Staff Blog

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This is a space where Foundation staff share their thoughts and musings on giving and community:

Leaving a Legacy

Posted by: Emilye Pelow Corbett on 8/23/2016

As a philanthropic advisor, one of the most rewarding parts of my job is working with donors who give a lot of thought to the kind of mark they want to leave in the world. I’m lucky that I often get the chance to help donors establish bequests that will have lasting effects in Vermont and its communities.

The folks who choose to make legacy gifts at the Foundation don’t fit a single mold; we’ve had generous philanthropists from all kinds of backgrounds establish bequests of all different sizes for almost any cause you can imagine. Recently, we worked with a couple to create a bequest protecting a beloved swath of wilderness near their home in Addison County. We also had a gentleman come to us looking for help in leaving his entire estate to a local nonprofit whose work he deeply admired; his legacy will help the organization thrive for years to come.

Regardless of their age, origin, and station in life, most of these donors care deeply about Vermont and its future. When they come to us, we work with them to figure out what kind of legacy they want to leave so that they can make a gift that best honors their passions. These conversations are often personal and intimate; I feel fortunate that my job allows me to create such meaningful relationships with the people I work with every day.

In fact, building relationships like these is the part of my job that I find most fulfilling. I love sitting down with donors to explore questions like: What is your vision of a better world? What would you like to preserve or change? Beyond self and family, is there any particular issue on which you would like to make a positive impact? There is no right or wrong answer; the way a donor chooses to focus (or not to focus!) their philanthropy is up to them to decide. My role is to listen and use these conversations as a way to learn more about the people I work with. What excites them? What moves them? What makes them tick? Then together, as these conversations continue, we explore a journey of giving during their lifetime—and beyond.

I think it’s fair to say that most people dream of what kind of legacy they will leave—I know I do. I hope that one day I can follow in the footsteps of the donors I’ve worked with, leaving behind a better world for the communities I love. That’s something to be proud of.

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