A conversation with Russ Shaw, Bicycle Colorado Board Member
We recently sat down with Russ Shaw, Bicycle Colorado Board Member and Philanthropic Specialist at Wells Fargo Bank, to talk about biking and why he supports Bicycle Colorado. Russ has been a supporter of Bicycle Colorado since shortly after moving to Colorado in the mid-90’s, both financially and as a regular volunteer, and he has Bicycle Colorado listed in his estate plans. We can’t thank him enough for his long-standing and continued support!
Bicycle Colorado: How long have you been riding bikes?
Russ Shaw: I’ve been riding a bike most of my life. I remember my very first bike ride, and it was not pretty. I was probably six or seven and lived in what was then a fairly small town in Texas. We had this old junker bicycle I inherited from my older sister—I’m not even sure it had brakes. We lived on a dead-end dirt road that went slightly downhill to our house. I walked the bike to the top of the hill and I rode it back down the hill—coasted is probably a better description. I couldn’t have been going fast at all, but it scared the heck out of me anyway. And since I didn’t crash, I was immediately hooked!
It wasn’t long after, maybe a year or so, that somehow my parents scraped together enough money to buy me a bike from the local hardware store. It was a black, five-speed “racing” bike with shifters on the down tube and hand brakes. It was a Huffy or something similar, but the brand didn’t matter—the independence did. Our family didn’t have much and that bike was probably the first new thing I had ever received from my folks. I was so proud! I put wire baskets on it for my school books and my newspaper routes. I ended up riding that bike to school all the way through junior high and into my freshman year of high school, when riding a bike became no longer cool. But I rode it everywhere, which was possible because it was a small town, and it was long before parents were anxious about their kids being out of sight all day.
BC: How did you end up in Colorado?
RS: I moved to Colorado in 1994 for a new job opportunity. I had dreamed of moving here constantly in the 20 years since my first backpacking trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. It was a happy day when I was offered a really interesting job opportunity that allowed me to relocate to Denver. Safe to say I’m never going back!
I’d been cycling in Texas quite a lot before coming to Colorado, riding with a couple of local groups and doing events in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. I also rode the Hotter N Hell Hundred regularly. Riding was the first recreational activity I did when I arrived—I even attempted Deer Creek my first month and knew immediately that I needed different gearing ASAP! But it was clear to me that Colorado is just the best place to ride.
BC: What work brought you to Colorado?
RS: I was recruited by what was then Peat Marwick (now KPMG LLP) to help start and grow the property tax section of the State and Local Tax group. I had been managing a similar function at the Southland Corporation, the parent company of 7-Eleven, in Dallas.
That last part may be the most relevant to this conversation. While I was with Southland, we began sponsoring the 7-Eleven Cycling Team. Yes, that team—‘84 Olympics, one of the first North American teams in Europe, you probably know the story. Sean Petty (another Bicycle Colorado board member) was the marketing manager for the team and he arranged for the cyclists to visit the HQ a few times. I got the chance to meet a bunch of the guys that were on those early teams … Ron Kiefel, Davis Phinney, Chris Carmichael, Bob Roll—you know, all of our local heroes, right? Plus Giro champ Andy Hampsten, and especially Alex Stieda when he brought his yellow jersey for permanent display in the Southland corporate office. I occasionally followed them to Colorado for the Coors Classic, my favorite stage stop being Vail which I recall had a crit and a time trial once. Awesome! It was an amazing time to be at 7-Eleven and definitely cemented my passion for cycling!
BC: How did you get involved with Bicycle Colorado?
RS: After several years at KPMG, I decided to change my career trajectory and made an intentional move to the philanthropic field. My first nonprofit job was as the COO of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Colorado Chapter, and we staged the MS 150 Bike Tour, now Bike MS. I had been Chair of the event’s logistical volunteers for several years by that point. While I was with NMSS, there was a move by the Colorado State Patrol to cap bike events at 2,500 cyclists. The MS 150 was the largest fundraiser for the Colorado chapter—and we had historically had as many as 4,000 cyclists participate in the bike tour. Having a cap of 2,500 in place would mean less fundraising revenue to support programs for local families living with MS, and less funding for critical world-wide research to end the disease.
Dan (Grunig, Bicycle Colorado’s former executive director) and I don’t remember whether he called me or I called him, but we both recall the conversation about fighting the cap. I knew this initiative would gut not only funding for NMSS efforts, it would be disastrous for several other charitable bike tours, too.
