YWCA Gets ‘Very Significant’ Donation from MacKenzie Scott

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Among the agencies getting a share of the $4.1 billion donated by author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott over the past four months is YWCA of the Mahoning Valley.

Leah Merritt, president and CEO of the local YWCA, declined to say how much money was given, but said it was “very significant relative to our agency size and budget.” The money will be used to further the YWCA’s mission of empowering women and combating racism, but an exact purpose has not yet been decided.

“This is an amazing gift. Women supporting and uplifting women is what we are all about. We applaud the efforts of Ms. Scott to assist hundreds of grassroots organizations such as ours to continue the work that we do,” Merritt said in a statement. “The donation not only helps us continue our operations, it confirms that we are moving in the right direction, and will assist in making a stronger impact in our community well into the future. Mere words are lacking in expressing our gratitude and sheer joy that we are feeling as a result of this monumental gift.”

Scott announced her donations during the pandemic in a post on Medium Tuesday. Giving focused on organizations that have strong leadership and “low access to philanthropic capital” along with serving community with high food insecurity, racial inequity and poverty rates.

Scott described the coronavirus pandemic as “a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling,” and noted is has been worse for women, people of color and those living in poverty.

“Meanwhile,” she wrote, “it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires.”

After donating $1.68 billion to 116 nonprofits, universities, community development groups and legal organizations last July, Scott asked a team of advisers to help her “accelerate” her 2020 giving with immediate help to those financially gutted by the pandemic.

Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley was also among the groups receiving a donation, getting $3 million.

She said the team used a data-driven approach, identifying organizations with strong leadership and results, specifically in communities with high food insecurity, racial inequity and poverty rates, “and low access to philanthropic capital.”

Scott and her team started with 6,490 organizations, researched 822 and put 438 “on hold for now,” waiting for more details about their impact, management and how they treat employees or community members.

In total, 384 organizations in 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., will share $4,158,500,000 in gifts, including food banks, emergency relief funds “and support services for those most vulnerable.” Other organizations address “long-term systemic inequities that have been deepened by the crisis,” such as debt relief, employment training, credit and financial services for under-resourced communities and education for historically marginalized and underserved people. The money will also support legal defense funds “that take on institutional discrimination.”

Scott noted that she was “far from completing” her giving pledge, and urged others to follow her lead in whatever way they could: time, a voice or money.

Scott is a graduate of Princeton University and author of “The Testing of Luther Albright” and “Traps.” She married Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in 1994. The couple divorced in 2019.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Dec. 16: Second Harvest Gets $3M from MacKenzie Scott’s Multibillion Giving Campaign

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