MacKenzie Scott Giveaways Help Strengthen Nonprofit Infrastructure | Business
Umbrella groups that serve and defend nonprofits or funders and donors are a sexy part of the charitable world. They act as a scaffolding to strengthen organizations that do good by bringing together nonprofit leaders and philanthropists to learn from each other, conduct research and advocate. Groups have long received little philanthropic funding and have struggled to gain the attention of individual donors.
But that could change as MacKenzie Scott shines the spotlight on the work of these organizations. Dozens of these groups received unprecedented multi-million dollar donations in Scott’s latest round of donations with her husband, Dan Jewett.
“I have worked for different types of philanthropic infrastructure groups for over 20 years now, and I have never had a gift like this in my career,” says David Biemesderfer, CEO of United Philanthropy Forum, who has received $ 3 million from Scott.
About 70 regional and national “infrastructure” organizations received gifts from Scott. Many of them include components of social and racial justice and equity in their work. The Chronicle focused only on national groups for this article. Of the 53 national groups identified, 26 either announced how much money Scott had given them or reported to the Chronicle how much they had received. Those who disclosed how much they received got a total of $ 146 million. Contributions ranged from $ 2 million to $ 15 million.
Scott’s total donations to these groups are remarkable as they come from an individual donor. Suddenly Scott gave hundreds of millions. U.S. foundations gave $ 1.9 billion to infrastructure groups from 2004 to 2015, according to a study by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Foundation Center.
It is not clear if Scott is signaling a new era of wealthy donors giving big to these kinds of umbrella organizations.
Most donors don’t understand what these groups do or why they’re important, says Kelly Fitzsimmons, founder of Project Evident, which has received $ 3 million from Scott and helps nonprofits and foundations measure what works. This is one of the reasons why so few people give them large sums of money, she says.
“If other wealthy donors understood the nature of this work better, they would follow his lead,” says Fitzsimmons. “We’re in a corner of the nonprofit world that just isn’t well understood, but it’s an area of big impact. “
Yet Scott’s donations have helped the leaders of these organizations raise awareness of their work, which could increase their chances of attracting donations from other individual donors.
A wealthy donor recently told Nicholas Tedesco, director of the National Center for Family Philanthropy – an organization that advises and educates wealthy donors on effective grantmaking practices – that the donor’s family has been considering a prior grant application since quitting. ‘she learned that Scott had donated the center $ 4 million in June.
“They told us very explicitly that the gift will allow a grant application from us to be considered more seriously because of the due diligence that has been done by MacKenzie and Dan and because the family wants to know that they’re not the organization’s biggest funder, ”Tedesco said.
Scott’s $ 2 million donation to Native Americans in Philanthropy, a coalition of funders, tribal leaders and others advocating for increased philanthropic support for Native American organizations, raised the group’s visibility, said CEO Erik Stegman. He’s even been invited to appear on “Good Morning America” to talk about Scott’s latest gifts.
MacKenzie Scott practices the kind of philanthropy that nonprofits demand, Stegman says – to “hand power over to the organizations and communities that know best.”
“I’m able to point this out to people who don’t know much about our work or even the philanthropic sector,” he says, “but they know enough about MacKenzie Scott and what she does to do that. initiates a conversation. “
The media coverage that focuses breathlessly on the size of Scott’s gifts misses an important point, says Elizabeth Barajas-Román, who heads the Women’s Funding Network, which received an undisclosed sum from Scott. What’s more important, she says, is how Scott’s money is focused on groups unaccustomed to the limelight.
“It makes people pay attention and ask, ‘What are women’s funds? What are they doing and why did MacKenzie Scott choose a fundraising network for women? “
Many coordinating groups that received gifts from Scott are still figuring out how they will use the money. Almost all said they plan to use some of it to hire more staff and build their technology and data capabilities.
Independent Sector, a national organization of nonprofit associations, foundations and corporate giving programs, received $ 6 million from Scott last July and placed the money in a fund designated by the Board of administration so that it can be invested and grow, but also be used to support internal needs.
“We were in the middle of the pandemic and we didn’t know what would happen to the members or if there would be a massive downturn in the economy,” said Dan Cardinali, CEO of the group. “We wanted to make sure we were living within our means for our normal operations. “
GivingTuesday, an organization that encourages generosity around the world, plans to use the $ 7 million it has received to further expand in East African countries, India and elsewhere, the CEO said. Asha Curran.
Scott’s donation was the largest GivingTuesday ever received from an individual donor, as has been the case with many coordinating groups. Still, Curran says the giveaway doesn’t change his group’s fundraising plans.
“This giveaway literally didn’t give us a break from fundraising even for a day,” Curran said. “We do not sit idly by and cry victory; we look at how we add to this giveaway and keep adding to it.
But the money gives the groups more leeway. The $ 4 million the Grantmakers for Effective Organizations received is a substantial amount, but not so much that it can be saved for a rainy day, said CEO Marcus Walton.
“It allows us to do what we do without the usual budgetary constraints,” he says. “We always have to prioritize, but we don’t have to do it from a state of mind of scarcity. We can be a little more abundant in our thinking.
The Walton Group, a membership organization that helps funders improve their philanthropy, is using some of the money to expand training programs that bring foundation leaders and staff up to date with best practices in fundraising. racial equity and justice. The goal is for foundations to have a clear idea of their values and connect with the people they serve, which Walton says many funders struggle to do.
Several organizations worry that long-time donors will assume that Scott’s donations are enough to care for nonprofits for years to come, which they say is simply not true.
“These donations help us free ourselves a little bit to expand the possibilities, but only if we continue to get the support we have received and can build on it,” says Biemesderfer, of United Philanthropy Forum. “It should not be seen as alternative funding, otherwise it defeats the overall goal.”
This article was provided to The Associated Press by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Maria Di Mento is a senior journalist at The Chronicle. Email: [email protected] The AP and The Chronicle receive support from the Lilly Endowment for coverage of philanthropy and nonprofit organizations. The AP and the Chronicle are solely responsible for all content. For all of AP’s philanthropic coverage, visit https://apnews.com/hub/philanthropy.
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