MacKenzie Scott launches new 'open call' to donate $250 million to nonprofits

FILE - MacKenzie Bezos attends the 2018 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on March 4, 2018, in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic)

MacKenzie Scott is launching a $250 million "open call" for community-focused nonprofits that the billionaire philanthropist can fund.

Through her organization Yield Giving, Scott plans to make unrestricted $1 million donations to 250 nonprofits selected in the process, which she calls a "new pathway to support for organizations making positive change in their communities." To apply, the nonprofits must have annual operating budgets larger than $1 million, but less than $5 million for at least two of the past five years.

"Teams on the front lines of challenges have insights no one else can offer," Scott said in a statement. "So there are three big headlines here in my heart: Community changemakers can nominate themselves. Community changemakers get feedback from their peers. Community changemakers have a powerful role in funding decisions."

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The open call marks the first time nonprofits can reach out to Scott for potential funding. Until now, Scott and her team secretly contacted organizations they were interested in funding first, then offered them unrestricted donations after receiving information about the group’s work and financials.

Since 2019, when she pledged to donate the majority of her wealth, Scott has given more than $14 billion in unrestricted funds to 1,600 nonprofit organizations. According to Forbes, Scott is currently worth more than $26 billion.

Scott said in a statement that she is excited to partner with nonprofit Lever for Change, which will manage the open call process to find community-focused organizations advancing people of modest means and groups who have met with discrimination and other systemic obstacles.

"This open call is designed to empower and strengthen communities across the United States that are often overlooked," said Cecilia Conrad, CEO of Lever for Change, an affiliate of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. "We are looking for organizations that are making a meaningful difference in people’s lives. The awards will recognize teams that demonstrate the potential to make progress toward reducing disparities in health, education, economic outcomes, and other critical issues."

Organizations need to register to apply before May 5 and complete their applications by June 12. The applications will be reviewed by peers, who will select up to 1,000 finalists in the fall. Those finalists will then be evaluated by a publicly named panel selected for their related experience. The 250 winners will be announced in early 2024.

Scott does not discuss the reasons behind her philanthropy, beyond essays on her website. However, some experts have said the open call process is a continuation of her desire to change philanthropy.

Phil Buchanan, president of The Center for Effective Philanthropy, said when Scott originally announced her open call plans in December that her approach says, "We as donors can yield to those talented people in nonprofits working closest to communities who know best what is needed and how to do it."

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