Member news plus local and national philanthropic reporting

  • January 06, 2021 11:39 PM | Philanthropy Delaware (Administrator)

    (December 16, 2020 by Tanya Barrientos and Norris West - Anti-racism is trendy. Organizations of every size and stripe have communicated their commitment to equity, inclusion, and justice through emails and public declarations on social media and on their websites. And that’s a good thing, isn’t it?

    Yes and no.

    Yes, it’s essential for nonprofits and foundations to communicate about racism — clearly and courageously. But without a strong understanding of how to authentically communicate about diversity, equity, and inclusion, there is a danger that the terms will become nothing more than hazy principles and hollow values.

    For far too long, foundations and nonprofits have avoided the difficult work of creating communication practices aimed directly at dismantling discriminatory obstacles that harm the people and communities they serve. And scrambling to hop onto the anti-racism bandwagon now by sprinkling a few empty buzzwords into institutional messaging is not the answer.

    Knowing how to honestly talk about race and racism has vexed leaders and communications professionals of the almost always white-led social sector. Foundations and nonprofits with admirable missions to do good, to be allies, and to help communities thrive have for decades communicated in ways that convey the opposite.

    Communicators in our field have the power and the responsibility to counteract inherent bias in our society. But we’re not really sure how to do it. Or we never have worked hard enough to combat the flawed thinking that hinders our efforts to forge the future we wish to create.

    The words and images we use matter. Throughout American history, language and images have shaped public opinion in overt, subtle, and divisive ways, projecting negative portrayals of Black people and other racial groups.

    Need for a Shared Vocabulary

    The reactions to protests for racial justice across America this year have underscored the deep discomfort our society has in addressing race and racism. Some of that discomfort comes from the polarization we experience across identity, belief, and geography. More comes from the absence of a shared and useful vocabulary to discuss what is arguably the most persistent and important issue facing our nation.

    What if organizations aiming to do good used communications in ways that advanced narratives and images of the society we want to see?

    What if we committed ourselves to communicating with words that are less incendiary and more illuminating, telling stories that honestly examine our history and propel us to make our nation’s future better?

    What if our communications practices could be effective in conveying facts while also recognizing the shared humanity and aspirations of all people?

    Two years ago, the Communications Network accepted that challenge and began to develop a tool kit to guide everyone interested in improving how they communicate about diversity, equity, and inclusion. We embarked on this project to help leaders, communicators, writers, editors, designers, developers, planners, producers, and speakers treat every racial group with respect in their meetings, and their messaging without falling into the traps of bromides and jargon.

    We believed it was essential to build these tools on a firm foundation of academic research and to make them easy to use.

    First we needed to know what resources already existed. Gramercy Research Group scanned the landscape for DEI literature and resources and examined the current state of racial-equity communications among foundations and nonprofits. We surveyed our 2,000-member organization online, conducted interviews of leaders in the social sector, and reviewed the practices our members’ organizations were using.

    What we learned was informative but not particularly surprising: There was a dearth of specific guidance available and lots of confusion.

    According to our survey, 56 percent of the communications professionals serving at foundations or nonprofits said diversity, equity, and inclusion were not significant components of their organization’s communications strategy. Nearly six in 10 said they did not have a strong understanding of DEI concepts.

    Our research also found that organizations’ definitions of DEI were all over the map. And there’s a serious lack of data and metrics on the effectiveness of communicating about racial equity.

    Why ‘Colorblind’ Approaches Fail

    Even more troubling, many organizations have adopted “colorblind” framing that avoids pointing out, or even mentioning, obvious differences in culture and experiences in an effort to avoid tension instead of acknowledging and celebrating the qualities of every culture.

    To help, we produced a new, evidence-based report that examines the current state of communicating equity. And we built a web-based tool kit that includes guidance and case studies to serve as inspiration and a resource.

    The tool kit offers plain-spoken tips such as:

    • Take a closer look at your branding. Do you portray your organization as a savior, a partner, or a bridge?
    • In your messaging and imagery, are you showcasing the strengths and aspirations of the people you serve, or are you highlighting their deficits?
    • Do your promotional materials reflect reality, or are they a cherry-picked version of your organization’s racial identity? Orchestrating a facade of diversity is a glaring example of tokenism.
    • Communicating data that only emphasizes disparities and poor outcomes to donors may increase contributions, but it advances biased stereotypes and does not portray people honestly.

