Mackenzie Scott Gives $10M to United Way, $5M to Dillard

NEW ORLEANS — United Way of Southeast Louisiana announced a $10 million donation from author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Scott’s contribution is the single largest gift to UWSELA in its 96-year history. 

Dillard University, meanwhile, announced that Scott gave the school $5 million, also the largest gift in its history.

UWSELA said the challenges of 2020 shed light on the disparities the organization has focused on for years through its Blueprint for Prosperity, a plan to eradicate poverty in Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Washington and Tangipahoa parishes.

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The contribution will accelerate UWSELA’s ability to fund the Blueprint’s proven, long-term strategies for creating systemic change and equitable communities.

“Faced with a once-in-a-generation challenge, southeast Louisiana stepped up in response to the impacts of COVID-19 and hurricanes,” said UWSELA president and CEO Michael Williamson. “United Way staff, donors, volunteers, and partners came together in an unprecedented way, generating over $16 million in impact – and their efforts were noticed in a grand way. MacKenzie Scott identified United Way of Southeast Louisiana as a leader in creating real, lasting change and invested $10 million in our fight to end poverty in Southeast Louisiana. We are forever grateful and recognize the significant responsibility that comes with this gift – the duty to invest and leverage every cent to help our most vulnerable neighbors. 

Dillard is equally appreciative.

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“Ms. Scott is assisting many organizations to carry out their important missions. All of us at Dillard University are incredibly grateful to be among those,” said Dr. Walter Kimbrough, the university’s president.

“This gift will enable us to carry out strategic initiatives that will be beneficial not only during the pandemic, but will also position Dillard to reach greater heights well into the future” said Dr. Marc Barnes, vice president for institutional advancement.

In 2019, Scott signed the Giving Pledge, which was created by Bill Gates, Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet to encourage very wealthy figures to donate a majority of their wealth as philanthropic gifts. Scott committed to donating approximately $17 billion, over half of her assets. Scott made headlines when she donated more than $100 million to HBCUs and organizations that tackle gender equity, economic mobility, public health, climate change, empathy and bridging divides, functional democracy and global development according to a July 29, 2020 article in Forbes. Also a novelist, one of Scott’s influences is Toni Morrison who is an HBCU alumna. For more information on Scotts’ Dillard donation and philanthropic efforts, please read her ​384 Ways To Help​ Medium post.

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So far in 2020, Scott has donated over $4.1 billion to 384 organizations across all 50 states, including two fellow Louisiana United Ways, to help fill basic needs for those most vulnerable.

“Not only are non-profits chronically underfunded, they are also chronically diverted from their work by fundraising, and by burdensome reporting requirements that donors often place on them. They help by delivering vital services, and also through the profound encouragement felt each time a person is seen, valued, and trusted by another human being,” said Scott in a post announcing her gifts. “I highly recommend a gift to one of the thousands of organizations doing remarkable work all across the country. Every one of them could benefit from more resources to share with the communities they’re serving. And the hope you feed with your gift is likely to feed your own,”

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