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Framing a Philanthropic Vision

When visiting a state or national park, it’s hard not to feel a sense of awe at the raw beauty of the natural world. After a time, gratitude starts to take root. Gratitude that those who came before us sought to preserve what they found for the benefit of the planet and for future generations. Scott and Marilyn Korsten, through their work and philanthropy, are brilliant examples of those we have to thank for all the wonders that remain available to us.


Hailing from southern Minnesota, Scott and Marilyn both moved to Sioux Falls for work and school, respectively. It wasn’t meant to be permanent, but our community has a way of making it easy to stay. “It’s a great place to call home,” Scott said. “We get to be a part of a city where people really do support the community philanthropically.”

Sioux Falls is also a great place to start a business. Scott was a founding partner in Showplace Cabinetry and for more than two decades, he helped lead Showplace in becoming one of the most well-respected cabinetmakers in the nation.

Marilyn is a student at heart. Earning a master’s degree was only the beginning, as her thirst for knowledge and understanding drives her to pursue learning opportunities to this day. Her entrepreneurial spirit carried her career across multiple industries, and she never lost the spark of learning that was instilled in her as a child.

"Autumn Daybreak at Schwabacher Landing" by Scott Korsten Photography


“We’re trying to figure out how to use that term, retiring,” Marilyn said, describing the couple’s encore career. They now run two small businesses together: SamCreative, which leverages the couple’s expertise in business and marketing; and Scott Korsten Photography, which is how they express their shared love for creating images.

Scott and Marilyn find a serene joy in practicing photography as they travel, and they make an impressive team in the process. Scott handles the technical aspects of composition and exposure – staring down the barrel of the camera to capture the right shot – while Marilyn scans the horizon and directs Scott’s gaze to points of interest, later bringing the images to their fullest potential in post-production.

Eager to deepen their knowledge, the Korstens have embarked on a year-long journey to each obtain a Master of Fine Arts in photography. The duo is invigorated at the opportunity to hone their skills in a fine art context and challenge themselves to create with a new perspective. “Our second act is pretty darn exciting,” Marilyn said.

With a plan to see every one of the United States’ national parks, the Korstens are constantly on the move. The experiences they share through travel and the parts of the world they have been fortunate enough to see have deeply affected them. By visiting and enjoying so much of the natural world, Scott and Marilyn have discovered a passion for preserving it. “We want to do our part in making sure that we keep as much of our wild spaces as we can,” Marilyn said. “We are guests in their backyard.”

It’s a natural fit, then, that their photography focuses on landscapes and wildlife. Through their images, the couple hopes they can inspire others to follow their lead: “We try to create images that cause people to care,” Scott said.

Scott and Marilyn Korsten


For Scott and Marilyn, giving back has always been a guiding principle, and as their photography journey has unfolded, so too has their charitable focus. While that focus may seem clear in hindsight, a discovery process helped unveil their passions, discover new possibilities and ultimately bring their vision to life.

Like so many donors, the initial stages of their charitable planning could sometimes feel overwhelming. Given the vast array of charitable organizations, donors often find themselves inundated with options. However, as Scott and Marilyn connected with the Community Foundation, they were able to embark on a voyage of discovery, and ultimately create a tailored giving plan that reflects their core values.

“At the Foundation, we’re honored to play a role in helping guide donors on a discovery process,” said Mary Kolsrud, Vice President for Philanthropy. “We’re committed to walking with donors every step of the way, offering expertise and support to help transform ideas into impactful plans that leave a lasting legacy of care.”

As the Korstens were contemplating their legacy plans – planning today for how they wish to give after their lifetimes – they embraced the uncertainty of the future. They acknowledged they might not foresee what exciting possibilities may be around the corner, or what new obstacles the world might face. This wisdom allowed them to chart a clear course for their plan towards preserving the natural environment, while also maintaining flexibility to address evolving needs and emerging opportunities.

“The Foundation was able to take our scattered dreams and put them into something actionable.”

Marilyn Korsten

Just as photography is a medium for their storytelling today, they seamlessly threaded this narrative throughout their legacy plans, aiming to inspire future generations to see the world through a different lens and spark greater change. “The beautiful part of the experience for me,” Scott said, “was seeing how the Foundation was able to take our thoughts and distill them down into something that made sense.”

The Korstens also rely on the Foundation as a partner for their current giving, utilizing a donor advised fund to streamline their efforts. The Foundation facilitated the conversion of closely held business shares for their donor advised fund, providing them with the convenience and flexibility to pursue their charitable initiatives. “Having this bucket of funds that we could use made it easy to say ‘yes,’” Marilyn said. “We have something set aside that lets us think a little more broadly. That, for me, was life changing.”

Without a partner like the Foundation, Marilyn says, this rich philanthropic plan likely would not have come to fruition. It isn’t always easy to define your passions or to clarify what your legacy should be, but with experienced collaborators at your side, the endless possibilities of philanthropy can come into focus. “They worked with us throughout the whole process and helped us define the mark we want to leave on the world,” Marilyn said. “The Foundation was able to take our scattered dreams and put them into something actionable.”

“Working with Scott and Marilyn has been a pleasure,” said Kolsrud. “Their remarkable generosity knows no bounds, and we are honored to have walked alongside them as they explored their passions and crafted a plan to ignite meaningful change and spark inspiration for generations to come.”

Scott and Marilyn Korsten, like so many that have come before, are stalwart defenders of the natural world. Thanks not only to their generosity, but to the very way they live their lives, places like our nation’s national parks have hope to continue thriving for many years to come. “We need to think about our natural resources – they are not infinite,” Marilyn said. “Our dollars aren’t enough, but maybe our stories are enough.”

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