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Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott awards more than $48M to six Minnesota nonprofits

23 March 2022

Three Boys & Girls Clubs affiliates and St. Paul-based Planned Parenthood are among six Minnesota nonprofits getting surprise grants totaling more than $48 million from MacKenzie Scott, the billionaire philanthropist announced Wednesday.

In a blog post, Scott, an author and the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, noted that six Minnesota nonprofits are receiving grants: The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities, the Red Lake Nation Boys & Girls Club, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the White Earth Nation, Planned Parenthood North Central States, United States of Care and Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, which announced its grant Tuesday.

The grants are part of nearly $3.9 billion that Scott has given to 465 nonprofits, nationally and internationally, since last summer. For each of the Minnesota organizations, it’s the largest one-time donation they’ve ever received.

When Thomas Barrett, the CEO of the Red Lake Nation Boys & Girls Club, got the call, he expected to receive the usual $50 or maybe $1,000 donation. Instead, he was stunned by the $875,000 gift.

“I had to ask her to say the number again,” Barrett said, adding that it’s nearly equivalent to the nonprofit’s annual budget. “We’ve never received a donation that big.”

The donation will help pay for a new shelter next year that will house homeless youth and provide critical services for youth on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in northwestern Minnesota.

“It’s something we desperately need in our community,” Barrett said. “The biggest obstacle is getting the funds for it.”

Rural organizations are sometimes overlooked, said Dana Goodwin of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the White Earth Nation, so she was grateful for the $1.25 million donation from Scott. She said it will go toward improving and expanding sites and resources for kids.

“I appreciate that the funds are going all over the state,” said Goodwin, director of education at White Earth, one of seven Anishinaabe or Chippewa reservations in the state. “We’ve had things sitting on the back burner that now we can do.”

In all, 62 Boys & Girls Clubs of America affiliates received $281 million from Scott.

“It’s life-changing for an organization of our size,” said Terryl Brumm, CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities, which received $4.8 million. “The first thing I thought of is, we can do whatever it takes to help kids.”

She said the nonprofit will use the donation to add new club sites over time in Minneapolis and St. Paul, expand programs and bolster staffing to help more kids.

United States of Care, an affordable health care policy organization headquartered in Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., and started by Andy Slavitt, the former UnitedHealth Group executive, received $8 million to expand its work.

The local Planned Parenthood organization received $20 million, which will be used to boost operations at 28 health centers at a time when health care costs are skyrocketing, CEO Sarah Stoesz said.

“This is the most extraordinary act of kindness for humanity,” Stoesz said. “It’s a gamechanger for us at a moment when we could use it. So far, we’ve been able to pay our bills. But I’ve been worried about it.”

Scott’s grants are unrestricted, which means recipients can use the funds any way they want — as opposed to grants that are awarded for a specific program or purpose.

Scott wrote that she gave the organizations the chance to announce the news first, as Twin Cities Habitat did Tuesday, before she shared their names Wednesday.

In her blog post, she said she focused on grants supporting equity and the needs of underrepresented people. She noted that about 60% of the organizations receiving money are led by women, and 75% are led by people with personal experience in the issues.

“We don’t advocate for particular policies or reforms,” she wrote. “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.”

Scott has pledged to give away most of her wealth in her lifetime. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, she’s now given out about $12 billion in two years.

“She’s been able to do something so substantial,” Brumm said. “The impact of her investment is truly transformative.”

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