    Of course, we know this project is not the final word on how to bring the practice of diversity, equity, and inclusion into communications work across the social sector. But it is a modest and, we hope, a solid starting point.

    It’s time for all of us to stop feeling uncomfortable with — or perhaps more accurately, to face the discomfort of — communicating about the systemic injustices baked into our society. So let’s educate ourselves and start flexing new muscles. Because at this point in our nation’s history ignoring the need for real change is irresponsible. And neglecting to act is simply malpractice.

  • January 06, 2021 12:34 PM | Philanthropy Delaware (Administrator)

    (January 5, 2020 by Jacob Owens Delaware Business Times) - Delaware State University is a Philanthropy Delaware Member. While most businesses will likely look back at 2020 as a year to forget, Delaware State University (DSU) will remember it as a record-setting year of successes and growth.

    The state’s historically Black university appointed a new president, Tony Allen, on Jan. 1 and the longtime educator, businessman and activist was quickly tested less than three months later with the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus.

    His administration was successful in keeping its Tier 2 research labs operating through the pandemic while also switching academic instruction online in less than a week. With help from outside funding sources, DSU also partnered with Testing for America, an emerging nonprofit, to set up a robust testing program for students and faculty that administered 37,000 COVID tests over the fall 2020 semester, finding a less than 0.5% positivity rate.

    The year saw DSU bring in a record-breaking fundraising haul of about $41 million in philanthropic donations, including a record single donation of $20 million from billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. Other donors included corporate partners, like Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, as well as nonprofits like The Longwood Foundation and newcomers like social media platform TikTok. On top of that sum, the university also obtained about $26 million in research awards.

    As if those moving parts weren’t enough, DSU made the decision last summer to acquire neighboring, cash-strapped Wesley College and incorporate its offerings and students into its curriculum. It also hosted a series of panel discussions for the public during the height of racial unrest in America in the same timeframe.

    “I knew Delaware State had a good story, but just not enough storytellers,” Allen recently told Delaware Business Times, explaining that the growing spotlight was a deliberate strategy throughout the university’s ranks.

    It’s obvious that Allen has brought DSU to the masses, and he’s now taken the lead role in planning President-elect Joe Biden’s Inauguration on Jan. 20 – he’s a friend and former speechwriter for Biden. Allen also appeared on national TV shows this year to discuss programs affecting the university or HBCUs at large, including announcing the Testing for America plan on NBC’s “Today” show.

    “The time has come for Delaware State University. We’ve been building to this moment,” said Devona Williams, the chair of the university’s board of trustees, noting that Allen is building upon a strong foundation laid by predecessors like Harry Williams and Wilma Mishoe. “Dr. Allen is the icing on the cake. What he brings to this role is the business knowledge, as well as the academic experience and being an innovator.”

    Building upon the discussions around race this past summer, Allen wrote to about two dozen heads of major corporations about how HBCUs could be part of the solution.

    To you, our potential partners in the boardrooms around the nation, I argue that large and small HBCUs should not be thought of only at moments of crisis, but as institutions whose inherent value proposition is second to none,” he wrote to Apple CEO Tim Cook in August. “Let’s turn this moment into a movement.”

    The work isn’t nearly done for Allen even after a record year. DSU is currently working on its strategic plan, but Allen said that he hopes to double the university’s roughly 5,000-student enrollment in the next seven years.

    “We think our graduate student portfolio, which grew about 30% this year, is a significant growth driver for us,” he said, noting gains can also be made with international, online, and early college high school students. “We think we’re a 10,000-student school.”

  • January 06, 2021 10:31 AM | Philanthropy Delaware (Administrator)

    (January 5, 2020 by Holly Quinn - JPMorgan Chase is a Philanthropy Delaware Member. The hospitality industry may not be the most stable during the COVID-19 pandemic. But The Warehouse, in partnership with the Buccini/Pollin Group (BPG) and JPMorgan Chase, is looking to the future with its new Teens in Motion: Hospitality workforce development program.

