Josie Stewart – Gift Planning Manager at the Denver Zoo

Josie Stewart might be one of the only fundraising professionals to embark on a planned giving career straight out of college. A native of Kentucky, she had a workstudy job in the development office at Rollins College in Florida.  She knew she was interested in nonprofit work, and exposure to the development side helped solidify a path into fundraising. As an environmental science major, she was drawn to a job after graduation with Defenders of Wildlife in Washington D.C., and it happened to be doing planned giving work.  That was in 1999 and she hasn’t stopped protecting animals since.

After spending several years in D.C. with her husband, they decided to move to Colorado to be closer to his family and undertake starting one of their own.  She found a position at the Denver Zoo and moved here in 2006 to take over the planned giving program which had been started nearly a decade earlier.  Josie says her favorite part about planned giving is getting to work with people with the same passion to make a difference.  Her donors choose to help animals instead of spending their money solely on themselves.

Having spent over a decade at the Denver Zoo as their Planned Giving Manager, Josie was hard-pressed to name a favorite animal, but conceded that if forced to choose, it would probably be the elephants.  “They are magical,” she says, “I love their social structure, their size, their grace and beauty.”

Upon moving to Colorado in 2006, Josie joined CPGR but was worried she wouldn’t find the resources she had available back in D.C.  Instead, she says “I went to my first luncheon and was blown away.” She also found her first Summer Symposium “as good or better than what we had in D.C.”.  She started serving on volunteer committees and joined the board within 6 months, serving as board chair in 2011.  She has also served extensively on the Symposium Committee, and has attended every Symposium since 2006. Josie says she truly values the connections she has built through CPGR.  She especially appreciates the expert advice she gets from Gordon Smith when she has real estate questions or Phil Keenan with legal questions, among many others.

She and her family are avid Colorado lifestyle participants, with frequent hiking and camping trips. She says they do something outdoors every weekend.  Her husband in fact is in the outdoor gear business, and her two young boys keep her busy (outside zoo hours) with sports and other activities. A trip to the Sand Dunes was scheduled shortly after this interview.

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