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MacKenzie Scott’s Unique Trust and Transparency in Giving

 Editor’s Note: The following opinion piece by Jeannie Infante Sager, Director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, explores the implications of recent philanthropic giving from MacKenzie Scott.

mackenzie scott transparency
Jeannie Sager, Director, Women’s Philanthropy Institute (Photo Credit: Women’s Philanthropy Institute)

MacKenzie Scott’s recent round of donations brings her total giving to more than $12 billion, benefitting 1,257 nonprofit organizations since 2020. With 60% of her gifts supporting women-led organizations, this is a transformational moment for the visibility of women’s roles in philanthropy and is redefining what it means to give.

Scott’s titular philosophy of “Helping Any of Us Can Help Us All” and previous writings touch on the broader definition of philanthropy, sharing an “all in” approach the Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) has noted across other women’s giving efforts. With this “all in” mindset, she embraces what has traditionally been known as the 5 T’s of philanthropy: Time, Talent, Treasure, Ties and Testimony. Scott’s approach embraces an expanded definition to incorporate the values of Transparency and Trust. Through these efforts, she brings a new perspective to philanthropic giving that could prove not only transformational for individual organizations, but to the greater lens through which we evaluate philanthropic giving. 

All In On Giving  

From the start, Scott has made clear her intention to go “all in” with her Giving Pledge, which she’s described as giving away the entirety of her wealth “until the safe is empty.” The scale of Scott’s giving alone is unprecedented – were it not for her giving in 2020, total individual giving would have gone down that year, and we may observe a similar trend for 2021. The visibility her gifts bring to both women’s philanthropy and the nonprofit organizations she supports, such as the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, provides an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the need for expanded services to support women’s and girls’ causes. 

WPI’s research has shown that when women give to women’s and girls’ organizations, it creates a level of awareness to encourage others to give that extends to both men and women donors. In short, giving begets giving. This bodes well for drawing attention to the lack of resources (less than 2% of overall charitable giving) generally available to groups supporting women’s and girls’ causes. Scott’s essays also provide a window into her philanthropic journey that welcome those who may feel like outsiders for not having as much “treasure” to give. Knowing that women tend to give in more ways than just financial contributions, she calls out the myriad ways people can give

In her March 2022 announcement, Scott reinforces her philosophy that “when we help one group, we often help them all.” She’s not alone, as our research shows that people give to women’s and girl’s causes because they believe it is an effective way to influence widespread societal change. Scott’s focus on underrepresented and marginalized groups is a call to action to other donors to diversify their giving, highlighting the benefits of supporting specific groups as a way of lifting up all communities. 

Transparency as Best Practice

The level of transparency Scott brings to her efforts and giving philosophy provides a best practice approach that both demonstrates accountability and provides inspiration to others looking to give. While she has tried to keep the attention specifically on the organizations rather than herself or the amount of financial contributions to each organization, she has shared plans to develop a comprehensive website to track her giving, which will provide a searchable database of gifts and insight into her giving team’s process. After receiving some backlash for a perceived lack of transparency in a December 8, 2021 article, her responsiveness suggests her plans for balancing more transparency with the needs of the recipient organizations were already in the works as part of her overall giving strategy. 

Placing Trust in Those Who Know Their Work 

Scott’s approach has also centered on an openness to trusting the work the individual nonprofit recipients are doing with minimal input from her or her giving team. This is part of her strategy to build “a portfolio of organizations that supports the ability of all people to participate in solutions.” By diversifying her giving across a range of organizations, she demonstrates trust in the varied experiences of those impacted and their valuable work finding shared solutions. 

Scott also gives with few or no restrictions, allowing the organizations to manage the funding as they see fit, a departure from status quo large-scale giving. The founder of Rise Up, a recipient of one of these gifts, calls this trust “transformational,” allowing organizations to “shift from a mind-set of scarcity and competition to one of abundance and possibility by freeing us from the traditional constraints of philanthropic bureaucracy.” While Scott’s giving team takes a data-driven approach to selecting organizations with strong, diverse leadership teams and demonstrated results, once that selection has been made, the gifts are left to the organizations to use in the ways that best serve their programs. 

Shaping the Future of Giving 

MacKenzie Scott’s “all in” approach, including her belief in transparency and trust as essential elements of philanthropy, reinforces a new standard of what transformational, impact-focused giving can look like. This approach encourages others to give to causes they care about in their own backyards. Donations, whether financial or non-financial, from individuals remains the best way to give back. 