    Tyler Akin, chef-partner of Le Cavalier in the Hotel du Pont, will be the coordinator of the hospitality internship track of the program, which he developed alongside his BPG partners at the Hotel du Pont in response to the negative impact he saw COVID-19 having on career advancement opportunities in hospitality.

    “While restaurants are facing historic challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, we feel strongly that American dining culture will bounce back — along with the vibrant job market it creates,” Akin said in a statement. “With Teens in Motion, we aim to share the tools for Delaware’s next generation of culinary leaders to find success and meaning in their work.”

    Wilmington-born Akin, will mentor two-thirds of the interns in the program and will work with BPG to develop the curriculum and procure and vet candidates, who will be placed within partnering restaurants.

    The program will serve up to 25 teens every quarter in 90-day increments (up to 100 teens a year) and will include soft skills training in addition to restaurant and hospitality training. After completion of the first session of Teens in Motion, there will be eight-week paid internships available across BPG’s restaurant establishments and their tenant partners, currently including Le Cavalier, Bardea and Stitch House.

    Teens will then be ready for employment at either The Warehouse or with an external partner or employer.

    “We have been so inspired by The Warehouse and the work they are doing for our city’s teens,” said Sarah Lamb, VP of design and marketing and coordinator of BPG Cares, the real estate developer’s community outreach initiative. “We wanted to align with them on programming and thought that a hospitality training initiative, and Chef Tyler Akin’s passion to bring opportunity to the youth in his industry, would be a great way to get involved.”

    The Warehouse, part of REACH Riverside, is a nonprofit in Northeast Wilmington serving city youth. Teens aged 13 to 19 interested in the Teens in Motion program can register The Warehouse’s RecDesk platform.

  • December 30, 2020 12:30 PM | Philanthropy Delaware (Administrator)
    (December 22, 2020 by Abby Schulz - Many donors want to make grants to organizations on the front lines of fighting for racial justice and equity in the wake of protests sparked in the spring after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. 

    As a result, money has poured into organizations fighting for racial equity. Overall, US$12.1 billion has been granted to racial equity nonprofits so far this year, according to the latest figures from Candid.

    Of that total, US$1.4 billion was granted by individuals, 80% of which, or US$1.12 billion, solely by MacKenzie Scott, the author and ex-wife of founder Jeff Bezos. Scott’s grants, in fact, account for more than 9% of all racial equity funding this year, according to Candid. 

    Individual donations don’t include independent foundations, which represent private and family giving vehicles, which gave a total of US$2 billion, Candid says. Also, community foundations, which include donor-advised funds for individuals, granted US$58.9 million to racial equity this year.  

    The issue for many individual donors is they don’t know where to begin. That’s in part because groups often doing the most effective work are small, grassroots organizations that may fly under the radar of most donors, or don’t fit the criteria donors have used in the past for selecting nonprofits for funding. 

    As a result, most nonprofits in a position to address racial inequities are underfunded.

    “When you look at patterns of wealth and income inequality that impact individuals and families by racial and ethnic groups, that same gap exists in nonprofit organizations,” says Dianne Chipps Bailey, Bank of America Private Bank’s national philanthropic strategy executive. 

    That is, nonprofits led by racially diverse individuals who are serving those communities “tend to be undercapitalized, and then are more vulnerable to closure at a time when many are understanding how important these organizations are because they are proximate to the issues philanthropy is desiring to advance,” Bailey says.

    For donors, it creates an “interesting opportunity for self awareness and reflection,” and to be “really strategic about their giving in ways that create positive impact, but also can be a lifeline to the sector,” she says. 

    Bailey’s group at Bank of America Private Bank put out a guide this year for donors new to giving to racial equity that begins with seeking out and prioritizing organizations and individuals most affected by racial inequities, according to the guide. 

    It’s also important to become educated on the issues and needs of these communities, but to do so in a way that doesn’t burden already under-resourced organizations. “Don’t rely on them to educate you about race-related issues,” the guide said, and consider compensating groups for their time and information.

    One effective strategy favored by Bailey is to provide funding to local giving circles, which pool resources from several sources to provide high-impact gifts in their communities. 

