Walking through the hallways one fall afternoon at the University of Chicago, Donna Marie Robinson was not actively seeking out philanthropy.
In fact, it was the beginning of her senior year and she was likely planning to join her friends the following semester for a relaxing, fun week at the beach during their last spring break together. What she didn’t know at the time was that one serendipitous moment was about to shape the course of her life forever.
As she strolled across campus, she noticed a flyer hanging on one of the bulletin boards outside a classroom. The advertisement was for a service program opportunity for students to help underserved communities in the Appalachia region.
Despite not knowing anyone else participating, she decided on a whim to sign up and spend her senior year spring break fixing up houses and helping families who needed extra support.
“I didn’t know what to expect at first, but I felt called to sign up when I saw that flyer,” shared Donna Marie Robinson, Board Member and donor at The San Diego Foundation. “There was something appealing about spending a week with a disparate group of people who had a common goal of making a difference.”
During that trip along the West Virginia and Kentucky border, Donna Marie painted homes and cleaned up communities while building relationships with the families she was helping. That direct interaction showed her just how important and impactful philanthropy was.
Since then, Donna Marie has always made time to give back.
Leaving Her Legacy
Upon graduating, Donna Marie set out to deepen her philanthropy and make a difference wherever she could.
Even at a time when women weren’t allowed into certain social groups, she sought out young professionals’ clubs that prioritized community service.
She spent her free time building homes with Habitat for Humanity, delivering food to seniors through Meals on Wheels, and lifting the spirits of terminally-ill children at a local Children’s Hospital. And the list goes on.
“The human to human interaction is really what makes philanthropy so impactful and rewarding for me,” shared Donna Marie. “You never know whose life you are going to touch by giving back. Whether it was through the families I met in Appalachia, or in the faces and smiles of the children or seniors I was able to connect with, I saw firsthand how important this work was.”
At every stage of her career and life, Donna Marie has been involved in the community.
What first started as a single experience over spring break has now evolved into a legacy of giving and impact that benefits San Diegans.
“At first, it was just giving my time and talent,” explained Donna Marie. “Over time, I have been able to do more financially and support the organizations that I know are making the most impact.”
Today, Donna Marie is a very active community leader in San Diego, giving her time, talent, treasure and testimony wherever she can.
She advocates for health education as a member of the Executive Leadership Team for the American Heart Association in San Diego. Donna Marie helps students pursue their academic dreams as a Scholarship Committee Member at The San Diego Foundation. And through her donor-advised fund, she invests in impactful programs throughout the region that help improve the lives of families just like those she helped in Appalachia.
“Philanthropy is part of who I am,” explained Donna Marie. “My life is richer because I am able to give back to others and make a difference in the community.”
Donna Marie is the perfect example of how generous the San Diego region is. As she summarized, “We succeed as a society when everybody succeeds individually, and I feel blessed to have the opportunity to work with so many likeminded leaders across the region who help strengthen our communities through philanthropy.”
Join Donna Marie and leave your legacy in the community today by opening a donor-advised fund.