How Should We Spend $10M? Nonprofit Engages Businesses Community for Ideas

How Should We Spend $10M? Nonprofit Engages Businesses Community for Ideas

Random, unprovoked donations in the millions of dollars are exceptionally rare in the nonprofit sector. But surprises happen when the second-wealthiest woman in the world makes a major commitment to donating the majority of her wealth throughout her lifetime. Late last year, six nonprofit organizations in Indiana received major donations and now one of them is making a call for ideas about how to best invest the funds.

 

Gifts No One Expected

Multi-billionaire MacKenzie Scott is an author and active philanthropist that played a major part in the founding of Amazon.com, Inc. She was one of the company’s first employees.

In 2019, Scott was one of the signatories of the Giving Pledge. Developed by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates, the pledge involves some of the wealthiest people in the world committing to give the majority of their wealth to address society’s most pressing problems.

As part of this commitment, Scott’s team selected 384 nonprofits from a review of 6,490 organizations to receive donations totaling roughly $4.2 billion. That amount was donated over the course of just four months. Throughout 2020, Scott donated an estimated $6 billion, setting philanthropic records. This may be the most donations ever given to charity in a single year by a living person.

Six of the nonprofits that received donations were from Indiana. They included Goodwill Industries of Michiana, United Way of Central Indiana, Meals on Wheels of NWI, YMCA of Greater Indianapolis, YWCA of Evansville, and YWCA of North Central Indiana.

Scott wrote in a blog post on Medium that she asked a team of advisors to take a data-driven approach to identifying organizations with strong leadership teams and results. They paid 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.

“This generous gift will allow us to accelerate our vision to reach the neediest individuals in our communities and further develop our employees at Goodwill,” Debie Coble, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Michiana.

YWCA of North Central Indiana CEO Susan Tybon said, “MacKenzie Scott’s commitment reflects the YWCA’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering women. The funds will help the agency continue helping women and children.”

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. We’re taking our time with our strategy because we want to truly meet the ever-changing nutritional needs of Northwest Indiana,” said Sandra Noe, executive director with Meals on Wheels of Northwest Indiana. “Our intent is to reach out and do a deep dive into the needs of the community and find the best ways to use this gift.”

 

Gathering Ideas on Ways to Invest

After receiving their unexpected $10 million donation, Goodwill Industries of Michiana has decided to open its doors for ideas on where the money should be spent. The organization is now seeking potential partners and input from businesses and foundation leaders about how the funds can best be used to serve the region.

“There is a really neat opportunity for Goodwill to leverage this gift and do so much more with the funding then simply “spend” it,” said Guy Fisher, vice president of mission advancement with Goodwill Industries of Michiana. “We want to hear ideas from the business community and regional foundations. We hope there may be interest in partnering with us on projects.”

Goodwill Industries of Michiana is planning to ramp up its mission to serve needy communities in Northern Indiana, Southwest Michigan, and Southeast Chicagoland with the newly donated funds. A key part of the nonprofit’s focus will be on areas of community empowerment through things like workforce development, training and education to close the skills gap, and reducing barriers to employment.

As such, the nonprofit’s leadership is open and receptive to ideas from businesses, foundations, and other community organizations that might have thoughts about ways to best serve the needs of the region. Goodwill of Michiana is planning to engage local leaders via a “listening tour” to hear suggestions and discuss potential partnership opportunities.

If your organization would like to connect with Goodwill of Michiana, please contact Guy Fisher at gfisher@goodwill-ni.org.

 

An Exciting Opportunity

The arrival of such large-scale funding was completely unexpected for Hoosier nonprofits, but it now presents an incredibly exciting opportunity for the communities they serve. Most of the organizations that received donations are likely in the process of developing their new plans, hopefully propelled by the notion their work is receiving recognition on such a high level. Many of the future projects that could emerge from this could become true game-changers for people in Indiana and our collective economy overall. It’s going to be exciting to observe the impacts of this wave of generosity moving forward.

 

 

 


Indiana Recipients of Donations from Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott

Several donation amounts were kept private.

  • United Way of Central Indiana, $25M
  • Goodwill Industries of Michiana, $10M
  • Meals on Wheels of NWI
  • YMCA of Greater Indianapolis
  • YWCA of Evansville
  • YWCA of North Central Indiana