MacKenzie Scott’s Philanthropy Brings Millions to Wisconsin Nonprofits
Two nonprofits working to serve Wisconsin residents in need will benefit this week from “transformative” donations made by billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.
The headline donation is for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, which announced Wednesday that it has received $17 million to expand the organization’s work in the state. This is the largest individual donation the organization has ever received.
“I really immediately thought about what that would mean and especially (in terms of) the political winds that are constantly blowing at us,” said Tanya Atkinson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin. “And while those political winds don’t go away, I thought about how a transformational gift like this gives us (the ability to) be there for our patients and our communities.”
The donation — which brings Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin halfway to a $36 million fundraising goal — is part of a historic $275 million donation Scott made to Planned Parenthood nationally.
Scott – who was once married to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and has pledged to donate the majority of his wealth – also donated $436 million to Habitat for Humanity this week.
Habitat for Humanity of Milwaukee announced Tuesday that he received $5.75 million of that sum, also the largest donation in its history. The donation is about double what Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity typically receives in individual contributions over an entire year.
“We were initially a bit skeptical when we received an email from MacKenzie Scott’s camp noting that there might be potential for such a large giveaway,” said Jake Brandt, director of marketing and communications. of Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity. “And when it came to fruition, we were surprised, humbled and really invigorated that it’s going to serve even more families in the city.”
Both organizations said the news they were receiving the donations was unexpected and they are working to determine how, specifically, they will invest the money in service of their missions. Brandt said Scott does not accept donation solicitations. They therefore did not know that they were going to receive a gift of this size and had not been given any specific requirements on how the cash injection should be used.
The news from the two organizations comes after the announcement last week that Boys and Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee would receive $17 million from Scott as part of a $281 million investment she made in the nationwide organization.
Habitat for Humanity works to break down the barriers that exist for families in Milwaukee in need as they seek to own their first home. Currently, one in three Milwaukee renters spend half or more of their income on housing, an issue the organization is addressing by building and selling affordable housing.
Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin is the state’s largest reproductive healthcare provider. The nonprofit organization serves 60,000 patients a year at 22 health centers in Wisconsin.
Atkinson said the news of the gift brought him to tears. She noted that this comes at a tense time, with the future of abortion access in particular under threat. If the United States Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, abortion would be illegal in Wisconsin under a 172-year-old state law.
The donation will allow the organization to support people seeking safe and legal abortions, even if they end up having to leave the state to get one, Atkinson said.
But she also said the impact would go far beyond access to abortion. She said she thought of people who told her they were alive because Planned Parenthood caught their cancer early enough to be treated. She thought of Spanish speakers community health promoters who went last year from awareness of sexually transmitted infections to COVID-19 vaccines. And she thought about the possibility of further extending telehealth services to rural communities.
“Having what we see as a transformational investment of this magnitude allows us to not only protect access to the full range of services we provide, but also expand access to the people who need it most across the board. state,” she said.