As a businesswoman and philanthropist, Renee Parsons adds tremendous value to Arizona’s underserved communities (and beyond) in partnership with her husband, Bob Parsons, through the Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation.
Undoubtedly a successful humanitarian, Parsons is also unequivocally Arizona’s most philanthropic G.I.R.L – especially in the eyes of the Girl Scouts Arizona Cactus-Pine Council (GSACPC), from whom the acronym originates. In the summer of 2017, the Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation issued a $1.6 million matching challenge to the GSACPC in an effort to help complete its $18 million Campaign for Girls in Arizona. So what drives Parsons to be such a significant contributor to Arizona’s altruistic environment and beyond?
Let’s hear it for the G.I.R.L.
In the world of the Girl Scouts of America, being a girl is honorable, special and worthy of notice, being a G.I.R.L, however, means you are a Go getter, Innovator, Risk taker and Leader.
“Mrs. Parsons represents all these qualities,” says Jessica Lyon, senior manager of the Campaign for Girls for the GSACPC. “Her involvement means so much to us and the fact that we’ve raised what we have in our community is a huge testament to that.”
It’s clear why the GSACPC would want to covet a relationship with a female community leader with respected business acumen and philanthropic ties, but what was it that drew Parsons and the foundation for which she co-founded with her husband to their local Girl Scouts?
“The impact that the Girl Scouts have in providing a forum where local girls can participate in leadership and life skills motivates me and makes me feel rewarded,” Parsons says. “There is a need in the community for skilled professionals and leaders and this is the perfect platform for young women to learn what they need to go into — business, politics, medicine — and it’s providing confidence.”
Parsons was on hand to commemorate the opening of The Bob & Renee Parsons Leadership Center for Girls & Women at Camp South Mountain, imparting a personal message to Girl Scouts. If you listen closely, however, there are portions in her dedication letter that provide insight into her vision and application as a philanthropist.
“As we celebrate this exciting and momentous occasion, I can’t help but to think about the generations who have come before us to build this amazing organization: the Girl Scouts. In doing so, they have laid the groundwork for this facility and for the girls of the future who will walk through these doors for years to come.”
Beyond the Girl Scouts of America, the Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation has been involved with numerous other community-based organizations, including (but not limited to) Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona, UMOM, the Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS, Make-A-Wish Foundation of Arizona and a host of others whose focus centers on marginalized and disenfranchised populations.
Nationally and internationally, the Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation has made not one, but two trips to Haiti and has joined in relief for the area devastated by the recent hurricanes. With so many projects, many may wonder what factors determine the Parsons’ and their foundation’s giving decisions.
“We focus on the less glamorous, underserved populations,” Parsons says. “Mainly three groups of people: critically wounded veterans, families living in poverty and needs within the LGBTQ community.”
The groundwork that Parsons referred to in her letter to the Girl Scouts relating to building a future can be witnessed in many of the lasting relationships between the organizations the Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation has worked with and continues to work with.
“We provided a $2.5 million grant to help the Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona expand their space and resources,” Parsons says. “They are doing so many good things in empower homeless and foster care children to use art in a therapeutic way and it’s been an honor to see how truly transformative this gift has been and continues to be.”
Proliferating a pledge
While continuing to witness the transformative impact the Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation has helped to yield, Parsons, alongside her husband signed “The Giving Pledge ” in December 2013 – the first Arizona philanthropists to join the pledge, a commitment by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to giving back. And while the general assumption of The Giving Pledge designates a specific dollar amount for charitable allocation, Parsons explains that rather than centering on monetary figures, the pledge’s true value is to inspire others to give and contribute to their community.
“We remain dynamic in our giving,” Parsons explains, “We don’t’ have a five-year plan. It’s our goal to keep making an impact within our community. We seek to leave a lasting impact and legacy of transformative gifts to people who need a leg up or extra push to make a difference.”
And as she sets her sights on future philanthropic endeavors and continues to watch the progress that endures from past giving, Parsons reflects on those lives she’s helped transform. One of those lives she’s impacted is Tiffany, a Make-A-Wish recipient who Parsons first met while still in high school.
Perhaps even more challenging than pinpointing the most personally impactful recipient the foundation she co-leads, is trying to zero in on the most memorable individual.
“There are so many great kids and people, it’s very hard to pick just one,” Parsons says.