From the Board President

Margaret Holben Ellis, AIC Board President

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By the time this newsletter appears, many readers will have received our reliable annual solicitation letter signed by Peter Trippi, President of the Foundation for Advancement in Conservation (FAIC), and me stressing the transformative and positive impact of FAIC through its continuing education offerings, scholarships, emergency services, and a wide array of online resources for the preservation and conservation community.

At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic continues with sobering news arriving daily of furloughs, cutbacks, lay-offs, and early retirements striking our conservation community. Some of these developments occur overnight; others hover ominously on the horizon. Some are involuntary; others “encouraged.” The good news is that many institutions have recognized that CONSERVATORS ARE ESSENTIAL WORKERS—but not enough.

I, and many of my generational colleagues, have accepted an “invitation” to take early retirement for the better good of an organization. The justification is solid and worthwhile. In my case, NYU realizes immediate salary savings for a senior professor and, after a hiring freeze is lifted, room to hire a less-expensive, junior, and (admittedly) fresher faculty member. For me, the offer was unexpected, as was the required turn-around for a rapid decision.

What is clear is that, with few exceptions, every one of us has new and expanded financial responsibilities with no clear end in sight. In the context of such life-shifting events, why should conservators support the FAIC through their contributions?

In the face of no monthly checks in 2021, my list of causes to support has been honed to those I know the best in terms of organizational integrity and those whose values I believe in most. New, appealing, and (no doubt) valid causes vie for my attention every day and are subjected to the same criteria. FAIC makes the cut for my annual giving and I encourage readers to check out the reasons why at

Naturally, members will wonder how we are doing in 2020 gifts compared to recent years. Comparing donations from one year to another is difficult, as the official Treasurer’s reports encompass all donations (regardless of source), while development records typically only include individual gifts (as opposed to corporate or AIC Specialty Group designated contributions). Donor software, adopted late in 2018, will provide more directly comparable statistics going forward.

As of June 30, 2020, annual contributions remain steady, which is heartening given our uncertain times. What is particularly telling about the character of our members are the results of a few “extraordinary” campaigns, including the 2016 “$29 for Walter’s 29 Years,” the 2018 campaign to increase the George Stout Memorial Fund, the 2020 drive to enhance our CoOL server, and the member-driven move to underwrite student registrations which spontaneously emerged during our annual business meeting on May 22, 2020. These campaigns were marked by intense member engagement, high participation rates, and rapid response times – all indicators of an involved and caring membership.

Although I have confidence in my hasty retirement plan, I also find reassurance in my decision to create a legacy for conservation by remembering FAIC in my will. By leaving a bequest to FAIC, I can continue to be an ESSENTIAL WORKER for conservation.

You can name FAIC as the beneficiary through bequests, retirement funds, insurance policies, and end of life income gifts such as charitable remainder trusts and charitable remainder annuity trusts. Including FAIC in your estate planning is a great way to have a lasting impact on our work and leave behind a legacy of support for the conservation profession. Some planned gifts allow you to enjoy tax and income benefits during your lifetime while making a significant commitment to the Foundation.

It’s difficult to predict what will happen tomorrow, much less in 2021. By directly helping members, FAIC will work to ensure that CONSERVATORS ARE ESSENTIAL WORKERS now and in the future.

Please call 202.661.8060 for help with estate planning options and language, or send in a Planned Giving form available at

Margaret Holben Ellis, AIC Board President,

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