Defined Contribution Plans for Nonprofits

Since the inception of the firm, Highland has always acknowledged our role as a fiduciary to retirement plans. As an acknowledged plan fiduciary, Highland works with clients identified as 501(c)(3) organizations to make better and more informed decisions regarding their defined contribution plans. We assist each of our nonprofit clients in understanding the key risks associated with operating 401(k) and 403(b) plans while helping them deliver the intended benefits.

Our proactive, strategic approach is focused on improving participant engagement and average savings rates, optimizing plan investment options, and providing complete fee transparency.

We assist plan sponsors with all aspects of their defined contribution plans. Our services include vendor searches, employee education strategy development, investment selection/monitoring, fee benchmarking/negotiation, target date fund selection/review, stable value fund analysis, custom risk/target date fund development, glide path design and plan compliance assistance.


Joel Baker, CFA
Nonprofit Client Team Leader

Our Approach to Help You in Retirement

Highland’s holistic approach considers the unique aspects of each workforce, including but not limited to demographics, the key risks in the broader business and other benefits such as defined benefit pension assets. Our models allow us to consider the impact of these issues for participants as they seek to accumulate assets during their working life and sustain these assets as they are spent in retirement. Highland assists clients in evaluating current providers of asset allocated portfolios such as target risk and target date funds. We can also customize and implement target risk and target date funds according to client objectives. Depending on the portfolio, a customized target date portfolio may contain diversifying niche strategies that are unavailable to an individual investor making his or her own purchases.

Participant Education and Engagement

Highland assists clients with the consideration and implementation of various strategies to improve participant engagement. Employee education, thoughtful plan design and tailored communications can all play a role. Often, strategies can be tailored around a plan’s participant demographics to maximize effectiveness.

Plan Compliance Assistance

The sponsors of defined contribution plans face a number of regulatory, audit and compliance requirements. Our ongoing retainer service is designed to help with those fiduciary and compliance obligations. Our services include ongoing fee review, analysis of suitability of investment products and investment policy review.

Manager and Vendor Searches

Continuous, proactive research ensures that Highland is in contact with the best investment managers in the marketplace. Ongoing interviews are essential to obtain a complete picture of managers and their current capabilities. This qualitative information is a vitally important factor in assessing managers’ prospects for future success in meeting client objectives and guidelines. Highland’s dedicated research group conducts in-depth, regular reviews of every investment manager used by our clients. In addition, this group is responsible for researching all other best-in-class investment managers. Our goal is to assist each of our clients in engaging top investment management talent at the lowest possible expense.

Periodically, clients need to review or select an alternative investment manager, recordkeeper, trustee auditor or other similar vendors. Highland has established thorough processes to evaluate and select these vendors. The cost of investment products and services is important in general, and particularly to fiduciaries. The appropriate control of investment and administrative costs begins with understanding all costs paid by the plan. Highland conducts expense reviews and addresses any fee-related issues, commission recapture, administrative issues and negotiations with investment and service providers.

Recordkeeper and administrator search data is systematically stored in Highland’s proprietary database. Our large number of clients and ongoing search activity allows us to know in real time the true nature of services being provided and fees being charged. Highland’s defined contribution clients typically have lower all-in costs when compared to industry aggregate peers.