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Learn how fundholder Dick Senese turned his property into gifts for his favorite causes with a real estate donation to his donor advised fund.

Dick Senese

Dick Senese has always had a passion for giving. Dating back to his time as a young boy in rural Northern Minnesota, he knew he wanted to make a difference.

While giving has always been a part of his upbringing, it wasn’t until he worked on Senator Paul Wellstone's first campaign as a manager and finance director that he recognized the true value of a gift.

“One time we got an envelope that I opened with shaky handwriting on the outside. Inside was a really nice heartwarming note and a one dollar bill,” said Dick. “That became to me the most important donation we ever got. It's easy to think about big money donations, but people who are giving $5, $10 and doing it consistently, those people are examples of impactful giving through their desire to improve their community.”

Like these donors, Dick wanted to find a way to impact his community. It just so happened that his relationship with the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation coincided with a great new opportunity for him to give.

“I've been on the development committee of the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation for a while, so I've gotten to know more about the Foundation’s mission and its innovative approach to philanthropy,” Dick said. “I knew the Foundation was just beginning its non-cash assets donation program in a robust way, and so the stars aligned when I decided to donate my house.”

With the help of Associate Vice President of Philanthropic Services Mai-Anh Tran and his Philanthropic Advisor Katie Hae Leo, Dick was able to donate his home to the Foundation. After we liquidated the home tax-free, the proceeds from the sale were then placed in his donor advised fund (DAF) for him to make big gifts to some of his favorite causes, such as human rights.

“Human rights to me includes education, the ability to have sovereignty over your own body, making a living to raise a family and to not be hungry,” said Dick. “I made some inaugural contributions through the DAF to the Center for Victims of Torture, Planned Parenthood, and to an organization that is on the ground, working to turn out voters.”

Benefits of Partnering with the Foundation

Dick worked closely with Mai-Anh to transfer his property, while Katie showed him additional ways to grow his DAF and his giving.

“I think I was in touch with Mai-Ann and other staff at the Foundation on a near-daily basis for a while,” Dick said. “Even if it was complicated, together we were going to figure it out and make it happen. Subsequently Katie has been great in helping me understand how the DAF works, in addition to DonorView (the Foundation’s online portal for managing donor advised funds), but more importantly, helped me research organizations and list other organizations to support. It's not just a transactional relationship.”

Donating his home ended up being a cost effective way for Dick to give back, creating a strong platform for giving that will extend long past his lifetime.

It also helped strengthen his relationship with the Foundation as a donor.

“The Foundation is going to work both front stage and backstage to make some innovative structural changes; reducing oppression, improving social and economic equity and justice and let the people closest to the issues from the communities most affected make the decisions,” said Dick.

In his new role on the Foundation board of directors, Dick plans to continue talking about the value of having a donor advised fund as well as connecting the Foundation to LGBTQ+ networks, rural leadership and how to better understand the culture of individuals from Greater Minnesota.

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