Friday, November 25, 2016

Why She Gives: Connie Matsui Knows Firsthand What the Generosity of a Few Can Do to Change a Girl's Life

I was never a Girl Scout growing up, yet I’ve been a proud member of, volunteer for, and investor in the Movement for 32 years—since well before I even had a daughter of my own. Why this organization when there are so many youth organizations that I could devote myself to? Let me tell you my story and I think you’ll understand.

Being Japanese American, both of my parents were severely impacted by World War II. My father served in the armed forces, and my mother was sent to live in an internment camp. After the war, there was still a lot of prejudice around the Japanese American community, so there were very few educational or employment options for my parents. They eventually became domestic servants to a wealthy family living in the San Francisco Bay area.

Obviously my parents never had much money, but because we lived with the family my parents worked for, I was fortunate to be able to go to the good schools in the area and never took them for granted. Education was important to my parents, so they’d put away whatever they could each week to build a college fund for my sister and me. That money, along with financial help from my parents’ employers—who, I must add were also my godparents—and some significant scholarships eventually helped me attend Stanford University to get my undergraduate degree and an MBA.

If it hadn’t been for the financial generosity of my loved ones and my larger community, I would have never been able to get such a valuable education. Knowing that so many people had invested in me, in my future, made me determined to find ways to give back to my community after graduating. Banking—specifically focusing on building communities and helping small business owners and families—seemed like an obvious way to do that, since I’d seen firsthand how financial access can open doors.

This was banking in the 1970s, and there weren’t a lot of women in management at the time, let alone Asian Americans! So when I was approached to serve on the local Girl Scout council’s board, I was intrigued to say the least. Why would they want me—a then-single, working woman with no children who’d never been a Girl Scout in her life? And why would I want to be a part of their Movement?
Well, it turned out they were looking to diversify their board to bring a wider variety of voices and perspectives to the table. The women I met there were among the most collaborative and dedicated change makers I’d ever encountered. And the support I received from this network gave me more leadership and self-development training than I’d ever received in the corporate world. I was impressed by both the diversity I saw in Girl Scouts and the commitment of the board, staff, and volunteers to give more girls more opportunities. The investments of their time, thinking, resources, and financial donations were creating new leaders in our communities who had the confidence and courage to create change in big, important ways. I had been a board member at other organizations, but the sustained commitment, shared ownership, and strategic ripple-effect model at Girl Scouts were unlike anything I’d previously encountered. I signed on to be a lifetime member and have never looked back.

Since then, many things in my life have changed. I’ve built my own family, I’ve changed careers. But one thing has remained consistent, and that’s my admiration and passion for Girl Scouts. I served on Girl Scouts’ National Board and as National President, became a proud Girl Scout mom to my own daughter, and, of course, continued to invest in this incredible Movement year after year, currently, as a deputy chair of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. Girl Scouts both here and across the globe are doing not just life-changing work, they’re doing life-saving work. As first responders in times of disaster or innovators who develop smart answers to life’s major problems, Girl Scouts are always on the front lines.

I hope you’ll join me by making an investment in girls through Girl Scouts. I prefer to say “investor” instead of “donor,” because when you invest fully—with your time, your talent, and your treasure—you get something back. And with an investment in Girl Scouts we all get so much. Our communities are lifted up every day by the courageous work of current Girl Scouts or Girl Scout alumnae. Franklin Roosevelt once very wisely said, “We cannot always create the future for our youth, but we can build the youth for our future.” And with an investment in Girl Scouts, we’re doing just that.

Invest in Girl Scouts. Build a better world.