    “The reason [giving circles] are aligned with racial-justice giving goals is because many of these organizations are identity-based and hyper-local,” Bailey says. “They are the boots-on-the-ground philanthropists that know their communities and what they need.”

    Historically, nonprofits led by Black, Latinx, Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Native American individuals not only get less money than groups led by white individuals, the grants they do receive often include more restrictions, according to the guide. 

    For example, Black communities and organizations have 45% less revenue than groups led by whites, while Latinx communities and organizations receive only 1.3% of philanthropic dollars despite representing 18% of the population, the guide said. 

    Given this disparity, Bank of America recommends donors consider shifting their granting criteria to bring in smaller organizations, and to “remove any unnecessary logistical, technical, or technological barriers to requesting funding.” Instead of requiring an organization to fill out an application, for example, seek out the information needed through publicly available sources, including tax filings.

    “Many funders would be surprised by the level of information that’s in an audit and in a Form 990,” Bailey said, referring to an Internal Revenue Service filing required of tax-exempt organizations. 

    Also, Bailey suggests donors provide unrestricted funding—giving nonprofits the freedom to direct dollars to where they are needed most—and to recognize that the problems these groups are addressing won’t be wiped out overnight. The average grant, Bailey notes, is US$50,000 over 18 months.

    “These problems are hundreds of years in the making,” she says. “The idea we could unwind [them] within a typical grant cycle of one-to-three years is naive.”

  • December 30, 2020 10:04 AM | Philanthropy Delaware (Administrator)

    (December 28, 2020, by Delaware Business Times) Beebe Medical Foundation presented a gift of $20,504 to Beebe Healthcare’s Oncology Services for their Cancer Patient Special Needs Fund. Gifts were made by over 270 community members during the annual Miracle Mile event held on June 27 and continued to be made to the Foundation throughout the year.

    The fund assists individual patients who have limited financial resources and need help in covering emergent expenses such as prescriptions or copays for medications, medical supplies (e.g., wigs, mastectomy prosthesis), nutrition, essential living expenses, and transportation. Without the availability of this fund, patients would not have access to their basic needs while undergoing cancer treatments.

    “The Miracle Mile event is all about hope,” said David A. Tam, President and CEO of Beebe Healthcare in a statement. “Hope for our community of cancer patients and survivors, hope for the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, and hope for the future as Beebe strives to provide the most advanced and compassionate care at the Tunnell Cancer Center and the new South Coastal Cancer Center near Millville.”

    For 17 years, Beebe Healthcare’s Tunnell Cancer Center has hosted a celebration to honor cancer survivors and their caregivers with a 1 mile walk on the boardwalk. The Miracle Mile, a morning full of commemoration, music, food, and festivities, has become a staple in the community, but with the global pandemic, things looked different this year. Participants drove the Miracle Mile through Hudson Fields. The 1-mile drive was lined with messages of hope and enthusiastic supporters who cheered everyone on. The 2020 Miracle Mile was a true testament to the community’s strength, solidarity, and resilience.

  • December 28, 2020 11:41 AM | Philanthropy Delaware (Administrator)

    (December 23, 2020 by Delaware Business Times) - The Sallie Mae Fund, the charitable arm of Sallie Mae, has made a $50,000 contribution to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Delaware to support programs to help students impacted by COVID-19.

    Specifically, the $50,000 grant will help provide academic support and one-on-one guidance for low-income students adapting and adjusting to virtual learning due to COVID-19. In addition, the grant will support the expansion of mentoring programs, including those designed for LGBTQ+ students.

    “Our goal to help children realize their full potential is made possible through the commitments made by our friends, mentors, and role models, and by the support of companies like Sallie Mae,” said Tom Thunstrom, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Delaware in a statement. “With this grant, we can help ensure students in Delaware are met with opportunity, regardless of who they are or what means they have.”

    For more than 50 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Delaware has partnered with adult mentors and role models to provide at-risk children, primarily from single-parent homes, with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-on-one relationships that help them gain self-confidence, realize their potential, and envision happy and successful futures.

    “The pandemic underscores, perhaps now more than ever, that education is critical in the pathway to success, but it has presented significant challenges in maintaining a learning environment where students can thrive,” said Nic Jafarieh, senior vice president of Sallie Mae in a statement. “We feel a strong sense of responsibility to help remove some of those obstacles and create more access to education, and I’m confident that our partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Delaware will do just that.”

