Transformational Philanthropy: The Power of Planned Giving

No one knows exactly what motivated Maggy Ryan to leave $1.9 million to the Museum of New Mexico Foundation. But when she died in 1994, her unrestricted charitable trust was the largest planned gift in the Foundation’s history, increasing its endowment by 61 percent.

Ryan spent childhood summers in New Mexico and moved to Santa Fe later in life. A talented fiber artist, she previously served on the board of the El Paso Museum of Art, where she started the children’s art program. Upon Ryan’s death, her sister, Mary Lou Cook, told the Santa Fe New Mexican the gift to the museum system was “the one thing she wanted to do.”

Jerry Richardson, a Foundation trustee since 1992, says getting such a large windfall presented “an opportunity to do something that we wouldn’t ever be able to do otherwise, so we started the Maggy Ryan Legacy Society [in 1997] in her honor. We didn’t have a formal legacy society at that point, and we wanted to incentivize planned giving at this level.”

The Foundation used Ryan’s funds to establish $100,000 endowments for each of the four museums in the Museum of New Mexico system, as well as to support the Amy Rose Bloch Wing at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture; the New Mexico History Museum’s Fray Angélico Chávez History Library and Palace of the Governors Photo Archives; and the Neutrogena Wing at the Museum of International Folk Art. The Ryan gift also helped fund the original Here, Now and Always exhibition at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture.

Today it's known simply as the Legacy Society. Members receive special benefits as well as the knowledge that their future gifts help perpetuate the 13 divisions in the Museum of New Mexico system for generations to come. Planned gifts can take a variety of forms, including bequests of cash, stock, real estate and other assets; charitable gift annuities; beneficiary designation on a retirement or life insurance plan; and art collections. All provide crucial funds for capital projects, collections management, research and special exhibitions, as well as the ongoing work of the Foundation. And, in the best cases, as Ryan's and other planned gifts have shown, these can prove transformational.

Endowments Forever

When Lloyd Cotsen, the former CEO and president of the Neutrogena Corporation, gave his collection of more than 3,000 objects to the Museum of International Folk Art in 1995, the donation necessitated the addition of approximately 9,000 square feet of exhibition and storage space. The capital project was supported by an allocation from the state, while exhibition and programming costs were contributed by private funding sources via the Museum of New Mexico Foundation. The Neutrogena Wing and its inaugural exhibition, The Extraordinary in the Ordinary, opened in 1998.

“Lloyd selected objects because they pleased him, and he had a rather discerning eye,” says Charlene Cerny, director of the Museum of International Folk Art from 1983 to 1999. Cotsen also relied on the curatorial skills of international textile expert Mary Hunt Kahlenberg, who lived in Santa Fe and often consulted for the museum. “He trusted Mary to give his collection to a museum where he didn’t live. He knew she would look after it.”

Cerny recalls many meetings in Santa Fe and Los Angeles, at Neutrogena headquarters, and months of negotiations about how the collection would be showcased. Today, Cotsen’s treasures—including global textiles and folk art works in clay, wood, metal, straw, paper and more—attract visitors and scholars with their eclecticism in museum exhibitions and Lloyd’s Treasure Chest, the museum’s unique open storage gallery.

Although many collectors want to leave their beloved objects to a museum, not every collector is aware of the maintenance costs. Cotsen’s legacy gift provided such foresight in a practical way.

“Lloyd understood, so his gift came with two endowment funds,” says Cerny. “One funded curatorial and staff salaries and the other allowed for acquisition. He knew that if you give a million dollars for an exhibition that you’re passionate about, the exhibit goes up and is gone. That exhibit can change lives—I’m not minimizing that—but if you create an endowment fund, it keeps giving forever.”

