By Scott Wierman


As I meet community members, I’m fascinated to discover what shapes their views on philanthropy. Members of our Legacy Society – those who’ve written the Community Foundation into their estate plans – are particularly interesting because of their long-term vision and focus on planning. David and Nancy Ames are members of that group, and I enjoyed learning what makes them tick.

Planning is a big part of David Ames’ persona. He’s a land planner by trade and a pilot by hobby, and both activities require extraordinary attention to detail and exacting preparation.

David and Nancy have been Hilton Head Island residents for almost half a century. Right out of graduate school, David joined Charles Fraser’s Sea Pines Company in 1973, where he focused on developing Hilton Head Plantation. Later, he went on to develop Long Cove Club. He served on the Community Foundation board from 1998 to 2003. And in 2016 he was elected to Town Council, where he represents Ward 3.

After 48 years here, the Ameses are grounded in the community. During this time, they’ve cultivated a reflective, yet forward-looking philosophy that shapes their views about the importance of volunteerism and philanthropy. Personally experiencing the evolution of the island – how it emerged from a series of blueprints to a destination bustling with tourists and an influx of new residents – strongly influences how they’re planning for the future.

History plays a role, too. “Before the island was developed, the Native Islanders had to be philanthropic in their own way,” David says. “It was community effort that allowed them to sustain themselves.” He believes this spirit of community and volunteerism permeated island newcomers. “When Charles Fraser started developing Hilton Head, there were no community service organizations; everything had to be created. So, by necessity, the ‘early people’ had to volunteer.” That sense of volunteerism was important to David and Nancy and they believe it continues to be one of Hilton Head’s core values.

Being part of something from the beginning forges a deeper connection and cultivates a personal investment. “If you’re part of something, you want it to survive,” David says. That’s why they’ve practiced philanthropy from the very beginning. And that’s why they’ve made the Community Foundation part of their estate plan.

“The Community Foundation is a pillar that needs to grow and continue to be part of the community going forward,” David says. “Government is never going to be able to respond to 100 percent of community needs. The Community Foundation and an endowment creates a safety net and we want that safety net to be a little bigger through our estate plan.”

“We feel such a deep connection to this community,” Nancy seconds. “We came here in our twenties so we’ve been here a long time. We’re deeply ingrained in it and we want this community to continue to prosper. Building the Community Foundation into our estate plan allows us to continue to invest in the community we love, even after we’re gone.”

For more information about our Legacy Society, give us a call at 843.681.9100 or visit our website at


Scott Wierman is president and CEO of the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry. For more information, visit