    Since 2015, The Sallie Mae Fund has awarded more than $290,000 in grants to support Big Brothers Big Sisters of Delaware’s work to connect at-promise youth with adult role models. Sallie Mae team members regularly participate in the nonprofit’s Bowl for Kids’ Sake signature fundraiser and the Clothes for Kids’ Sake program.

    For more information about Sallie Mae’s support in the community, visit

  • December 21, 2020 4:25 PM | Philanthropy Delaware (Administrator)

    (December 21, 2020 by - All relief grant recipients to receive 20 percent bonus; hospitality businesses will receive 50 percent bonus; $10 million for arts organizations

    Governor John Carney and the Delaware Division of Small Business on Monday announced a new round of relief funding – $26 million to support small businesses most affected by COVID-19 restrictions.

    The DE Relief Grant program – funded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act – has supported roughly 3,000 Delaware businesses throughout the COVID-19 crisis with more than $180 million in grants.

    Also on Monday, Governor Carney and the Delaware Department of State announced $10 million in relief funding for Delaware arts organizations. The State of Delaware will provide $5 million, with another $5 million in matching contributions.

    “Small businesses continue to make sacrifices that will help get us through this crisis, and beat COVID-19. We owe them our support,” said Governor Carney. “Hope is on the way with the vaccine. But we continue to face a difficult winter. Let’s do what works. Wear a mask. Don’t gather with friends or family outside your household. Stay vigilant and we’ll get through this.”

    The additional funding announced on Monday will provide a bonus of 20 percent for all DE Relief Grant recipients. Hospitality businesses, including restaurants and bars, will receive an additional 30 percent bonus, bringing their total bonus award to 50 percent of the value of their original grant. This is the third time that a bonus award has been given to grant recipients, though this is the first award that has gone to all recipients; previous bonuses focused on particularly hard hit industries.

    Relief funding for not-for-profit arts organizations will cover 35 percent of those organizations’ 2019 operating expenses, up to $300,000.  

    “The arts are a critical sector of the Delaware economy, and one we can’t replace. Arts organizations have been very hard hit by the pandemic. This funding will help them survive through the winter,” said Governor Carney. “I want to thank Delaware’s philanthropic community, particularly Tatiana and Gerret Copeland and the Longwood Foundation, for leading the way in matching these CARES Act funds.”

    The federal government is currently discussing a new stimulus package that may lead to changes in the states assistance programs for businesses, allowing assistance to be provided into the new year. Businesses that want to stay updated on this can visit, where any updates to the DE Relief Grant program will be announced.

  • December 21, 2020 11:48 AM | Philanthropy Delaware (Administrator)

    (December 18, 2020 by - This week, more than 200 leaders from across the United States helped launch Census Legacies, a new community-building effort by the Center for Social Innovation at UC Riverside with partners in philanthropy, government, and community.

    The initiative aims to build more inclusive and equitable regions, using the same messengers and coalitions that helped ensure strong community participation in the 2020 Census.

    The Dec. 15 Zoom launch event previewed a toolkit being developed by Census Legacies. The toolkit identifies four broad areas of post-Census work based on stakeholder conversations. One is in vaccine outreach and planning, deploying “trusted messengers” in community outreach on Census to combat misinformation and engender trust in communities that have been historically undercounted and underserved.

    Speakers at the national launch included representatives from the U.S. Census Bureau; philanthropy-serving organizations such as the Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation, United Philanthropy Forum, Minnesota Council of Foundations, Philanthropy Northwest; and regional census coalitions from the counties of Imperial, Orange, and San Diego.

    “Outreach on Census 2020 saw the most inclusive coalitions ever built,” said Karthick Ramakrishnan, professor of public policy and director of UCR’s Center for Social Innovation. “Instead of dismantling these coalitions, we are seeing significant interest among funders, government, and community partners to continue ensuring that historically undercounted communities have an equal voice in shaping the future of our regions.”

    Ramakrishnan said he witnessed this interest as director of the Inland Empire Census Complete Count Committee, as community and government partners built close relationships and worked together in ways that were unprecedented for the region.

