MacKenzie Scott to Give Away $250M in Funding to Small Nonprofits

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MacKenzie Scott to Give Away $250M in Funding to Small Nonprofits

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Amanda L. Cole

MacKenzie Scott’s Yield Giving will provide 250 $1 million unrestricted operating gifts to small nonprofits. The application process is now open, with awardees expected to be announced early next year. Scott will also provide $500 gifts through her donor-advised fund for each eligible applicant that satisfactorily completes the required peer-review step of the process.

Acknowledging the disproportionate amount of giving going to larger organizations, Scott’s open call, announced this week, aims to reach smaller nonprofits with the greatest need and access to the fewest foundational resources and opportunities.

Lever for Change, a nonprofit affiliate of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation that has influenced more than $1 billion in grants to 145 organizations, is managing the effort.

“This Open Call is designed to empower and strengthen communities across the United States that are often overlooked,” Cecilia Conrad, CEO of Lever for Change, said in a statement. “We are looking for organizations that are making a meaningful difference in people’s lives. The awards will recognize teams that demonstrate the potential to make progress toward reducing disparities in health, education, economic outcomes, and other critical issues.”

Related story: MacKenzie Scott and Melinda Gates Use Wealth to Boost Gender Equality

This is the first time Scott is seeking direct input from nonprofits. Her team previously researched potential nonprofit awardees quietly. Her gifts were only made public when nonprofits announced them — that is until she released a database to improve transparency around her giving, which has totaled more than $14 billion since 2020.

The internal research on Scott’s end was done, in part, to limit the burden on the organizations she sought to fund. While the open call application is required to be considered for her upcoming round of $1 million unrestricted gifts, there is no financial or narrative reporting required after receiving the award. Scott has become known to do her due diligence up front and then trust the organization to make the best decision for how the money is spent.

“We are excited to be partnering with Lever for Change to create this new pathway to support for organizations making positive change in their communities,” Scott said in a statement. “Teams on the front lines of challenges have insights no one else can offer, so there are three big headlines here in my heart: Community changemakers can nominate themselves. Community changemakers get feedback from their peers. Community changemakers have a powerful role in funding decisions.”

Open Call Eligibility and Guidelines

U.S. nonprofits and territories with an annual operating budget ranging from $1 million to $5 million in at least two of the past four fiscal years are eligible to apply. However, organizations, as well as affiliates of those organizations, that previously received gifts from Scott are not eligible. Organizations also must have been in existence for at least three years and do 90% of their work within the U.S. and its territories.

Organizations will be judged based on a predetermined scoring process that aims to reduce assessment bias. The scoring rubric focuses on equity, track record, community leadership and team capacity.

Scott is aiming to benefit organizations whose mission aids in improving individuals, families and communities by providing access to healthcare, affordable housing, education, job training and employment, asset ownership or civic engagement. Those in need may include people who are:

  • From marginalized, historically oppressed racial and ethnic groups.
  • Immigrants and migrants.
  • Affected by justice system involvement.
  • Survivors of crime, abuse, conflict, war and/or disasters.
  • LGBTQ.
  • From marginalized gender identities.
  • Disabled.
  • Income-constrained.
  • Experiencing poverty in areas with low economic mobility and access to supporting resources.

In its frequently asked questions, Yield Giving cautioned that the strongest applicants will be organizations providing its constituents with services, resources and opportunities that allow them to substantially improve their well-being.

“Organizations that work primarily to meet community members’ basic needs, including providing food, clothing, short-term emergency relief, and/or temporary shelter are unlikely to be a good fit for this Open Call,” according to Yield Giving.

Open Call Timeline

May 5, 2023. Interested nonprofits must complete a short, approximately 15-minute registration process by May 5 at 4 p.m. CDT.

June 12, 2023. Interested nonprofits must submit an application, which Yield Giving estimates could take 10 hours or more, by June 12 at 4 p.m. CDT. The application includes succinct descriptions of the nonprofit’s work; community; approach; team; community involvement; diversity, equity and inclusion; impact projection; and more. It also requires a 90-second or shorter video and a financial picture, including an audited financial statement.

June to July 2023. Submitted applications will be reviewed to confirm eligibility.

July to August 2023. Other applicants will be required to score five fellow applicants, but for each organization satisfactorily completing those assessments, Scott will recommend a $500 donor-advised fund contribution.

September to October 2023. An external evaluation panel consisting of consultants, educators, foundation staff, among others, will evaluate the top 1,000 peer-reviewed finalists this fall. Each application will receive at least five assessments.

November to February 2024. Scott and her team will select up to 250 awardees from among the highest rated.

March 2024. The awards will be announced.

Find Yield Giving’s Open Call registration and application here.


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