As Dan and I talked he said, “Yeah, we’re going to fight this, and I want to start an event membership so that events like the MS 150 can support our work.” The MS 150 quickly became the first Event Member of Bicycle Colorado, and continues to be one 15 years later. Led by BC, all of the relevant groups rallied together to advocate against the proposal, and the cap idea was scrapped!
I’d already been an individual member of Bicycle Colorado for several years. I’d joined not long after I moved here. I think I found Bicycle Colorado at a bike event and became a low-level member initially. I wasn’t especially active, but I learned a lot about cycling in Colorado through the newsletters. Being invited to join the board a few years ago was an unexpected honor.
BC: You’re a regular donor to Bicycle Colorado, and you’ve decided to give to Bicycle Colorado through your estate plans as well. Why did you decide to do that?
RS: I’m a philanthropic professional—that’s what I do every day, and one of my core competencies is in Gift and Estate Planning, often called Planned Giving. I finally got to a point in my life where I was thinking about my own planning. Where did I want my assets to go at the end of my life? What did I want my personal legacy to be? These are the same conversations I have with donors and clients almost daily, so I decided it was time to walk my own talk. In considering my legacy, I thought about the nonprofit organizations that have been most meaningful to me in my life. Bicycle Colorado was among the organizations on that fairly short list.
BC: How does your estate plan provide for Bicycle Colorado?
RS: All of my assets, other than home equity, are in a variety of financial vehicles—mostly retirement plans like IRAs, 401ks and annuities. Because these assets are held at financial institutions, the most efficient way for me to make the end of life distributions I prefer is through beneficiary designations. It was as simple as completing a beneficiary designation form provided by each institution. Through these beneficiary designations I made arrangements for several of the most significant organizations in my life, including Bicycle Colorado, to receive a percentage of my estate’s assets.
BC: What steps would you suggest to other members who want to include Bicycle Colorado, and other favorite organizations, in their estate plans?
RS: First, something I’ve learned in my philanthropic work is that despite the number of nonprofits asking for your support, the planned giving part is not necessarily competitive. Donors don’t typically have only one organization in their estate plans—it’s more like four or five. We see our job as to educate donors about gift planning options and help them identify the missions that are most meaningful to them. An “all boats rise with the tide” philosophy.
Second, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Yes, there are vehicles like charitable trusts, private foundations, donor advised funds and, in some cases, charitable gift annuities offered by larger nonprofits. These tools can be more complex and not for everyone. And then there is the beneficiary designation route I have chosen.
Realistically, most people can get by with making simple bequests through a will, and statistically that’s what more than 90% of people do. If you don’t have a will, you should—absolutely!
No matter which planning vehicle a donor chooses, my advice is always to allocate in terms of percentages. Financial markets change, life circumstances change. If you just make a list of family, friends and nonprofits that you wish to provide for in your estate planning, and you assign a specific dollar amount to each of those beneficiaries, your estate may run out of money before distributions can be made to the individuals or organizations you care about most. With percentages, there is always something for everyone on the list.
BC: You said you thought about organizations that have been good to you—can you tell me what Bicycle Colorado has done that’s been good to you?
RS: I ride several thousand miles a year, and I participate in a lot of events. Bicycle Colorado has made those events better. We got to ride through Blackhawk on Ride The Rockies a few years ago, right? That’s because Bicycle Colorado led the effort to overturn the ban that wouldn’t let cyclists ride through town. Three feet to pass. Rolling coal. The new Safety Stop law. Those are the successes that most of us see and benefit from.
What many members don’t see as easily is all the important work the Bicycle Colorado team does to promote safe cycling for kids, teaching adults how to ride bikes, working behind the scenes with local municipalities on transportation infrastructure efforts, and so much more. Bicycle Colorado is truly the voice of cyclists throughout our state.
Ultimately it comes down to the fact that Bicycle Colorado is a good investment. If bicycling is a passion of yours, and if you appreciate the successes Bicycle Colorado has achieved to make bicycling better in Colorado, this is a good place to invest your legacy, too.
Interested in investing your legacy in Bicycle Colorado?
Visit our Planned Giving page to learn more.
Bicycle Colorado and members of our board do not provide tax or investment advice.