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Conservator, Grassroots

The power of relationships

Donor’s spirit of giving lives on through her conservation legacy

October 29, 2020
DUC’s Atocas Bay project is an oasis for wildlife in an area threatened by development. This site will be dedicated as the Claire-Louise Atocas Bay Conservation Project.
DUC’s Atocas Bay project is an oasis for wildlife in an area threatened by development. This site will be dedicated as the Claire-Louise Atocas Bay Conservation Project. © DUC

Sometimes one person can make a profound impact on your life and work. For a small core of DUC employees, it was a humble, fiercely independent, petite francophone from Montreal, who grew up camping and hiking with her mother.

Louise was known only by her first name among the planned giving, conservation and administrative staff who supported her throughout her giving history with DUC. They held a deep respect for her request to remain anonymous.

In Louise, DUC gained a strong friend in conservation. And DUC was more than just a worthy charity to Louise. It became the family she never had.

Louise’s journey begins…with a $35 donation

Jamie Fortune was among the first DUC employees to meet her. Fortune, DUC’s former (now retired) chief fundraising officer, worked from the DUC office in Ottawa, the city where Louise lived.

“Louise began giving to DUC in 2001 as a $35 donor following a direct mail solicitation from us,” says Fortune. “She read everything we sent her, and loved Conservator, especially pictures and stories about animals.”

Fortune says Louise then started taking bus trips to the DUC office every December to make a donation. “She’d leave an envelope and say, ‘here’s something for the ducks.’”

When Fortune invited her to an event at DUC’s Marlborough Woods wetland in 2006, Louise’s relationship with DUC deepened. “We took her to a place where she could see a heron take off, ducks, other wildlife,” recalls Fortune. “She really enjoyed it.”

Louise’s cheques started getting bigger and bigger. Five years ago, she told Fortune she was working on her estate. Louise never married or had any children, and so she had thoroughly researched charitable organizations to support.

“She selected DUC because she thought we did more for wildlife and habitat,” says Fortune. “She loved animals, and she felt that they needed permanent spaces of their own.”

At the same time, she was looking for options to avoid the Ontario probate taxes and put her money to work immediately.

She found her answer in a living legacy with DUC. And in a project called Atocas Bay.

“She selected DUC because she thought we did more for wildlife and habitat,. She loved animals, and she felt that they needed permanent spaces of their own.”

Jamie Fortune

Atocas Bay project becomes Louise’s living legacy

In the early 2000s, DUC and its partners purchased a 2,000-acre (780-hectare) parcel of land east of Ottawa known as Atocas Bay. It was a rare opportunity to protect, secure and restore a significant land base in the area before it was lost to development.

Through major wetland restoration efforts, DUC brought more than 200 wetland basins back to life. The project now hosts 13 species of waterfowl, rare bird species like the short-eared owl, and the highest density of breeding bobolinks in Ontario and Quebec.

“When Louise asked me where her money should go, and I told her about Atocas Bay, she warmed up to it right away,” says Fortune. As a giving vehicle for her living legacy, DUC planned giving staff introduced her to publicly traded securities that are completely exempt of capital gains tax.

“Louise was impressed with the impact of our work, and the responsible way we deliver it,” says Janice O’Dette, DUC’s planned giving officer, eastern region. O’Dette continued to nurture DUC’s relationship with Louise following Fortune’s retirement.

“She saw herself as a cog to keep the wheels going.”

From humble gifts to helping DUC “keep doing what we were doing”

While Louise declined public recognition in life, she agreed that DUC could later acknowledge her and her mother at the “Claire-Louise Atocas Bay Conservation Project.”

O’Dette last met with Louise in her home several days before her passing at age 84. DUC had found a way to thank her.

“I presented Louise with a copy of Robert Bateman’s latest book and a personal card from the artist with a small original sketch of a duck head in his note,” says O’Dette. “It touched her heart. She was a Bateman fan. She said to keep doing what we were doing.”

Louise gave O’Dette a large cheque and stock certificates for a transfer of publicly traded securities. These donations, combined with the $900,000 she’d donated to DUC through Louise’s living legacy over the previous two years, brought her total gift to $1.8 million.

Louise leaves an unexpected final gift to wetland conservation

Still, Louise wasn’t done with her giving. After her funeral, her executor told O’Dette that Louise had also left DUC a 100 per cent residual bequest from her estate.

“It was so like Louise to quietly leave one more unexpected and substantial gift to her chosen charity,” says O’Dette. “She had a great sense of humour and her selfless generosity has inspired us all. I can’t wait to see the wonderful work we will do to cherish and celebrate her remarkable gift.”

Louise had Bateman’s note card buried with her in her casket.

“It was always the habitat and wildlife that mattered to Louise,” says Fortune. “It helped me to know that she was at peace and grateful that she could be in a position to support DUC’s conservation work. As a charity, that’s the best goal: enabling a person to achieve what they want.”

What’s a living legacy?

Louise chose to contribute to DUC’s conservation work through a living legacy, a planned gift a donor provides to a charity within his/her lifetime. This way, individuals and families can see the impact of their gift and connect with the organization they’ve chosen to support. A living legacy is not included in the donor’s estate, and is therefore not subject to estate tax. In Louise’s case, her living legacy gift of publicly-traded securities was also capital gains exempt.

Leave your conservation legacy

You don’t need deep pockets to make an impact. DUC offers, simple, flexible and effective choices for you to leave your legacy.

Your legacy options