporting organization the NSS. The foundation now elects its own trustees rather than having them appointed by the society. The NSF also contracts with other cave related organizations to manage their funds.

The NSF also has its own funds. Through our own accounts, we have been able to award grants on a yearly basis. We maintain the NSS Permanent Endowment Fund where we invest and return back to the NSS 4% of a three year average as an unrestricted return. This way the NSS may utilize this money any way it sees fit.

Each year the foundation goes through an independent audit so the society and all other clients know that what we report to them is accurate. We carry Directors and Officers Insurance along with Crime Insurance for everyone's protection. Northwestern Mutual Co. handles our fiduciary obligations and maintains our client portfolios. All of our trustees are NSS members who are not reimbursed for meetings and do not receive any compensation for serving on the foundation.

NSS Permanent Endowment Fund: Powering the society in the years to come...