Even in this season of giving, the announcement that MacKenzie Scott is giving $4.16 billion to hundreds of American organizations sent a powerful message. In a tsunami of philanthropy, she leapt toward fulfillment of her May 2019 pledge to donate the majority of her wealth to help others. In the process, she exemplified for the nation’s hundreds of other billionaires how to give back after getting much.

The jaw-dropping sum is only part of what makes Scott’s act so impressive. It is a fortune by itself, one large enough to better the lives of an immense number of people. But the range of organizations chosen to receive the money – and the effort Scott put into vetting that list – deserves as much praise as the cash involved.

The 384 recipients came from a potential pool of more than 6,000 organizations, Scott wrote in her blog. Her team analyzed 822 of that group closely and set aside more than half of them after examining operational structures and organizational effectiveness.

This diligence sent the donations where their effect has the greatest chance to be “transformational,” as described by the leader of one of five Washington recipients, Cathy Bisaillon, CEO of Easterseals Washington. Worthy recipients stretch from Alaska to Puerto Rico, encompassing historically Black universities, food banks, legal defense funds and economic-empowerment programs. The other Washington recipients are Walla Walla Community College, the YMCA of Greater Seattle, The Pride Foundation and Craft3, which invests in businesses owned by people of color.

This philanthropic agenda thoughtfully addresses a nation wearied by a pandemic and strained by systemic inequities. And Scott’s hands-off terms for the donations – “with full trust and no strings attached,” she wrote – means the organizations her team found well-run and effective don’t have to waste time proving grant compliance.

People already doing this world some good can now do more of it, thanks to Scott’s work. And wealthy people who want to become better givers now have a world-class template for how to do it. Thank you, MacKenzie Scott.

–The Seattle Times, Dec. 21, 2020

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