NCOA Gets $8M Gift From MacKenzie Scott
Ramsey Alwin

One of the few known gifts in the latest round of giving by author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott was an $8-million gift to the National Council on Aging (NCOA). It’s the largest unrestricted gift in the 72-year history of the organization.

Funds will support work to address “systemic inequities that make it more difficult for women, people of color, LGBTQ+, low-income and rural Americans to age with dignity,” according to the Arlington, Va.-based advocacy group, which announced the gift today.

In a Dec. 10 post on publishing platform Medium, Scott announced another round of grants to nonprofits, however, this time the post was titled, “No Dollar Signs This Time,” and did not include a breakdown of organizations or grant amounts.

Scott and her husband Dan Jewett previously announced their gifts via Medium, with a breakdown by subject area or identifying individual organizations and grant amounts. In three earlier rounds of donations dating to June 2020, Scott has given away about $8.5 billion to 786 organizations. In each case, Scott emphasized the focus should be on the nonprofits and the work they do rather than herself or the dollars given. In her latest post, she waxed about philanthropy and its meaning but did not reveal details as to organizations or grants awarded. That led to some questions and a follow-up post, “No Poetry This Time,” in which she made clear that she would be providing more information in the future.

“My commitment to sharing information about my own giving has never wavered,” Scott wrote, committing to posting updates twice every 12 months or so. She plans to launch a website later this year with information about the gifts and her giving. “We’ve been doing our best to maximize our first two years of giving, while sharing information in a way that supports nonprofits and informs the broader community.”

NCOA President & CEO Ramsey Alwin said the “mysterious process” was about six months in the making, having received a request to share information about its work, mission and social impact metrics. “We didn’t know where it was coming from,” she said in a Zoom interview with The NonProfit Times today. Ultimately, NCOA was given notice in December that it could share the news discreetly with board members ahead of Scott’s post and began to plan the process of how best to use the funds to accelerate its impact.

The largest grants within NCOA’s $61-million budget are often federally restricted revenues related to work for job training and placement for older workers, Alwin said. “We’re used to processing large grants and donations, so often aligned with federal guidelines,” she said. “Unrestricted gifts of this nature help us expand our reach, innovate and fuel our advocacy as we see shortcomings of existing programs and policies intended to allow older adults to age well.”

This round of gifts was focused on health and racial equity, Alwin said, which fits with NCOA’s mission. In “signals and correspondence from her team,” Scott wants “to encourage organizations to lift up the issues, challenges and solutions around ensuring racial equity and try to ensure the spotlight on those solutions and issues,” she said.

Alwin anticipates a “thorough and thoughtful” process of about two to three months to determine how the funds will be spent exactly, “part of a larger journey to center around equitable aging.”