The Impact of Large, Unrestricted Gifts on Nonprofits

Results from Year One of a Three-Year Study of MacKenzie Scott’s Giving

What is this research project?

The giving approach of MacKenzie Scott presents a unique opportunity to examine what happens when hundreds of nonprofits receive large, unrestricted gifts accompanied by few reporting requirements. How do they use the money—and what does that tell us about what nonprofits have most difficulty fundraising for? What is different as a result of these gifts?

The Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) seeks to understand what choices these organizations made after receiving these gifts, how they believe their trajectory changed because they received this gift, and what the positive (as well as, if relevant, potential unintended negative effects) of these gifts may have been on the recipient organizations. CEP will conduct a longitudinal mixed-methods research project using quantitative and qualitative survey data collected from leaders of nonprofit organizations that received a gift from Scott and Jewett between the summer of 2020 and the summer of 2021 as well as in-depth interviews with a subset of these leaders.

Project timeline 

CEP plans to publish at least one report in each of the study’s three years from 2022 and 2024. We seek to share lessons learned that both foundations and individual donors can keep in mind for their own future giving, and we believe the findings will also hold lessons for nonprofits that may receive large, unrestricted gifts in the future.

Sample development will take place in only year one of the study, while the other phases would take place in years one, two, and three. The first report is scheduled to be released in Fall 2022.

Advisory Group 

  • Ava Willis-Barksdale
    Vice President, Advancement
    Executive Director, Lincoln University Foundation of PA
    Lincoln University

  • Ramsey Alwin
    President & CEO
    National Council on Aging
  • Yvonne Belanger
    Director of Learning & Evaluation
    Barr Foundation
  • Brita Blesi
    Evaluation Officer
    Houston Endowment
  • Chris Cardona
    Senior Program Officer
    Ford Foundation
  • Elizabeth Christopherson
    President & CEO
    Rita Allen Foundation
  • Matthew Forti
    Managing Director
    One Acre Fund USA
  • Pam Foster
    Chief Operating Officer
  • Sampriti Ganguli
    Senior Advisor
    Arabella Advisors
  • Shivani Garg Patel
    Chief Strategy Officer
    Skoll Foundation
  • Tim Garvin
    President & CEO
    United Way of Central Massachusetts
  • Stephanie Gillis
 Impact-Driven Philanthropy Initiative
    Raikes Foundation
  • Kathara Green
    Chief of Staff
    Skoll Foundation
  • Bob Hughes
    Former CEO
    Missouri Foundation for Health
  • Carol Karutu
    Vice President of Programs
    END Fund
  • Shaheen Kassim-Lakha
    Strategic Partnerships
    Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
  • Ruth Levine
  • Vanessa McDowell
    YWCA Madison
  • Michelle Ramos
    Executive Director
    Alternate Roots
  • Lysa Ratliff
  • Billy Shore
    Executive Chair
    Share Our Strength
  • Jehan Velji
    Effective Philanthropy Group
    The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
  • Marcus Walton
    President & CEO
    Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
  • Melanie Willingham-Jaggers
    Executive Director

CEP acknowledges that it has been a beneficiary of MacKenzie Scott’s giving, having received a grant in 2021. CEP has no expectation of receiving further funding from Scott. This project will not be funded in any part by Scott’s grant. CEP has informed Scott’s family office about this project. CEP has decades of experience conducting rigorous research in the sector and will share drafts of survey instruments and reports with the study’s diverse advisory group to obtain a variety of perspectives on the approach and interpretation of data to guard against any potential biases, whatever they may be.

Relevant Blog Posts