One way donors are creating impact and scale with their giving is by joining giving circles. Our research shows that members of these communities tend to give more, give more strategically and proactively, give to a wider array of organizations, volunteer more, and are more likely to engage in civic activity. This model of collective giving is a great way to start or expand your philanthropic journey and is an attainable example of being “all in.” When we approach giving from the perspective that “helping any of us can help us all,” we can appreciate the meaningful impact that all individuals are capable of. Knowing this, what ways can you take the “all in” approach in your community? 

Jeannie Infante Sager is the director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI), which is housed under the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy in Indianapolis, Indiana. Leading WPI’s efforts to translate research to practice, she works closely with WPI’s national advisory council and serves on the executive leadership team for the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. She is an associate professor with the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and teaches with The Fund Raising School. Nationally, she serves as chair-elect for the Indiana University Alumni Association’s board of managers and on the advisory council for WOC – Women of Color in Fundraising and Philanthropy. In service to women and girls, Jeannie is on the board of directors for Girls Inc. of Greater Indiana and Women for Change Indiana.


MacKenzie Scott and the $14.2 Billion Dollar Question for Women & Girls

MacKenzie’s Pledge: Leaders Driving Change to Fix Inequality

Women’s Funds Show Philanthropy the Way to Transparency, Diversity

Author: Kiersten Marek

Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is the founder of Philanthropy Women. She practices clinical social work and writes about how women donors and their allies are advancing social change.
View all posts by Kiersten Marek

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Survey finds weakening donor sentiment in 2022 | Philanthropy news

Fifty-four percent of donors in the United States have a negative view of the direction of the country—alongside growing concern with inflation and recent losses in the stock market—signaling weaker donor sentiment in 2022 and driving near-term pessimism among donors, a report from Dunham+Company finds.

Based on an online survey conducted in April 2022 of 1,400 American donors who gave at least $20 to charity in the past year, the report, Donor confidence falters in light of economy and inflation (5 pages, PDF), found that despite a 15-percentage point increase from last year in the share of respondents saying they did not “feel good about” the direction the country was going in, 98 percent said they intended to continue giving—up from 97 percent in July 2021. The share of donors expressing caution about their giving rose modestly, to 63 percent from 59 percent. Among donors who said they would continue to give, 21 percent intended to give more (compared with 19 percent in 2021), 24 percent planned to give less (compared with 21 percent), and 55 percent intended to give the same (compared with 61 percent).

According to the report, the number of donors who viewed recent stock market losses as determinant of future giving had nearly tripled since last year, rising from 7 percent to 19 percent overall, and even more acutely among donors 45 and older: 23 percent for Gen X donors (up from 8 percent in 2021) and 21 percent for boomers (up from 6 percent). This shift is mirrored in households making $100,000 or more, where 17 percent (up from 5 percent) view the performance of the stock market as a determinant. While the report did not provide data on donors under the age of 45, it noted that boomers, who tend to give more overall, “expressed significantly less caution about giving than their younger counterparts.”

The report suggests that worries about inflation and the potential for an economic downturn are increasingly affecting donor sentiment. Over half of donors (53 percent) were unsure of the direction of the economy or believed it would decline in the coming year (compared with 36 percent last year). Among donors who expect a downturn, 92 percent believed a turnaround would take more than a year (up from 72 percent in 2021), while those believing a turnaround would take two years or more rose to 54 percent (up from 40 percent a year ago). In 2021, 74 percent of donors indicated “the economy” and “personal financial situation” as reasons for giving less. For the most recent survey, Dunham added “inflation and the increased cost of living” as a factor. All told, these three factors accounted for 89 percent of the reasons for giving less in 2022.

(Photo credit: Getty Images/Pineapple Studio)

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Charity Of The Year: Past Winners

With the Charity of The Year nominations just around the corner, we thought we’d take you on a trip down memory lane and revisit some of our past winners. We caught up with the incredible teams at Derian House Children’s Hospice and the British Hen Welfare Trust, to find out just how much the award meant to them!

To find out more about how to nominate your charity for the Charity of the Year Award, head to the bottom of this page.

The British Hen Welfare Trust (2018 Winners)

The British Hen Welfare Trust team at the 2018 JustGiving Awards, holding their Award, presented by Lydia Bright.

The British Hen Welfare Trust were crowned Charity Of The Year back in 2018 – after making the top three, they received the most nominations and were presented with their award at a glittery awards ceremony in London.

Since 2005, the charity has been rescuing hens from slaughter and re-homing them as pets throughout the UK. Working with farmers in the egg industry, they’ve re-homed an incredible 850,000 hens to date! The founder, Jane Howorth, received an MBE for her work, after bringing about a ban on battery cages in 2012.

