Economic justice

5 Ways MacKenzie Scott’s $ 8.5 Billion Commitment to Social and Economic Justice is a Model for Other Donors

The author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott announced on June 15, 2021 that it and her husband Dan Jewett had given US $ 2.7 billion to 286 organizations, including universities, arts organizations and other non-profit organizations. This was her third such announcement since she first publicly discussed her intentions to donate in May 2019.

Scott has donated approximately $ 8.5 billion to a constellation of nonprofits she calls “high impact organizations in categories and communities that have been historically underfunded and neglected.” . It emphasizes racial justice, women’s rights and LGBTQ equality.

The $ 5.8 billion Scott donated to charities in 2020 was almost 2% of the $ 324 billion donated by individuals during the year.

In early 2021, she put a lot more emphasis on arts organizations than in her previous rounds of funding, noting that her goal was to grow arts nonprofits that focus on diverse communities. She has also supported a number of organizations like the Donors of Color Network and Native Americans in Philanthropy, which aim to increase civic engagement among communities of color, and charitable research leaders like the Urban Institute. and the Bridgespan Group, who advises her.

As in the two previous blogs messages she wrote to break the news of the donations, Scott once again encouraged donors of all means to join her, whether those donations are in money or in time.

Scott, who was previously married to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, left it to the causes that he funds to reveal the exact totals for each giveaway.

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 – were given without restrictions. This is unusual, especially for his larger donations. For example, she gave $ 40 million to California State Fullerton, a public university, in 2021. In 2020, it donated $ 40 million to the Local initiatives support company, which defends and builds affordable housing.

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

At Scott first round of donations, she pointed to organizations whose leaders represented the communities they served, such as the Movement for Black Lives and Latino Justice, which are led by leaders of color, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Transgender Law Center.

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.

Scott emphasized his philosophy in this latest round of funding, writing: “People who work to build power in communities are agents of change.” Organizations like Esperanza Peace and Justice Center and Solidaire, which work at the intersections of several identity groups, embody this principle.

In addition, some of the local organizations it funds, such as Southerners on new ground, a nonprofit LGBTQ community, and Southern Partners Fund, direct support to 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 projects and spending years donating large sums of money, Scott chose to distribute that money quickly and directly.

Unlike fellow philanthropists like Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, Scott’s first three rounds of donations were 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 makes her public announcements, the gifts are 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.

Although she has made donations that support relatively large public higher education institutions, her focus has remained on schools that educate students from underserved communities. In addition to donations to historically black colleges and universities and tribal colleges, Scott has supported schools like the University of California, Merced, and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, both of whom have a Latino majority.

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 continues to highlight the inequitable social structures that put her in a position to give such important gifts, saying that “it would be better if disproportionate wealth were not concentrated in a few hands”.

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And like the many female donors I have interviewed and studied, she uses her position as one of the the richest women in the world to amplify the voice 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 continues to point out, his philanthropy addresses complex issues exacerbated by systemic inequalities that will require sustained and extensive efforts to be resolved.

This is an updated version of an article published on December 20, 2020.


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