Piñon Legacy Society: Creating a Lasting Local Impact

How to leave a lasting impact in northern New Mexico

When Bud and Valerie Hamilton considered their options for legacy giving, “Including the Santa Fe Community Foundation in our estate plan was a relatively easy choice.”

Bud was familiar with the Foundation; he had previously chaired the board, and later returned to the board for another term. For the Hamiltons, the focus was on return on investment. “Given the breadth and depth of the Foundation’s influence in northern New Mexico, we believe this organization has the potential to truly maximize the return on our legacy commitment.”

The Hamiltons weren’t just speculating; they had spent years getting to know the Foundation, volunteering and becoming familiar with its staff, values, culture, and impact. According to Sandra Session-Robertson, Vice President of Development & Donor Relations, the Hamiltons’ experience is not uncommon. She says:

"When people consider what's meaningful to them, that's when they start to think about leaving a long-term gift as part of their legacy.”

In the United States, individual gifts are the largest category of charitable giving, and 70-90% of legacy giving comes through bequests. “In their will, right alongside their wife, husband, or child, donors are naming organizations that have had a deep impact on them,” says Session-Robertson. “Perhaps they've had an event that’s influenced them — say, a moment in need when an organization or institution really came to their aid, and they want others to have that same opportunity. Legacy giving is a long-term love note or a long-term thank you. It's one of the most incredibly personal moments that we have the privilege to share with them.”

For many donors, legacy giving is the culmination of a life’s commitments — and a way of carrying those commitments forward for future generations. While some donors choose to give anonymously, the Santa Fe Community Foundation also encourages donors to participate in the Piñon Legacy Society.

In addition to the Hamiltons, that was the path chosen by Sherry Parker. She and her partner, Dina Kuntz, had already had a “50-year love affair with Santa Fe,” visiting frequently over the decades. When the couple eventually moved here, they worked with Santa Fe Community Foundation staff to establish the Parker-Kuntz Donor Advised Fund.

“We found it very comforting, easy, and logistics-free to give through the Foundation rather than donate individually to a myriad of charitable organizations. We were also appreciative of the opportunity to work with the Foundation to learn more about how to channel our giving in the most effective way, as well as specific opportunities related to Native American needs.”

After Dina’s untimely passing from breast cancer, Sherry chose to continue the couple’s philanthropic path by including the Santa Fe Community Foundation’s Piñon Legacy Society option in her estate plans. “It was a logical choice for us to include our legacy in this relationship, since neither Dina nor I have progeny. Further, being a part of the Piñon Legacy Society gives us a sense of comfort and the assurance that, when I pass on, our specific wishes for supporting the causes and charities we believe in will be carried out over time.”

Parker’s viewpoint reflects a key benefit of giving to the Foundation. While an individual nonprofit may no longer be in operation 20 years from now, the Santa Fe Community Foundation will be — and can guarantee that donors’ funds will continue to support the kinds of organizations that they intended. (In years past, for example, a generous donor offered funds to support polio vaccinations. When funds were no longer needed for this purpose, the Foundation was able to repurpose the donation to support COVID vaccines and pandemic response efforts.)

Establishing a legacy gift is simple. We invite donors to fill out a non-binding statement of intent, indicating that they want to make the Foundation a beneficiary of their estate. Our staff then host the donor for a conversation about their wishes: do they have a particular cause or causes they’d like to support? Next, we supply the donor with two or three sentences to add to their will — and if the donor wants to revisit the matter or make changes in future years, they are welcome to do so. We are also happy to provide attorney references or to answer any questions potential donors may have.

For Sherry Parker, this local knowledge is invaluable. She says:

“For me, a recent widow, and a relatively new resident of Santa Fe, I feel the Foundation is a knowledgeable and important ‘partner’ to help me manage the philanthropic path that Dina and I had chosen. Without the Foundation's guidance, I would have no understanding about the most critical needs of the community vis-à-vis the general categories of giving about which we are most passionate."

Sherry continues, "We have in the past made periodic donations to national organizations, but now we find that we would rather give to the local chapters of those organizations which the community foundation is helping us identify. It made us both feel good that we were supporting the community of Santa Fe, the magical place we had known and loved during our fifty years together.”

Legacy gifts can take many forms, including a bequest through a will or trust, a life insurance or retirement plan designation, a donation of stock or other investments, a gift of real estate, or personal property. Earlier this year, for example, the Foundation announced the largest gift in its 42-year history — an $8.5 million bequest from the estate of Deborah and Martin Fishbein. The gift, which took the form of an art collection and investment shares, will support local nonprofits working in arts and culture, animal welfare, and the environment; it will also establish two funds for the Institute of American Indian Arts and the Museum of International Folk Art.

The Foundation takes a similarly personal approach to all donors — no matter their area of philanthropic interest or the size of their potential gifts. We are extraordinarily grateful for these gifts because planned giving facilitates sustainability for grantees. In every case, we seek to understand donors’ intentions as fully as possible — and to ensure that they are honored in perpetuity.

Sometimes, that means conducting additional research about donors’ preferred causes — and then proposing an appropriate pathway for giving. Sherry Parker relates a recent story: “I read last month in the New Mexican about the pastor at Our Lady of Sorrows who was fighting to save old adobe churches throughout New Mexico, which were in frightful need of repair if they were to survive. Foundation staff did some research and found the proper channel to donate to this cause, which we did."

Bud Hamilton sums up his view of the giving opportunity:

“I can’t think of another organization in this area that even comes close to reaching and helping as many people in need as does the Santa Fe Community Foundation.”


Learn more

Our team is eager to assist you on your philanthropic journey. Contact Sandra Session-Robertson, Vice President of Development & Donor Relations, today to learn more about our many giving opportunities, including becoming a Piñon Legacy Society Member: srobertson@santafecf.org or 505.988.9715.

Jul 12, 2023
News & Stories

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