Inheriting Your Great-Great Grandparents’ Investment In Your Future

Early in April you may have seen that Yellowstone National Park is celebrating its 150th Anniversary by offering an Inheritance Pass for $1500 with the catch that it can’t be used for another 150 years.

Well, actually while the pass isn’t usable until 2172, purchasers get a complimentary annual pass good for a year after the first use.  I am calling attention to this not to suggest this as a possible program, (I mean right now how many of us can guarantee access to our programming in 10 years much less 150), but rather to point out that there is often at least a small niche interest in bespoke arrangements. In this case, the target is families committed to conservation.  It can be worthwhile to be flexible about exploring those opportunities.

Their hope is that the Inheritance Pass—a campaign created by advertising agency Havas Chicago— could create an important legacy among families that are committed to conservation.

Those who choose to invest in the Inheritance Pass will receive it as soon as August of this year. It will feature the name of the donor on the back. Yellowstone Forever says that the money it raises through the campaign will go toward supporting scientific studies, trail maintenance, and wildlife conservation, among other projects.

I tried to find out how many people might have taken advantage of this program in the few weeks it has been available but couldn’t find any information. 

Quite honestly, even though they promise to keep track of the ownership of the passes, I think purchasers have to acknowledge buying the pass is tantamount to making a straight donation to the park. Will there even be websites and email addresses by which to contact Yellowstone Forever to retrieve a lost pass in 150 years?

In terms of my earlier reference to donor programs with niche appeal, the pass one receives is a physical token to accompany the concept of investing in the park to benefit future generations. It would be great if families actually retained the pass across five generations (based on a generation being about 30 years), and presented it for redemption. But the pass is just an appealing prop in a conservation donation campaign.

I would be interested in knowing how they calculate the tax deductible portion of the pass. Do they use $1500 less the current cost of an annual pass to figure out the received benefit value vs. the donated portion? Or will it be the cost of the pass in 150 years which may exceed $1500?

(Actually, given that the person making the donation will receive no benefit, I would assume the whole amount is deductible if they refuse the complimentary annual pass available in 2022.)

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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