"I grew up in Houston. Most of what I know about the outdoors came from the pages of Outdoor Life," said Ralph Fisher III. "I didn't have anyone to teach me so for years, so I went out on my own. But once I was old enough to drive, it was, 'Katy, bar the doors!' - I was afield all the time."

When Ralph met his wife, Barbara, she was a more serious hunter than he was. To this day, Barbara remains his favorite hunting partner. "Nothing better than spending time with someone I love," he said.

Ralph and Barbara are Diamond Sponsors in Perpetuity and Diamond Feather Society members. Many of the more than 10,000 major donors who support Ducks Unlimited have strong ties to one or more of the 3,500 DU committees across the country. Around 10 percent, like the Fishers, do not. They have helped with a few DU events over the years in their home state of Missouri, as well as in Louisiana, but they say they've never really been "joiners." "We have never been on a DU committee, but we so admire those who are," Ralph said.

One great example is Ralph and Barbara's good friend David LeBato of the West Lake Chapter in Lake Charles, Louisiana. "We have known David for many years, and he is such a wonderful representative for the organization and works so hard," Ralph said. "It's an inspiration."

Friends like David have led Ralph and Barbara to consider their philanthropy and how best to fulfill Ducks Unlimited's conservation mission. They have worked hard to get where they are today, and they've chosen to use what they've created to benefit waterfowl by directing their estate gifts to DU's Endowment Challenge.

During DU's 75th Anniversary National Convention, three generous philanthropists committed a total of $75 million to DU's permanent endowment and challenged other supporters to contribute an additional $75 million. To date, more than 22 people - including the Fishers - have pledged nearly $20 million toward this goal.

This endowment will ensure long-term stability for conservation programs by helping DU weather economic swings that can cause real problems for project delivery. Initial gifts remain intact while funds generated from them are used to complete vital conservation work on the ground. Building the endowment allows DU's most passionate supporters to ensure the sustainability of DU well into the future.

"We are doing this because we want others to believe in what DU does. Wild things in wild places - that is what we want to provide for," Ralph explained. "We travel extensively and we enjoy visiting art galleries, museums, and shops. We have enjoyed many beautiful paintings of nature, though they still can't compare to the real thing. Never have we seen anything more beautiful than a flock of ducks setting their wings; the universe is perfect when that happens."

Through their gifts to DU's Endowment Challenge, Ralph and Barbara are ensuring that this spectacle can be seen for generations to come.

The Fishers' story was featured in the 2013 Ducks Unlimited Annual Report. For more information on becoming a DU Major Sponsor or contributing to DU's Endowment Challenge, please visit our Leadership Giving homepage or contact Senior Manager of Development Operations Anita Tyler at (901) 758-3871 or atyler@ducks.org.