The power of endowments also has everyday relevance at the Office of Archaeological Studies’ Center for New Mexico Archaeology, where about $40,000 in annual interest from the Dr. Don E. Pierce Endowment supports several research laboratories. Pierce, a former pathologist known for his acerbic wit and flashy sense of style, retired in Santa Fe, where he was a Foundation member for 20 years, a Friends of Archaeology member and a research lab volunteer. Before Pierce died in 2013, he designated a planned gift, providing a portion of his estimated $1.7 million estate to an endowment fund and a capital fund shared by OAS and the Conservation Department of the Museum Resources Division.

“Without Pierce, our labs would not exist at the capacity that they do,” says Shelby Jones, OAS laboratory supervisor. Among the labs the gift supports are the Osteology Laboratory, which houses the radiography studio and a bioarchaeology database of human remains in New Mexico, and the Archaeomagnetic Dating Laboratory, where Jones spends the majority of her time. More specifically, the endowment pays for research time, and the capital fund is tapped for equipment purchase and repair.

“We preserve, protect and manage the legacy of archaeomagnetism in the United States, which is the study of Earth’s ancient magnetic fields—and the subject of my doctoral thesis,” Jones explains. “We’re the repository for the entire archaeomagnetic legacy of the nation, 51,000 specimens collected since 1964.”

Unrestricted Support

Stock market analyst Robert J. Nurock was known as the “Chief Elf” on Wall Street, where he formed his own market movement theories, including the Technical Market Index, also known as the Elves Index.

Nurock joined the Museum of New Mexico Foundation in 1995 and became a trustee in 2001, sharing his deep skill set as chair of the Investment Committee until 2013. Before his death in 2017, he bequeathed the Foundation a substantial portion of his $1.4 million estate as an unrestricted legacy gift. He also left a valuable Hans Hoffman painting to the New Mexico Museum of Art.

“Bob was a kind and gentle soul,” says Jamie Clements, Foundation president and CEO. “His gift helped fund the build-out of the Foundation’s Shonnard Campus. And he provided ongoing financial support of the Foundation’s operations.”

When Nurock announced his planned gift in 2013, he emphasized the importance of supporting the Foundation’s work on behalf of the Museum of New Mexico. “While many estate gifts are designated to a particular museum,” Nurock said, “a bequest to the Foundation supports the longterm health and financial stability of the entire museum system.”

Another stalwart Foundation donor was Charmay Allred. Her cultural philanthropy was as large and legendary as her personality; known for her love of show tunes, you could often find her at a local piano bar on a Saturday night. In addition to being a long-time Foundation trustee, the noted philanthropist co-founded the International Folk Art Market, served on the boards of the Lensic Performing Arts Center, Institute for American Indian Arts Foundation, and Spanish Colonial Arts Society, and volunteered at the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian and Santa Fe Symphony.

“Charmay was profoundly dedicated to art and culture, and she was the consummate volunteer and philanthropist. She was also fiercely devoted to Santa Fe,” Clements says.

Allred’s countless contributions included legacy gifts of art to museums throughout the Museum of New Mexico system. When she died in 2020, she also left an unrestricted estate gift totaling $1.9 million to support Foundation operations.

“Charmay understood what it takes to support museums, so she left unrestricted funds to the Foundation so we, in turn, could support the vital work of our state museums,” says Clements. “Gifts like Charmay’s make it possible to bring even more time and talent to our efforts.”

Funding the Future

Foundation trustee John Duncan specializes in setting up private and corporate trusts for wealthy families. As chair of the Legacy Society since 2018, he also plays a key role inspiring cultural giving today that will fund the future. For those with significant giving capacity who are already members of the Foundation, Duncan says, “We should be talking to them about what they’re interested in supporting long-term, educating them on the needs of the museums and what a meaningful gift is.” Equally important is inspiring new planned gifts that connect to younger donors who haven’t found their philanthropic footing. “We have to broaden our ideas about who a donor might be," Duncan says, "it's important that we reach out to people from diverse backgrounds.”

Contact Laura Sullivan at or 505.216.0829 for more information about planned giving, or consult a qualified professional advisor. Please notify us about your gift so we can honor your intent and include you in our Legacy Society.


This article and image are from the Museum of New Mexico Foundation’s Member News 2023.