MacKenzie Scott significantly increases donations to nonprofit applicants, giving over $640 million

Billionaire philanthropist and author, MacKenzie Scott, made an announcement on Tuesday stating that she will be donating $640 million to 361 small nonprofits. These nonprofits were selected from a pool of applicants who responded to an open call for applications.

Since 2019, when Scott started giving away billions, her team has been diligently researching and selecting organizations to receive large, unrestricted gifts. This first round of donations from Yield Giving exceeds Scott’s initial pledge for the application process.

On her website, Scott expressed her gratitude to Lever for Change, the organization that oversaw the open call, as well as the evaluators who played a crucial role in providing support to individuals striving to enhance access to essential resources within their communities. She acknowledged their significance as catalysts for positive transformation.

Elisha Smith Arrillaga, vice president at The Center for Effective Philanthropy, expressed her pleasant surprise at the increase in both the award amount and the number of organizations selected. She is eager to delve deeper into the applicants’ experience with the process and whether Scott plans to maintain this approach in the future.

When the applications opened, a staggering 6,353 nonprofit organizations eagerly applied for the $1 million grants.

According to Lever for Change, an organization that specializes in managing philanthropic prize awards, the donor team has made the decision to broaden the group of recipients and increase the amount of the award.

A total of $2 million was awarded to 279 nonprofits that achieved top scores from an external review panel. Additionally, 82 organizations in a second tier were granted $1 million each.

According to Renee Karibi-Whyte, senior vice president of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, competitions like Scott’s open call provide an opportunity for organizations without connections to a particular funder to be considered.

According to her, prize philanthropy has the remarkable ability to bring forward individuals, organizations, and institutions that may not have had the opportunity to connect with influential figures and secure funding otherwise. She also suggests that funders who organize competitive grants or philanthropic prize competitions should consider phasing the application process, thereby reducing the burden on organizations that are eliminated early on.

According to Megan Peterson, executive director of Gender Justice, a Minnesota-based nonprofit, the application presents a unique chance to catch the attention of Scott.

Peterson expressed excitement about the opportunity to showcase their accomplishments to someone who has been supportive of similar projects in the past. They felt that if this person knew about the victories they had been achieving, it would be truly gratifying.

The organization she leads has achieved recent victories in legal battles concerning the availability of emergency contraception and the rights of transgender youth to participate in sports. With the newly acquired funds, they intend to extend their efforts to North Dakota. Peterson emphasized that the funds must be utilized for tax-exempt purposes, but aside from that, there are no specific limitations or obligations for reporting, mirroring the nature of Scott’s prior grants.

“I believe she is making a significant contribution to the field of philanthropy by adopting a novel approach: identifying individuals who are making a positive impact and providing them with the necessary resources, while also allowing them the autonomy to carry out their work,” Peterson expressed his admiration for Scott. “I am not only grateful for her personal support, but also for the broader influence she is having on the philanthropic community.”

Yield Giving’s open call invited applications from community-led nonprofits that aim to empower individuals and families with limited resources. According to their website, only nonprofits with annual budgets ranging from $1 to $5 million were eligible to apply.

The selection process for the awardees involved multiple layers. Applicants were given the opportunity to score their fellow applicants, and the top organizations were then reviewed by a panel of external experts.

Scott has generously donated $16.5 billion from her fortune, which she acquired following her divorce from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Initially, she shared details of her philanthropic endeavors through blog posts, occasionally mentioning the organizations she supported. Later, in December 2022, she introduced a database called Yield Giving, where she cataloged her charitable contributions.

Reflecting on the website, she expressed in an essay, “I have found information from other people, including other givers, my team, and the nonprofit teams I support, to be incredibly valuable. If sharing more information about these gifts can be beneficial to others, I am eager to do so.”

According to Smith Arrillaga, from CEP, it is crucial to acknowledge that Scott is staying true to her promise of donating her wealth, even though she is constantly evolving and refining her approach. She remains dedicated to upholding the essence of her commitment.

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