MacKenzie Scott surpasses initial donation plans, giving $640 million to nonprofit applicants

Billionaire philanthropist and author MacKenzie Scott made a generous announcement on Tuesday. She has decided to donate a staggering $640 million to 360 small nonprofits. These organizations were selected based on their response to an open call for applications. Scott’s act of giving will undoubtedly have a significant impact on these deserving charities.

Yield Giving exceeded Scott’s initial pledge for donations in its first round, contributing more than double the amount. Since 2019, Scott and her team have been actively researching and selecting organizations to receive substantial unrestricted gifts, bypassing the need for an application process.

On her website, Scott expressed her gratitude to Lever for Change, the organization responsible for managing the “open call,” as well as the evaluators who played a crucial role in establishing a pathway of support for individuals striving to enhance access to essential resources within their communities. She acknowledged their invaluable contribution as agents of change.

When applications opened, a staggering number of 6,353 nonprofits eagerly applied for the coveted $1 million grants.

Lever for Change, an organization that specializes in running philanthropic prize awards, announced that they have decided to expand the awardee pool and increase the award amount. This decision was made in recognition of the remarkable work done by these organizations, as assessed by their peers and external panelists.

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Renee Karibi-Whyte, senior vice president at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, emphasizes the significance of competitions like the open call in providing opportunities for organizations without established connections to specific funders.

According to her, prize philanthropy has the unique advantage of bringing to light individuals, organizations, and institutions that may not have had the opportunity to connect with influential figures or secure funding otherwise. She further emphasizes the importance of structuring competitive grants or philanthropic prize competitions in a way that minimizes the application burden for organizations that may be eliminated in the early stages.

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

Yield Giving, in its “open call,” requested applications from community-led nonprofits that aim to uplift individuals and families with limited resources and opportunities. As mentioned on their website, only nonprofits with annual budgets ranging from $1 million to $5 million were eligible to apply.

Cecilia Conrad, CEO of Lever for Change, expressed her enthusiasm for the Open Call, stating that it provides a unique chance to recognize and support impactful organizations that are often overlooked. She emphasized the importance of identifying, uplifting, and empowering these transformative entities in a world full of untapped potential and talent.

The selection process for the awardees involved multiple stages. Initially, applicants were given the opportunity to evaluate and score their fellow applicants. Subsequently, the top organizations were subjected to a thorough review by a panel of external experts.

Scott has generously donated $16.5 billion from the fortune she acquired following her divorce from Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon. At first, she shared these acts of philanthropy through blog posts, occasionally mentioning the recipients and sometimes not. However, in December 2022, she took a step further and introduced Yield Giving, a comprehensive database showcasing her charitable contributions.

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

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