Almost two months after MacKenzie Scott’s latest announcement of transformative gifts to nonprofits — which did not include details on how much or who — recipients are beginning to reveal details, with an apparent focus on education and equity.
At least six organizations announced their gifts, as recently as Feb. 3 and as long ago as Jan. 20, totaling $205.5 million:
If history is an indication though, there’s certainly more to come — lots of it. Scott averaged a total of $2.85 billion in gifts to 262 organizations, most all of them the largest in the organizations’ histories during three previous rounds of grantmaking.
In her fourth round of gifts, however, Scott did not include details of amounts or recipients in the announcement, which she posted on Dec. 8 via Medium. Scott often has emphasized that the focus should be on the charities and the work that they do — not on her.
Scott is worth an estimated $50 billion or more, largely because of her divorce from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. About every six months since July 2020, she has announced billions of dollars in donations — more than $8.5 billion to almost 800 nonprofits in the first three rounds. Much of her focus has been on education and racial equity, giving to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), Native American schools, as well as a traditional charities, such as United Way, YMCA, and Easterseals. One round of giving had an infrastructure bent, giving to organizations that build nonprofit capacity.
“For me, it felt a little like Publishers Clearinghouse,” said Chong-Hao Fu, CEO of Leading Educators, referring to the sweepstakes known during the 1980s for its connection with celebrity pitchman Ed McMahon.
The New Orleans-headquartered organization was contacted last summer about vetting for an anonymous donor, he said, and was notified of the gift in November and received a lump sum in December. During the process, Fu said, they talked through the organization’s mission, values and impact with students and teachers, and “how our work advances racial equity for students. We supplied a lot of information.”
Leading Educators is a $16-million organization and even before getting the Scott gift had plans to grow over the next three years, from 180,000 students in 13 cities to 400,000 across 20 cities. “It was perfect timing for us,” Fu said during a telephone interview with The NonProfit Times.
A $5-million gift is a big deal for a $6.5-million organization like the 5-year-old startup Latinos for Education. “For us, it’s really significant,” said Amanda Fernandez, CEO of Latinos for Education, because less than 2% of philanthropic dollars in the United States go to Latino-led and founded organizations. A big chunk of the gift will help build reserves so the organization can go into every year planning with a good nest egg to make sure it’s sustainable.
“This is just extremely rare in general but extremely rare that a Latino organization would get this kind of funding,” she said. “We felt it was very important to share broadly that we received this investment, that was the rationale for talking about this,” Fernandez said. “It’s important to share with the sector, particularly leaders of color who might be in a similar situation … to say, ‘Look this can happen,’ we want you to know it can happen.”
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