Earlier this week, MacKenzie Scott announced that she had given more than $4 billion to 384 organizations around the country. Some of our clients were fortunate enough to receive one of those gifts. As we read Ms. Scott’s Medium post and learned more about the organizations chosen by her and her team, we realized there are many lessons to be learned from this generous act.
The Donor’s Intent
Ms. Scott had a specific philanthropic goal and she directed her team accordingly.
“I asked a team of advisors to help me accelerate my 2020 giving through immediate support to people suffering the economic effects of the crisis. They took a data-driven approach to identifying organizations with strong leadership teams and results, with special attention to those operating in communities facing high projected food insecurity, high measures of racial inequity, high local poverty rates, and low access to philanthropic capital.”
All donors have a filter they apply to their giving. Your cause will not be a fit for every individual donor or foundation. Your people will find you… as long as your impact and focus are clearly articulated.
You have to be ready to receive a large gift. As a former camp director once stated beautifully:
At any time a donor could walk up to you with the question “what would you do with an extra $1000 or $100,000 or $1,000,000?” A nonprofit leader should always have an answer to that question.
This is exactly what happened with the Scott gifts. Her team quizzed the organizations to ascertain if they had the capacity to make the most of it. Be ready to receive a large gift and put it to work in support of your mission as soon as possible – and make sure you display that readiness to donors.
There is Joy in Giving
So often we hear nonprofits and other charitable organizations say they don’t want to “bother” a donor or “offend” them with an ask. This idea could not be more wrong. There is great joy in being a giver, and Ms. Scott articulated it well.
“We shared each of our gift decisions with program leaders for the first time over the phone, and welcomed them to spend the funding on whatever they believe best serves their efforts. They were told that the entire commitment would be paid upfront and left unrestricted in order to provide them with maximum flexibility. The responses from people who took the calls often included personal stories and tears. These were non-profit veterans from all backgrounds and backstories, talking to us from cars and cabins and COVID-packed houses all over the country… Their stories and tears invariably made me and my teammates cry.”
If you were a recipient of one of these grants, our hats are off to you. We encourage you to think about how you can leverage part of the gift into inspiring more donors to support your case.
And if you (like most reading this) didn’t get this grant, there is no need for envy or despair. There are many other generous donors out there who apply different filters to their giving. By sharing your mission and impact regularly, you’ll make your organization more visible to people who are looking to support a cause just like yours. Consider Ms. Scott’s Medium post a road map for how you can make your work more visible and urgent to attract donors at all levels.
What did you think when you read about her gift? Let us know your reaction in the comments below.