CPGR members Russ Shaw and Dave Reed are at opposite ends of the planned giving experiential curve, but the two have recently forged a relationship through the CPGR mentoring program. Both are long-time Colorado residents, having each moved here to take advantage of the great outdoors. They share not only an interest in the outdoors and an appreciation for planned giving, but a major mid-life career change.
A tax consultant with a Big Four accounting firm, Russ had been tapped to start up a new office in Denver and was on the partner track. But something wasn’t doing it for him. On his bike that day in 1998, he found himself contemplating the alternatives.
A clue to what came next is that he’d served as volunteer chair of the Colorado MS 150 (now known as Bike MS Colorado), a fundraising bike ride for the National MS Society. When he got back to Denver, he called a number of nonprofit executives and asked them what they got out of their work. He heard the same answer, repeated in various forms: I get to make a difference every day.
That was enough for Russ. He wound down his affairs at the firm, enrolled in the Master of Nonprofit Management program at Regis University, and in short order stepped into the job of chief operating officer of the National MS Society’s Colorado Chapter (now Colorado-Wyoming). “I have not looked back, not even one second,” he says.
Another gear change came after he’d completed his master’s: a classmate recruited him to be director of planned giving for Regis.
“My first question was, What’s planned giving?” he jokes now. But he took to it – thanks largely to the many people he met through CPGR in his first few months. The mentorship program didn’t exist then, but he received informal coaching from the likes of Bill Albrecht (his predecessor at Regis), Scott Lumpkin, Jim Gumpert and Dan Rich.
Maybe he’s a natural at it because, as he says, he’s the “ideal candidate” for planned giving himself, being in the 50-60 age group and having no kids. He certainly walks the talk: his entire estate is going to charity, he says, and a portion of it to CPGR to support scholarships for participants in the mentorship program.
After nine years with Regis, Russ left in 2013 to shift back to the private sector, joining Wells Fargo’s Philanthropic Services division, where he covers a five-state territory based out of Denver. He’s still working in planned giving, only now he advises the givers.
Meanwhile, his involvement with CPGR remains constant. “I’ve found CPGR to be the most collegial, sharing, non-competitive industry association that I’ve ever been a part of. The culture here has always been that all boats rise with the tide,” he says, adding that his experience with CPGR “has been nothing short of fabulous.” He pays it forward by serving as a mentor, and enjoys that he gets as much as he gives, learning about grassroots advocacy through guys like Dave who are “out to save the West.”
Another thing that remains constant is the bike. That first Ride the Rockies has been followed by seven more, including the 2016 ride this June, where he was part of the 35-member Team Samaritan House that raised $150,000 for Catholic Charities.
Russ mentors Dave Reed, Executive Director for Western Colorado Congress, a community empowerment nonprofit on the Western Slope. An East Coast transplant (Connecticut), Dave landed at CSU for college in the late seventies. Growing up, he spent time backpacking the Appalachian Trail and thus was exposed early to conservation ideals. A degree in English led to an early career in journalism working in Aspen and later abroad as a beat reporter, travel writer, trade journalist and editor. He followed his British wife back home across the pond to London, and was able to travel extensively from a home base there. He achieved some notoriety as a travel writer by publishing Nepal: The Rough Guide in 1994 for that series of travel publications; he also co-authored the next 4 editions.
Eventually deciding that London life was not conducive to raising his family, Dave jumped at an opportunity to return to Colorado and transfer his journalism skills to the nonprofit sector. He first led communications for the Rocky Mountain Institute, then spent 11 years in communications and development at the Wilderness Workshop, both in the Roaring Fork Valley (Aspen/Carbondale). He has been in his current role at WCC since January 2015.
Dave found the CPGR mentoring program almost by accident, and applied just in time to be accepted to the current class, where he was matched to Russ as his mentor. He has been “surprised to learn about the whole professional community built around planned giving.” Because his organization has an aging membership, he assumed that they might be a good fit for planned giving efforts. Russ helped him affirm that hunch and convince his board to invest resources in planned gifts. So far, he has mapped out first steps to build his infrastructure, and reached out to a few donors that had self-identified their estate plans. Like many of us working in small shops, the many demands on his time make it difficult to spend as much time on planned giving as he’d like.
Dave has been a passionate and tireless champion for both the environment and poverty alleviation for many years. Living in Western Colorado for much of his adult life, he appreciates the abundant Alpine and Nordic skiing opportunities, and also runs and hikes. Dave resides in Grand Junction; wife Krysia, son Durga (17), and daughter Lily (22) live in Carbondale.
Written by Cari Karns, Senior Director of Development at UCHealth Memorial Hospital Foundation & Dave Reed, Executive Director, Western Colorado Congress