Every year America’s top universities such as Harvard and Stanford and major charities received hundreds of millions in donations.
In 2018, Harvard University received $1.4 billion in donations and Stanford University receive $1.1 billion, according to statista.com.
The 100 largest charities in the U.S. pulled in $49.5 billion in donations during their most recently reported fiscal years, according to Forbes magazine. That equals 11% of the estimated $450 billion given to the country’s 1 million-plus nonprofits in 2019.
The largest and most fiscally sound institutions and organizations typically receive the largest donations. Smaller colleges and struggling charities too often get ignored by donors.
That’s why author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott’s announcement last week that her second major charitable contribution of the year is giving away nearly $4.2 billion to 384 nonprofit and charitable organizations in 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., is both commendable and encouraging as a model for others to follow.
Scott directed her latest round of giving to organizations to support people disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. She made dozens of donations to food banks, United Way chapters, YMCAs and YWCAs — organizations that have seen increased demand for services and in some cases, declines in philanthropic gifts.
Two area historically Black universities were among a dozen historically Black colleges and universities that received generous gifts from Scott, the former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
Lincoln University and Delaware State University both announced last Tuesday that each has received a $20 million gift from Scott. The donation was the largest gift ever received by both universities.
HBCUs tend to be smaller than other colleges and universities due to a history of inequitable funding.
Lincoln University President Brenda Allen said the school will use the gift to support its comprehensive strategic plan around student success, including investments in teaching, research and faculty development. The money will also be used to close the financial gap that more than 65% of Lincoln University students face in covering their annual tuition.
Delaware State University President Tony Allen said the money will be used in several areas including helping prepare the next generation of health care professionals, adding scholarships and building the university’s endowment.
Morgan State University President David Wilson said Scott’s $40 million donation will be used mostly for the university’s first-ever unrestricted endowment fund. It will support research and faculty development initiatives.
In addition to HBCUs, Scott also donated to schools serving Native Americans and community colleges. Her donations will be transformational for many overlooked schools.
Scott’s donation is also especially helpful to institutions struggling because of the impact of COVID-19. Organizations selected to receive gifts include food banks, emergency relief funds and support services for vulnerable populations.
“The pandemic has been a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling,” Scott wrote in a Medium post. “Economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, for people of color, and for people living in poverty. Meanwhile, it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires.”
Scott’s donations will help the hundreds of organizations that serve under-resourced communities. It helps the organizations that need the most help. What she has done should provide a new model for charitable giving.