November 14 is National Philanthropy Day, and this year, the Balboa Park Conservancy has a very special reason to celebrate. The Conservancy’s Board of Trustees Vice Chair Connie Matsui was named Outstanding Organizational Volunteer by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), San Diego Chapter. AFP will be hosting the 45th annual National Philanthropy Day event on November 14 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds to honor Connie and other philanthropists for their significant contributions to the San Diego region.

Connie is one of the Conservancy’s founding board members, serving as Vice Chair, a member of the Executive Committee, and Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee. In these roles, she provided indispensable leadership during the Conservancy’s merger with Balboa Park Central, a two-year process. The merger was so adeptly managed that the Conservancy Board of Trustees was awarded the 2017 University of San Diego Kaleidoscope Award for Excellence in Governance.

As Strategic Planning Chair, Connie co-organized and co-led several intensive board-staff retreats to clarify mission, vision, and key initiatives. Her committee has subsequently worked on refining institutional identity and direction and setting annual action plans. Connie understood that the Conservancy’s ultimate institutional strength is based on collaboration and partnership, an approach characteristic of all her volunteer leadership roles. Accordingly, she has co-led strategies to engage in deep listening, which included a series of facilitated conversations with park stakeholders that laid the groundwork for positive, collaborative relationships with diverse groups.

Connie’s strong commitment to community engagement has been a key element in the Conservancy’s development of successful partnerships with the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership and multiple departments within the City of San Diego, the Conservancy’s primary public partner. Achieving strategic alignment and collaboration with these partners requires patience, resilience, tolerance, and empathy, in addition to strong strategic planning and leadership skills, all of which Connie possesses in abundance.

Driving Connie’s organizational leadership in both the private and nonprofit sectors is a knack for innovation. She applies what she calls conscious leadership “to solutions that lend themselves to transformational change.”

In her early banking career at Wells Fargo, she instituted innovative work/family programs, resulting in Wells Fargo being named one of the 100 best companies for working women by Working Mothers magazine in 1990 and 1991. At IDEC Pharmaceuticals, Connie served as Collaboration Chair, in partnership with Genentech and Roche, for the development, approval, and commercialization of Rituxan®, which became the world’s largest selling cancer therapy.

As a Stanford alumna (BA and MBA), she, along with her husband, partnered with the Stanford Business School to create the Beacon Life Transitions program for alumni to apply positive psychology and design-thinking principles to identify paths leading to greater fulfillment. At the San Diego Foundation, where she is immediate past president of the Board of Governors, Connie helped lead the development of the Fund for the Future, an endowment to build unrestricted funds for the foundation’s future needs, including funding for entrepreneurship and innovation.

In addition to her work with the Conservancy and San Diego Foundation, Connie continues to foster innovation, transformation, entrepreneurship, and community advancement by serving on the boards of Halozyme Therapeutics Inc., San Diego Grantmakers, World Foundation for Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, and World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.

Connie Matsui is an exceptional leader because she is a consummate learner. Equally important are the personal leadership qualities she embodies. Turning early discrimination experiences, adversity, and personal challenges into a leadership journey, Connie has always been guided by her core values: Humility, Empathy, Trust, Resilience, and Optimism. She is an indefatigable leader whose deep commitments, passion, and inimitable humility have earned her unending admiration.

We are proud of Connie and extremely grateful for her many contributions to Balboa Park and the city we all love.

Photo courtesy of the Rancho Santa Fe Review.