    Karla Lopez del Rio worked as the lead community partner specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau in Riverside County before joining the Center for Social Innovation as its associate director in September 2020.

    “What I consistently found was that it was easier to build community partnerships to work on census outreach when the community was unified and organized,” Lopez del Rio said. “In places where community organizations had built strong relationships with each other and with partners in government agencies, like school districts and various county agencies, it became much easier to get communities to participate in the census.”

    Ramakrishnan said replicating census outreach provides an opportunity to build inclusive tables that include historically undercounted communities, including communities of color, immigrants, seniors, people with disabilities, LGBT communities, and more. 

    Beyond vaccine planning, increasing civic engagement in underserved communities is at the heart of Census Legacies’ mission. The Census Legacies toolkit provides guidance on including voices of affected communities in conversations about budgets, essential services, housing, transportation, economic development, and education.

    Census coalitions may also be used to develop a pipeline of community leaders who built important skills and experiences in demographic data, understanding local needs, and building policy expertise.

    Finally, the effort is looking to get communities more actively engaged with Census Bureau products and activities in the coming decade, including the American Community Survey and various economic surveys. Partners in Census Legacies aim to preserve the documents and contact information to produce an even stronger effort for Census 2030. 

    “Many funders, government agencies, and community organizations saw the power of breaking silos and improving collaboration across sectors,” Ramakrishnan said. “Relationships and data coming from census constitute what we call ‘Community R&D,’ and we are excited to continue invigorating and strengthening community development in collaboration with various partners.”

  • December 21, 2020 10:33 AM | Philanthropy Delaware (Administrator)

    (Dec 18, 2020 by - Wells Fargo is a Philanthropy Delaware Member. Wells Fargo Regional Foundation and Wells Fargo Regional Community Development Corporation announced Friday that they will transfer their programmatic activities and $100 million in charitable assets to a new Regional Foundation LLC, which will be operated as a component of the Philadelphia Foundation.

    The Regional Foundation LLC will begin operations in the coming weeks.

    “There is no better time to have a bold, robust, and inspiring public-private partnership than now given the impact particularly that the pandemic has had on communities of color,” said Aldustus Jordan, national community co-head of the Wells Fargo Social Impact and Sustainability Group.

    “This partnership will provide resources directly to neighborhoods involving residents and thought leadership partnerships with key institutions to drive impact and change in communities.

    “We’re really excited about this announcement because we know that is going to drive real impact and change in the lives of thousands of children and families,” he added.

    The charitable transfer will help continue and expand the Wells Fargo regional foundations’ original commitment to address community needs in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

    Jordan said that a full transfer of assets will be made to the Philadelphia Foundation and a board will make all grant decisions.

    “With this announcement, the full transfer of assets will go over to the Philadelphia Foundation and they’ve created a new public charity LLC that will be a part of the Philly Foundation,” Jordan said. “The assets and the decisions for how the money will be allocated will be made from a community board.

    “The board will be made legally of the existing regional board that’s transferring over to this new entity,” he added. “And the board in partnership with the Philadelphia Foundation will make all the grant decisions.”

    Pedro A. Ramos, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Foundation, said in a written statement that the community foundation is “excited” about the partnership.

    “For more than a century, the Philadelphia Foundation has grown and stewarded effective and permanent philanthropic investment in our region,” Ramos said. “We’re excited to welcome the Wells Fargo Regional Foundations and to be a part of assuring that its legacy of extraordinary commitment and innovation in supporting communities continues to grow.”

    Wells Fargo and Company will provide an additional $500,000 donation to the Philadelphia Foundation to support the transition, needs and mission of the Regional Foundation LLC.

    The Wells Fargo Regional Foundations’ 47 active multi-year grants will continue without interruption. Investments currently being made by the Wells Fargo Regional CDC will also be maintained and there will be no changes to loan structures.

    The move will also not affect Wells Fargo and Company’s local philanthropy and social impact through the Wells Fargo Foundation. The Wells Fargo Foundation will also continue with its focus on housing affordability, financial health and small business growth.