Jane Howorth MBE pictured holding a hen and smiling.

We recently reached out to the team at BHWT to ask them about their experience receiving a JustGiving Award.

“As a charity that is run by a fairly small team, it was simply phenomenal to be recognised by the UK’s biggest fundraising platform and we were overwhelmed to have so much support from the public who nominated us for the award.

We may be small, but we make a big impact, since 2005 we’ve saved over 874,000 hens from slaughter. To be named Charity of the Year is a testament to that hard work and the successes achieved by our staff, volunteers, and supporters around the country.

The past couple of years have been tough for all charities, including our own, but we continue to save around 50,000 hens from slaughter every year. Since winning the award, we’ve developed more ways to improve education about pet hens, built a new Hen Central, and reached new audiences internationally. Being named Charity of the Year was a great honour, and still fills me with pride.

Jane Howarth MBE
Founder of BHWT

Find out more about the British Hen Welfare Trust and donate here.

Derian House Children’s Hospice (2019 Winners)

The Derian House Children’s Hospice team celebrating with presenter Dev Griffin, after receiving their Charity Of The Year Award.

Our 2019 winners, Derian House Children’s Hospice, work tirelessly to help children and young people, whose lives are too short, to make happy memories in an environment of fun, respect and outstanding care.The care they provide is free for families, but costs around £5.7 million to run every year – only 17% of the funding they need comes from the government. They rely entirely on donations from supporters for the remaining 83%. They provide vital support to young people and their families – offering palliative care, respite stays, day care, holidays and end of life support.

The outside of Derian House Children’s Hospice

We’ll let the team tell you a little more about the award, and how much it meant to the charity…

“Derian House Children’s Hospice winning the JustGiving Charity of the Year Award is one of the achievements we’re most proud of. 

That same year we had been rated outstanding by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and had just completed a million-pound refurbishment of our hospice and winning the award felt like the icing on the cake. 

It not only gave us brilliant exposure, meaning that we attracted new donors and were able to reach new families with our services, but it also felt like a real chance for our staff, volunteers and the children we look after to feel proud of everything we do at Derian House. 

The awards night itself was so exciting. We travelled down to London for the night and were so honoured to be at an event alongside such inspirational and wonderful people, as well as celebrities and sporting legends. There was a real feeling in the air of everyone celebrating each other’s achievements, which was just lovely. 

At Derian House, we display our JustGiving Award in the reception of the hospice so everyone who enters the building can see it. We are very proud of this achievement and we were honoured to win it.

Personally, to be involved in this was one of the highlights of my career.

Caroline Taylor
Head of Income, Marketing and Communications

Find out more about Derian House Children’s Hospice and donate here.

Want to get involved?

We’re on the look out for our Charity Of The Year 2022! The nominations for this year’s award will officially open on the 7th July 2022 – could you be in the running?

 We’re looking for nominations from your staff, volunteers and supporters. The more you get before the 22nd of July, the greater your chance of being shortlisted. 

You could be joining the rest of our fundraising finalists, who’ll be up for public vote between the 3rd of August and 11th of September 2022.

Get the most votes, and we’ll be handing over a trophy to you and your team at our ceremony in London this October. Your charity will get exposure and social media coverage – and you get a fantastic night to celebrate your team’s hard work. Sound good?

We’ll be sharing the nomination link on the 7th of July. We can’t wait to read your amazing applications and celebrate together!

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Helmsley Trust awards $9 million to American Heart Association | Philanthropy news

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust has announced grants totaling $9.3 million to the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association to expand and enhance rural health and stroke care in Iowa.

A $6.3 million grant will support the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s $7.5 million Mission: Lifeline Stroke initiative to strengthen the full spectrum of stroke care in Iowa, where stroke is a leading cause of death, accounting for more than 1,400 deaths in 2020. The stroke program in Iowa builds on a $4.6 million grant awarded in 2015 to support the launch of Mission: Lifeline STEMI in Iowa to reduce treatment times for acute cardiac care in the cases of ST Segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI).

The Helmsley Trust is also granting $3 million to the American Heart Association (AHA) to launch HeartCorps in rural communities in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wyoming. HeartCorps is a new three-year initiative aimed at establishing a sustainable pipeline of public health workers, reduce cardiovascular risks among rural residents, and accelerate the adoption and implementation of systems changes to improve cardiovascular health.

“We believe that a comprehensive approach is the best way to make the most substantial impact, especially for rural populations that face longer transit times and limited access to specialists,” said Helmsley Trust board member Walter Panzirer.

(Photo credit: Getty Images/Chalabala)

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