Economic justice

5 Ways MacKenzie Scott’s $ 5.8 Billion Commitment to Social and Economic Justice is a Model for Other Donors

The author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott announced on Dec. 15 that it had donated nearly $ 4.2 billion to hundreds of nonprofits. This was her second such announcement since she first publicly discussed her intentions to donate in May 2019.

In July 2020, Scott revealed that she had already donated nearly $ 1.7 billion to 116 organizations, many of which have focused on racial justice, women’s rights, LGBTQ equality, democracy and climate change. In total, his philanthropy in 2020 totals more than $ 5.8 billion. Scott led his latest round of donations to 384 organizations to support those disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. She has made dozens of donations to food banks, United Way branches, YMCAs and YWCAs – organizations that have seen increased demand for services and, in some cases, decrease in philanthropic donations.

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In the two blogs messages she wrote in spreading the news, scott encouraged donors from all sources to join her, whether those donations are in money or in time.

Previously married to Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, the philanthropist announced in July that she would now use her middle name as a new last name. She left the causes she funds to reveal precise totals for each donation.

Morgan State University and Virginia State University, two of the many historically black colleges and universities receiving his donations, said they were the biggest gifts they had ever received from an individual donor. A number of its donations also fund tribal colleges as well as community colleges.

Like a philanthropy specialist, I think Scott models five best practices for social change give.

1. Do not tie any strings

All of Scott’s gifts – many in the millions or tens of millions, like the $ 30 million she gave Hampton University and the $ 40 million in Local initiatives support company, which defends and builds affordable housing – were made without restrictions. Rather than specifying a goal, like many major donors To do so, Scott made it clear that she trusts the leaders of organizations by giving them absolute flexibility in how to use her money to pursue their missions. This hands-off approach gives nonprofit organizations a unusual amount of freedom innovate while equipping them to face crises like the coronavirus pandemic without strict restrictions imposed by donors.

2. Representation of champions

According to Scott91% of the racial equity organizations it funded in its first round of massive donations, like the Movement for Black Lives and LatinoJustice, are led by leaders of color. All of the LGBTQ equity organizations, such as the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Transgender Law Center, which it supports are led by LGBTQ leaders. And 83% from gender equity organizations, such as the Indian nonprofit association Educate girls, are headed by women. She says this approach brings “lived experience to solutions for unbalanced social systems.” Supporting groups led by people directly affected by an issue is a common tenet of social justice in an age when organizations led by people of color receive less funding than white-led groups.

In addition, some of his other donations to local organizations like Southerners on new ground, a non-profit LGBTQ community, and Southern Partners Fund directly supports a region of the United States often overlooked by donors and foundations.

To support these causes, Scott sought out nonprofits led by people from the affected communities.
Erik McGregor / LightRocket via Getty Images

3. Act first, speak later

Rather than making long announcements about his plans, Scott chose to distribute this money quickly and directly. Unlike fellow philanthropists like Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, or Bill and Melinda Gates, Scott’s first round of donations was not channeled through a large-scale foundation or another entity, such as the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, bearing his name or that of another billionaire. And when she made her public announcement, the gifts were already made.

4. Don’t obsess over the scale

Many of the organizations that receive these gifts are relatively small in size and lack awareness. The Multiracial Justice Group Moving forward together and the Campaign for Women’s Education, a global aid group often referred to as CAMFED, for example, until recently operated with annual budgets of $ 5.5 million or less, while the Millennium Action Project had an even smaller budget.

5. Make more than money

Philanthropy aimed at bringing about social change intrinsically expresses the values ​​of the donor, Scott acknowledged in his announcement. She also recognized her immense privilege, stressing the need to tackle the societal structures that fuel inequalities. And like the many female donors I have interviewed and studied, she uses her position of the second richest woman in the world to amplify the voices of the leaders and groups it supports. Its goal is to encourage others to give, join or volunteer to support these same causes.

As Scott has noted, the issues his philanthropy addresses are complex and will require sustained and extensive effort to resolve.

This is an updated version of an article published on July 30, 2020.


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