    “Over the past 22 years, the Wells Fargo Regional Foundations have been proud to support some of the most forward-thinking and innovative grassroots community organizations in the Northeast United States,” said Wells Fargo Regional Foundation board chair John Thurber.

    “The funding focus will continue to embrace a resident-driven, long-term approach to neighborhood revitalization and act as a catalyst for systemic change in building stronger communities.”

  • December 21, 2020 10:00 AM | Philanthropy Delaware (Administrator)

    (December 20, 2020 by Nicholas Kulish - Through a streamlined operation, Ms. Scott has given away $6 billion this year, much of it to small charities and nonprofits.

    On a Monday evening in November, Dorri McWhorter, the chief executive of the Y.W.C.A. Metropolitan Chicago, got a phone call from a representative of the billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. The news was almost too good to be true: Her group would be receiving a $9 million gift.

    Between the pandemic and the recession, it had been a difficult year for the Chicago Y.W.C.A., which runs a rape crisis hotline and provides counseling to women on jobs, mortgages and other issues. Money was tight. Ms. McWhorter shed tears of joy on the call.

    Similar scenes were playing out at charities nationwide. Ms. Scott’s team recently sent out hundreds of out-of-the-blue emails to charities, notifying them of an incoming gift. Some of the messages were viewed as possible scams or landed in spam filters. Many of the gifts were the largest the charities had ever received. Ms. McWhorter was not the only recipient who cried.

    All told, Ms. Scott — whose fortune comes from shares of Amazon that she got after her divorce last year from Jeff Bezos, the company’s founder — had given more than $4 billion to 384 groups, including 59 other Y.W.C.A. chapters.

    “Women-led, Black women-led organizations tend to be at the very bottom of the pile for philanthropists,” Ms. McWhorter said. Ms. Scott “has a recognition that the organizations are doing the good work and let us be the stewards of those dollars.”

    In the course of a few months, Ms. Scott has turned traditional philanthropy on its head. Whereas multibillion foundations like Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have fancy headquarters, Ms. Scott’s operation has no known address — or even website. She refers to a “team of advisers” rather than a large dedicated staff.

    By disbursing her money quickly and without much hoopla, Ms. Scott has pushed the focus away from the giver and onto the nonprofits she is trying to help. They are the types of organizations — historically Black colleges and universities, community colleges and groups that hand out food and pay off medical debts — that often fly beneath the radar of major foundations.

    “If you look at the motivations for the way women engage in philanthropy versus the ways that men engage in philanthropy, there’s much more ego involved in the man, it’s much more transactional, it’s much more status driven,” said Debra Mesch, a professor at the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University. “Women don’t like to splash their names on buildings, in general.”

    As she did in July when she announced donations of $1.7 billion to 116 organizations, Ms. Scott unveiled her latest round of philanthropy through a post on Medium.

    She noted that she had made “unsolicited and unexpected gifts given with full trust and no strings attached.” Such strings are a mainstay of modern philanthropy: onerous grant proposals and nerve-racking site visits, followed by reports on the variety of performance benchmarks that charities are required to meet to keep the money flowing.

    “Not only are nonprofits chronically underfunded, they are also chronically diverted from their work by fund-raising and by burdensome reporting requirements that donors often place on them,” Ms. Scott wrote.

    Charitable groups applauded the unconditional nature of Ms. Scott’s gifts.

    “That mentality of trust is what we need in philanthropy,” said Katie Carter, chief executive of the Pride Foundation in Seattle, an L.G.B.T.Q.+ charity that received a $3 million donation.

    Ms. Scott has moved away from “the heavy hand of the philanthropy in steering the direction of social change,” said Benjamin Soskis, a senior research associate in the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute. Many big-time donors, he said, “model themselves off of venture capitalism and take an extremely aggressive approach in terms of monitoring” the performance of grant recipients.

    Experts on philanthropy said Ms. Scott’s nearly $6 billion in gifts might be among the most ever handed out directly to charities in a single year by a living donor (as opposed to a billionaire making a huge one-time gift to a foundation to be disbursed over decades). And rather than a few targeted donations, she gave broadly to hundreds of groups.

    “She’s moved extraordinary sums out the door, quickly, in an anti-paternalistic way,” said Rob Reich, co-director of the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society at Stanford.

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