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The Effects of MacKenzie Scott’s
Large, Unrestricted Gifts

Results from Year Two of a Three-Year Study

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In just three years, MacKenzie Scott gave more than $14 billion in unrestricted support to more than 1,600 organizations. Her gifts have often come as a surprise to recipients, with no restrictions on how or when they must be used, and with few, if any, reporting requirements. These gifts have been transformational for recipient organizations.

Our research aims to explore:

Do nonprofits believe this gift has increased their impact and in what ways?

How did nonprofits allocate the grant, and what was their decision-making process?

Have nonprofits experienced unintended negative consequences of these gifts? What have been the downsides of receiving this gift?

To what extent are funders’ beliefs and practices being influenced by MacKenzie Scott’s approach?

We surveyed:


nonprofit organizations



representing a 41 percent response rate

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Finding 1

Pursuing Opportunities for Impact

Nonprofit leaders describe expanding and improving programs to pursue opportunities — often related to equity — resulting in what they increasingly see as demonstrable impact.


of leaders are using some portion of Scott’s funding to engage in new programmatic initiatives or improve existing initiatives.

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Grant’s Impact on the Organization’s Ability To Pursue Opportunities Not Possible With Previous Funding

Leaders report that these funds not only allowed organizations to advance equity, but allowed them to do so more effectively than they could have otherwise.


Almost all leaders — 90 percent — report that their organization used some of the grant money to advance equity.

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Degree to Which Grant Contributed to an Organization’s Advancement of Equity

Almost all nonprofits describe these grants as strengthening their organization’s ability to achieve their mission and their ability to reach the fields or communities where they seek to have impact.

Extent to Which Leaders Believe the Grant Has/Will Strengthen Aspects of Their Organizations and Work

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Finding 2

Strengthening Nonprofit Capacity

Nonprofit leaders describe using Scott's grants to strengthen their organizations’ capacity and staff climate, translating into better support for the communities their organizations serve.

The decisions nonprofits made regarding how to use the funds are resulting in what leaders describe as changes in their culture and the daily experiences of their staff.


of organizations interviewed described the grant improving morale, feelings of empowerment, or capacity to think creatively for both staff and leadership — all toward better serving the organization’s mission.

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In interviews, leaders of color highlight the importance of such a substantial grant in the face of long-standing racial inequity in philanthropy.


of the leaders of color interviewed said that the grant gave them greater courage to be assertive in their decision-making and to advocate for those who share their backgrounds, both in the nonprofit sector and in their communities at large.

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"To receive this check after 20 years of fundraising pennies to a dollar from sometimes racist donors, it just boosted my confidence and my ability to do visionary, strategic, necessary work."

– Nonprofit leader

Many organizations report using the grant to increase capacity by strengthening internal systems or adding staff capacity. They also describe using the grant to strengthen short- and long-term financial stability.


of leaders believe that this grant has or will strengthen the long-term financial sustainability of their organization to some degree.

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Extent to Which the Grant Has/Will Strengthen the Organization’s Financial Sustainability and Operational Capacity

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Finding 3

Mixed Funder Perspectives

Funders generally express positive opinions about Scott’s giving, but many have concerns, particularly about the ability of nonprofits to handle large, unrestricted gifts. 


of funders interviewed say their organization’s thinking or practices have been influenced by recent giving trends — including Scott’s approach to giving — even if just to affirm their ongoing efforts.

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Most funders interviewed — more than 80 percent — praise Scott’s approach and view her giving as contributing to ongoing discussions in philanthropy, including those about trust-based giving.

"Scott very much gave the sector an example of what it looks like to give a big gift and get out of the way. That’s incredibly inspiring, and I’m grateful that she has done that work."

– Funder


of the interviewed funders express concern about nonprofits’ ability to handle large, unrestricted gifts.

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Many funders expressed concern about smaller, newer, or grassroots nonprofits. Some worried that leaders who are younger or less experienced would be unable to handle the receipt of a large gift.

"When nonprofits get additional funding like this, it requires that they scale up internal operations and infrastructure in ways that some CEOs or executive directors and boards just weren’t built to handle."

– Funder

FIGURE 11. Funder Concerns About Scott’s Approach

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Finding 4

Little Evidence of
Unintended Consequences

Despite funder concerns, nonprofit leaders report few challenges or unintended negative consequences and are planning for the long term to minimize risks of a financial cliff.


of survey respondents —
11 nonprofits — report having encountered a major challenge related to the receipt or use of their grant from Scott.

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Percentage of Organizations Reporting Encountering Challenges Related to Use of MacKenzie Scott Grants

Nearly all nonprofit leaders surveyed changed their approach to fundraising after receiving a grant from Scott, most frequently by using the grant as evidence of their organization’s credibility.

"[It felt like] a badge of honor… We were one of the few that got a MacKenzie Scott gift.’ People say, ‘Well, you must be considered a sound institution, so let’s talk.’ So, I think that the ripple effect is still good, even two years later."

– Nonprofit leader

Changes to Nonprofit Approaches to Fundraising

Ease or Difficulty of Fundraising After Grant Receipt


of respondents anticipate a lot of difficulty covering the ongoing costs associated with initiatives funded by the gift they received from Scott once the grant funds have been expended.

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"We were concerned: Was this money going to be something that was going to deter other funders from feeling the need to fund us? And we have not really found that to be the case at all. In fact, I think it has given us greater standing amongst the funding community. Our funding from other funders continues to be quite strong."

– Nonprofit leader

Emerging Impacts:

The Effects of MacKenzie Scott’s Large, Unrestricted Gifts

MacKenzie Scott’s giving to date has broken the mold of typical approaches to philanthropy, even among megadonors and large foundations. So far, the data we have gathered over the last two years suggests that Scott’s giving continues to have profound effects on recipient organizations and that the fears many other funders express have not materialized.

If this report has been helpful to you, please consider making a grant to support CEP’s research. Reach out to us for more information.

Thank you.

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Webinar Video

Recorded: Thursday, November 30th, 2023

Emerging Impacts: The Effects of MacKenzie Scott’s Large, Unrestricted Gifts