Victoria Collins' Story

How Will Your Story be Told?

In this stage of my life, I think about the values, hopes, and dreams I most want to leave our children and grandchildren. How will my story be told and what will my legacy be?

It’s clear to me that legacy is not about wealth but about your actions—how they will define you, and how they will impact others. A legacy is something bigger than who you are today. It is more than what you did this week, this month, or even this year. A legacy is something you are creating right now, whether you realize it or not.

This open letter to my eight grandchildren might be a good start:

“You’ve given me such joy as I’ve watched you grow from infants to toddlers to the young men and women you are now in college. The changes you’ve seen in your lifetime have happened at warp speed compared to those I saw when I was your age. It’s hard for you to imagine that I was alive before computers, before iPhones, before Twitter, Facebook, and Google.

My parents were good role models for me, as yours were for you, about the whole idea of philanthropy. I remember the little cardboard boxes that we brought home from school to collect coins for needy families. When there was an opportunity to help others less fortunate we did so as a family; it brought us together with feelings of gratefulness and purpose. We had a sense of responsibility and respect. We treated others with dignity and were grateful for the blessings we had.

If I could give you two pieces of advice on philanthropy it would be to first be an engaged board or committee member. Writing a check is good, but sharing ideas, connections, and enthusiasm along with financial resources is even better; and second, while the heart is important, use your mind and business skills as well in choosing non-profits to support. Do they produce measurable positive outcomes that can be documented?

There will be a variety of worthy causes that call to you, and what you want to support will also change over time. Over the years, I’ve supported many organizations, but they seem to have a common thread of empowering women and children with financial knowledge.

Being involved with starting a microenterprise development fund for women, I learned that for the amount of money a good dinner cost in Newport Beach, I could help a woman buy a sewing machine to start her own business and support her family in Africa.

Being involved with the American Heart Association, I learned the value of raising awareness for women and supporting research about women’s heart health.

Starting the Invest in yourself Conference, which later became WISE, I learned that when women have the knowledge and confidence about their finances, nothing can stop them.

Being on the Board of Human Options, I learned that it takes a team of wonderful, dedicated people to break the cycle of domestic violence and provide a place to heal and move forward.

Being on the Board of United Way, I’ve learned that setting priorities and measurable goals are critical for addressing issues like homelessness in our community.

From each of the organizations I’ve supported, I’ve learned more than I imagined and gained more than I’ve given. That will be true for you too.”