Stories from the Field

The Winters' Family Legacy

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In December 2019, Ivy Archer Winters called NatureBridge CEO Phil Kilbridge with a two-part piece of news: her mother Doris Archer Winters had died at the age of 98, and the organization’s capital campaign for the Golden Gate National Recreation campus (GOGA) was finished.

“I was overwhelmed by this news,” says Phil. “Ivy had shared slowly over the course of four years that NatureBridge was in Doris’s estate plans, but we didn’t know any other details.”

Thanks to Ivy — a GOGA Board member and former National Board member — Doris had left $489,000 to NatureBridge via her charitable trust. 

“The wildest part? I never met Doris.” says Phil.

How did this gift come to be?

Photo courtesy of Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.
Poppies at our Golden Gate campus

“Growing up, there was a lot of focus on my brothers to go to the right schools, be successful and so on. For me...I was the girl,” Ivy laughs. “Thankfully so much of that has changed, but that mindset was still very prevalent when I was young.” 

Ivy's first years of life were spent about 90 miles outside of Minneapolis in a small town called White Bear Lake, a place that holds fond memories of playing in the lake in the summer and in the snow in winter. When she was three, the family moved to California's Bay Area. It was later in Tamarack, Oregon where she had a profound experience in nature at a summer camp.

“I was 10 or 11 years old, and I always had separation anxiety at camp,” says Ivy. “One way I’d comfort myself is to go down and sit by the lake and listen to the water. The comfort and support that nature brings to you; as a child, you’re experiencing it even if you’re not aware it’s happening.”

Ivy parlayed that experience in nature to a life filled with volunteerism. She serves on the boards of several environmental organizations, and her career experience in advertising, radio and events has been invaluable to NatureBridge’s fundraising efforts. It was Ivy (inspired by a background in coordinating radio station events) who first proposed the idea of Gala, the incredibly popular and successful annual fundraiser held in the Bay Area. In the past, the Gala has featured famous speakers, presented the NatureBridge Student of the Year award and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. It remains a memorable highlight for many donors and partners

Originally thrown in celebration of NatureBridge’s 40th anniversary, it was Ivy’s suggestion that turned the event into a fundraiser in 2012, where it raised over $475,000. In 2019, the event raised $680,000 in one evening. Is Gala her proudest achievement as a board member?

“No question,” she says.

Ruth Cox, Milton Chen, Ivy Archer Winters, Randi Fisher, Stephen Lockhart, Charlene Harvey at the 2016 NatureBridge Gala

As proud as she is of Gala’s success, it may be Ivy’s work on NatureBridge’s legacy giving committee that will have the longest-lasting impact. She is on a mission to destigmatize the conversation about estate planning and believes strongly in the connection between NatureBridge’s mission and the concept of legacy giving, realized through the newly created 1971 Society.

“NatureBridge’s mission is about being in it for the long term, which means legacy giving is almost inherently a part of the conversation for our family of board members and donors,” she says. 

The word “death” almost never comes up in discussions of legacy giving. The potential for morbidity can keep some people from wanting to have the conversation. The topic cannot be brought up carelessly.

“It is a very delicate issue. It has to be handled with respect and empathy because every family and every individual is different when it comes to communication on these matters,” says Ivy.

If you can broach the topic respectfully and sensitively, she says, there are numerous benefits to both the donor and the organization.

“First, legacy giving makes sense for long-term financial planning for donors. It’s great to have tax-free income that when you pass away; the principal passes on to the charitable beneficiaries. Second, it helps ensure NatureBridge’s future while bringing immense gratification to the donor.”
Ivy Archer Winters

Legacy giving is also a topic that speaks to Ivy in a deeply personal way; it’s the reason she made that phone call to Phil Kilbridge in 2019. 

“We would have conversations within the family — on occasion, but not frequently — about how we were organizing our finances. It was something we were comfortable talking about,” she says. 

Ivy’s conversations with her mother about her estate planning were honest and open. She was aware that her mother had created a charitable remainder trust, earmarking donations to several nonprofit organizations. One day, she sat down with her mother and asked if she would be interested in having NatureBridge as the sole beneficiary of her charitable trust.

“My mother was very aware of my efforts with NatureBridge, and she was keen to support us and back us in those efforts over the years. This was another, larger way to do that. That’s kind of the way she looked at it.”

Doris agreed. They drew up new papers, changed her wishes and life went on. 

Years after amending her mother’s wishes, when Ivy called Phil to give him the news that the GOGA capital campaign would be closed, she had an unexpected feeling. She was of course deeply saddened by her mother’s death and energized by the campaign completion, but Ivy suddenly saw the gift in a new light.

“What was very powerful to me was that my mother and I came to this very deep place of love and mutual support that was expressed in her agreement to make this legacy gift to NatureBridge. It was a very powerful connection that I recognized right then.”

She pauses. 

“For a long time, I wasn’t sure it was there, but it actually was.”

Ivy is living proof that a legacy gift can mean more than any dollar amount can imply, making her the perfect ambassador for The 1971 Society.

“That gift was healing for our relationship,” she says. “That gift was a recognition by my mother that what I was doing over the years meant something to her.”

To learn more about legacy giving and The 1971 Society, visit our website or email Aaron Rich at


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