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MacKenzie Scott’s game-changing philanthropy still mystifies nonprofits: ‘Her gifts are super generous, but unfortunately, they don’t provide long term sustainability’

MacKenzie Scott’s game-changing philanthropy still mystifies nonprofits: ‘Her gifts are super generous, but unfortunately, they don’t provide long term sustainability’

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Much about billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott’s giving remains a mystery, but those receiving grants from her recent open call for nonprofits do offer some insights, experts say.

Scott’s grants, announced in March, largely fall in line with her usual themes — with equity and justice, education, health and economic security and opportunity being the largest categories. However, a slightly larger percentage of the most recent grants went to democracy-focused organizations, said Gabrielle Fitzgerald, founder and CEO of Panorama Global.

Organizations working on “race and ethnicity” and “youth development” were the two largest categories according to the database of gifts on her Yield Giving website. Generally, Scott has given the most grants to organizations in the U.S. South, while in the latest round, California and New York were the states with the largest number of recipient nonprofits.

Understanding Scott’s giving, which she doesn’t discuss beyond essays on her website, remains a high priority for many nonprofits dreaming of receiving one of her large, unrestricted gifts. Scott, who has pledged to give away more than half of her wealth, said she has donated more than $17.3 billion to more than 2,300 nonprofits since 2019. However, her net worth is currently about $37 billion, according to Forbes, about $2 billion more than she had after her divorce from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was finalized.

To expand her donations, Scott last year offered nonprofits the chance to apply for $1 million grants through a new initiative run by Lever for Change. She required nonprofit applicants to have annual budgets between $1 million and $5 million, capturing a small percentage of the more than 1.8 million nonprofits in the United States. Ultimately, Scott decided to donate more than the $250 million she initially pledged to applicants.

Scott and her team chose 361 nonprofits out of a pool of 6,353 applicants and awarded them either $1 million or $2 million, providing an overall $640 million in gifts.

“She’s been an inspiration for a lot of people, but not a lot of people are acting upon that inspiration,” said Pamala Wiepking, a professor at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University, who has studied the impact of unrestricted giving on nonprofits.

Along with her coauthors, Wiepking found a mismatch between the missions of many funders who want to effect major social changes and the…

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