A Shared Love of Nature Inspires Legacy Gifts

A Shared Love of Nature Inspires Legacy Gifts

Making life better for our community and the world

Philanthropy—or literally “the love of humanity”—is often defined as giving gifts of “time, talent, and treasure” to help make life better for our community and the world. It is the desire to promote the welfare of others expressed through the donation of money to good causes. 

As a gift to charity made in a donor’s will or trust, legacy giving is one of the highest forms of philanthropy. It allows donors to continue to support the work of organizations they care about for the benefit of future generations.  

“When a donor gives an unrestricted legacy gift, they are truly honoring the organization by bestowing on us the trust to use the money in whatever way best helps achieve mission at the time,” says Audubon Canyon Ranch CEO Tom Gardali. “There is no higher compliment.”  

We have a long history of legacy giving, stretching back to our inception over sixty years ago. We receive legacy gifts every year, thanks to the forward-thinking generosity of our donors. 

The lives of these generous folks are uplifting and inspiring. Here are just a few of their stories: 

A Great Egret wears a solar powered GPS transmitter, used by Audubon Canyon Ranch researchers to learn what these birds need to survive and find food, where they spend the winter, and how far they travel to establish new nests. Photo by Nils Warnock

George Benson 

A soft-spoken inventor and good businessperson, George Benson is remembered by former Audubon Canyon Ranch Executive Director Skip Schwartz as always having a smile and a positive attitude. “George would often drop by our offices and lift our spirits,” recalls Schwartz. “He had a wicked, wry sense of humor. He loved language and was great with puns. He was mischievous but good-natured.” 

Fueled by his passion for nature and his belief in lifelong learning, Benson explored the globe, traveling with scientists and environmental groups on projects and eco-tours. But a bench beneath an impressive redwood tree at our Martin Griffin Preserve was one of his favorite places in the world. The bench honors his late wife Betty, with whom he shared moments of awe as they birdwatched for many years before her passing.  

Impressed with Audubon Canyon Ranch’s conservation science program, Benson named the organization as a beneficiary of his estate plan. Benson’s legacy gift provides funding for many aspects of our work, including the conservation science projects he so admired: shorebird and waterbird monitoring, mountain lion study and education, trail camera data collection, heron and egret tracking, and contributing to the greater conservation field through talks, scientific journal articles, informing resource management and policy, and curriculum development.

A fifth-grader discovers a newt at Martin Griffin Preserve as part of our education program for schoolchildren

Ellen Kipp 

Involved with Audubon Canyon Ranch since the organization’s early years, Ellen Kipp was a paralegal, a staunch supporter of North Bay nonprofits, and a legacy giving advocate. Ellen’s friend and mentee Chris Morrison remembers Ellen as strong in character and conviction. Ellen fled Mexico after the 1916 revolution, settled in Texas, graduated with honors from high school at 15 and college at 18. She married and put two children through college. “She would have been an attorney, but women weren’t attorneys back then,” Chris remembers. Ellen worked until she was 92 and was involved in many North Bay nonprofits spanning over 60 years. 

Over the last year, Kipp’s legacy gifts have helped to ensure the continuation of conservation science, habitat restoration, and education across the 5,000 acres of tidal flats, marshlands, coastal prairie, oak woodlands, grassland, chaparral, mixed evergreen forests, and redwood groves that are stewarded by Audubon Canyon Ranch.

Bouverie Preserve by Michael Coy

Millie Tripp 

A lover of the natural world, Millie Tripp served as a Bouverie Preserve docent from 2010 until her passing in 2022. “She loved Bouverie Preserve and hiking with the students,” says close friend and trustee Jeannine Williams. A medical researcher, Tripp worked at Santa Rosa Junior College as a microbiology lab tech for more than 20 years before retiring. Tripp had many passions in her life, including her commitment to safe working conditions and the fair treatment of workers. 

Tripp’s forward-thinking generosity provided a legacy gift that supports Audubon Canyon Ranch’s work, including our school programs that welcome 3,000-5,000 students to our preserves each year for education, guided hikes, and in-depth training experiences—shaping the future of conservation. 

Legacy gifts grow through investments

All legacy gifts to Audubon Canyon Ranch are carefully invested in sustainable, ethical funds so that they can grow in value over time and contribute to a financially resilient organization. These investments fund roughly half of the organization’s operating budget each year. 

Legacy Circle & Giving Match 

Have you considered making a legacy gift? 

The Clerin Zumwalt Legacy Circle honors people who have included Audubon Canyon Ranch in their will or trust. 

To inspire others to create or update their estate plan, and to support Audubon Canyon Ranch with a legacy gift, an anonymous donor has extended a challenge: Audubon Canyon Ranch will receive $500 for its general operating fund for each new member of the Clerin Zumwalt Legacy Circle, up to a total of $20,000 (40 new members).   

In helping us meet this challenge, your legacy gift and membership in the Zumwalt Legacy Circle will connect nature, people, and science today—and tomorrow. 

For more information, visit Zumwalt Legacy Circle or contact:     

Jen Newman  
Director of Philanthropy  
415-868-9244 Ext. 119 
[email protected]