MacKenzie Scott Giveaways Help Strengthen Nonprofit Infrastructure
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.
âIf other wealthy donors understood the nature of this work better, they would follow his lead,â Fitzsimmons said. “We are in a corner of the nonprofit world that is just not well understood, but it is an area of ââsignificant 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 high net worth donors on effective grantmaking practices – that the donor’s family has been considering a prior grant application since ‘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, âsays Tedesco.
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 âGood Morning Americaâ 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.”
âI’m able to point this out to people who don’t know much about our work or even the philanthropic sector,â he says, âbut they know enough about MacKenzie Scott and what she’s up to to do it. starts a conversation. “
The media coverage that focuses breathlessly on the size of Scott’s gifts misses an important point, says Elizabeth Barajas-RomÃ¡n, 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.
âIt makes people pay attention and ask, ‘What is the Women’s Fund? 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.
âWe were in the midst of the pandemic, and we didn’t know what would happen to membership or if there would be a massive downturn in the economy,â 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.
âThis giveaway literally didn’t give us a break from fundraising even for a day,â Curran said. “We don’t just sit back and declare victory; we look at how we add to this gift 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.
âIt allows us to do what we do without the usual budgetary constraints,â he says. “We always have to prioritize, but we don’t have to do it from a scarcity mindset. 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 ââtheir values ââand 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.
âThese freebies help us free ourselves up a bit to expand the possibilities, but only if we continue to get the support we have received and can build on it,â says Biemesderfer, of United Philanthropy Forum. “It shouldn’t be seen as alternative funding, otherwise it defeats the whole purpose.”
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.