Six More Minnesota Nonprofits Receive Millions from MacKenzie Scott
The Twin Cities chapter of Habitat for Humanity said it received a $13.5 million donation from MacKenzie Scott. Courtesy of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity

Six More Minnesota Nonprofits Receive Millions from MacKenzie Scott

As part of her latest round of donations, philanthropist and billionaire MacKenzie Scott has donated nearly $50 million to six nonprofits in Minnesota.

Krista Matthews, chief development officer of Planned Parenthood North Central States, is still in disbelief about the $20 million check her organization recently received. After all, it’s not every day a nonprofit gets a call about a multimillion-dollar donation, no strings attached.

“As new as this news is to everyone, it’s still pretty new to us as well,” Matthews said in a Wednesday interview. “We’re definitely taking time to think through how we can use it to bring to life the things that are core to our mission and strategy.”

Based in St. Paul, the North Central States chapter of Planned Parenthood was one of six Minnesota nonprofits that recently received a multimillion-dollar donation from billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of founder Jeff Bezos. In a blog post last week, Scott added scores of new recipients to her running list of donations.

Along with the Upper Midwest chapter of Planned Parenthood, five other Minnesota-based organizations received donations from Scott: Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, three Minnesota chapters of the Boys & Girls Club, and affordable health care advocacy group United States of Care. In total, the Minnesota organizations each received a share of more than $48 million. Many of the recipients have said the gift is the largest donation they’d ever received.

“To say this is a cause for celebration is an understatement,” Matthews said. “This is truly a transformational opportunity for our organization. We’ve never had anything like this before.”

Matthews noted that the $20 million donation is roughly equal to what her organization would receive in philanthropic investment in a typical year. While Planned Parenthood execs are still determining where to invest the money precisely, Matthews said the overarching goal will be to invest in initiatives to improve health equity and access.

That aligns with some of the main motivations behind Scott’s donations.

“When our giving team focuses on any system in which people are struggling, we don’t assume that we, or any other single group, can know how to fix it,” Scott wrote in her blog post. “We don’t advocate for particular policies or reforms. Instead, we seek a portfolio of organizations that supports the ability of all people to participate in solutions. This means a focus on the needs of those whose voices have been underrepresented.”

Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity plans to use its $13.5 million donation for similar equitable-oriented purposes. The organization will use the money “to attain and sustain a greater level of impact in the Twin Cities, with a focus on expanding equitable access to homeownership and closing the region’s racial disparity in homeownership, especially for Black Minnesotans,” spokeswoman Erin Jordan said in an email.

Jordan noted that Scott’s donation is among the largest gifts ever received.

The Twin Cities Boys & Girls Club, meanwhile, received a $4.8 million gift, while the Red Lake Nation chapter of the organization received an $875,000 donation. The White Earth Nation chapter of the Boys & Girls Club took a $1.25 million donation. Terryl Brumm, president and CEO of the Twin Cities Boys & Girls Club, said her organization plans to invest the money across three areas: spaces, programs, and staffing.

“Our expansion strategy strengthens our continuous commitment to bridge existing academic and opportunity gaps by adding locations to meet identified community needs, increasing technology accessibility, upgrading equipment and program resources to elevate programming, and increasing staffing at professional wages,” Brumm said in an email. Scott’s gift, she noted, marks the “beginning of a new era for the Twin Cities Boys & Girls Club.”

For its part, the United States of Care, which advocates for affordable health care causes and has a dual headquarters in Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., says it received an $8 million gift from Scott. Former UnitedHealth Group exec and Obama administration appointee Andy Slavitt co-founded United States of Care.

So far, Scott has donated nearly $3.9 billion to 465 nonprofits. Three years ago, she pledged to return the majority of her wealth back to “the society that helped generate it.”

This isn’t the first time that Minnesota nonprofits received donations from Scott. Since late 2020, she’s announced three other major funding waves that have included millions of dollars for other organizations based here.

Next steps: How to spend the money responsibly

In addition to being some of the largest gifts ever received, the donations from Scott also came as a surprise for most organizations. That’s necessitated quick behind-the-scenes planning for many nonprofits, especially smaller ones.

“A large-budget organization with an endowment might have established protocols for how any windfall is handled, and may have dealt with windfalls from things like an unexpected bequest,” noted TCB philanthropy columnist Sarah Lutman in an email. “Smaller organizations may not have faced something like this kind of opportunity.”

Lutman said she’s seen several workshops pop up expressly dedicated to dealing with “unexpected windfalls.”

“Effort goes into disaster planning and risk mitigation, but how much goes into opportunity planning?” Lutman noted.

In the bigger picture, philanthropic gifts from wealthy mega-donors like Scott have been increasing within recent history. Gifts from individuals — rather than foundations — are fast becoming the biggest source of giving in the United States. In 2020, individual donations made up just under 70 percent of total giving in the nation, according to the annual Giving USA report. For comparison, donations from foundations made up 19 percent of total giving that year, totaling $88.55 billion. But individual donors gifted a whopping $324.1 billion.

“This makes sense when you think about income disparity in the U.S. — that those with more resources are giving more while those without resources are more strapped than ever,” Lutman said.