**Billionaire MacKenzie Scott’s Open Call for Grants Brings in Over 6,000 Applications**
MacKenzie Scott, the billionaire philanthropist and ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, recently held her first open call for grants, which resulted in 6,353 applications from nonprofits across the United States. With 250 winners set to receive $1 million grants, the chances of being selected stand at approximately 4%. The nonprofit organization Lever for Change, responsible for overseeing the application process, reported that applications came from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The announcement of the winners is expected to take place early in 2024.
**MacKenzie Scott’s Philanthropic Journey and Impact**
MacKenzie Scott has made waves in the world of philanthropic giving since 2019 when she initiated her effort to donate the fortune she acquired after her divorce from Jeff Bezos. Scott has contributed over $14 billion in unrestricted funds to 1,600 nonprofit organizations, with her current net worth estimated at more than $36 billion, according to Forbes. This unconventional approach to giving, which involves unexpected and large donations, has significantly impacted numerous nonprofits.
**Yield Giving’s First Open Call for Grant Applications**
In March, MacKenzie Scott’s organization, Yield Giving, announced its first-ever open call for grant applications. Prior to this, Scott and her team of advisors personally selected and vetted organizations to receive grants. This open call allowed nonprofits to apply directly, but it also created pressure for fundraisers and organizations to secure Scott’s support. The introduction of this new application process marked a milestone for both Scott and the nonprofits vying for her funding.
**Challenges Faced by Nonprofits in the Application Process**
While the open call for grant applications presented a unique opportunity for nonprofits, it also posed challenges. The eligibility criteria limited applications to organizations with budgets between $1 million and $5 million. This restriction prompted concerns from nonprofit fundraising expert Melanie Lambert. She criticized the exclusion of smaller organizations that could greatly benefit from a million-dollar gift. According to a 2019 report by the National Council of Nonprofits, only around 5% of nonprofits, approximately 45,000 organizations, have budgets within this range.
**Lever for Change’s Criteria for Selecting Grant Recipients**
Cecilia Conrad, the CEO of Lever for Change, explained that the organization sought to support nonprofits that were already making a meaningful impact on people’s lives. The evaluation process involved a peer review, with each applicant reviewing five other applications, followed by a panel of reviewers assessing the 1,000 finalists. Ultimately, MacKenzie Scott and Lever for Change will select the grant winners from among the top-scoring organizations.
**Nonprofits Face Funding Pressure Amid Inflation and Declining Charitable Donations**
The timing of MacKenzie Scott’s potential funding comes at a crucial period for nonprofits. Many organizations are grappling with the effects of inflation and the need to replace government funding that was granted during the pandemic but is now ending. Charitable donations dropped in 2022, as reported by Giving USA, marking only the fourth decline in four decades. Against this backdrop, Scott’s high-profile giving further emphasizes the urgent need for financial support.
**Nonprofits Weigh the Pros and Cons of Applying for Scott’s Grants**
While Scott’s open call attracted a large number of applicants, some organizations chose not to participate. Danielle Gletow, founder and executive director of One Simple Wish, explained that she evaluated the application and decided it was more suitable for organizations led by members of the communities they serve. Gletow acknowledged the desire for Scott’s support but emphasized the importance of being an ally and recognizing when it is necessary to step aside. Similar considerations were raised by Lambert, who advised her clients on whether the competitive application process justified the resources and effort required.
MacKenzie Scott’s open call for grants generated an impressive response of over 6,000 applications from nonprofits across the United States. The selected winners, to be announced in early 2024, stand to receive $1 million grants, offering significant financial support for their work. Scott’s philanthropic approach has disrupted traditional giving methods and has had a profound impact on the nonprofit sector. While the open call brought forth excitement and opportunities, it also raised challenges for smaller organizations and created pressure on nonprofits to secure Scott’s support amid funding pressures and declining charitable donations. The evaluation process, overseen by Lever for Change, will ultimately determine the grant recipients and ensure that Scott’s funds are channeled to organizations that are making a meaningful difference in people’s lives.