NEW YORK — Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott donated $84. 5 million to Girl Scouts of the USA and 29 of its local branches, the 110-year-old organization said Tuesday, calling it a vote of confidence.
” Her support for our organization is just as important as the donation. Sofia Chang, CEO, GSUSA said this in an interview.
It’s the largest donation the Girl Scouts have received from an individual since their founding in 1912, she said. The funds will help the organization recover from the impact of the pandemic, which drove down membership. The Girl Scouts plan to support volunteers and staff, make camp properties more resistant to the impacts of climate change, improve science and technology education for youth members and develop diversity and inclusion programming to make their troops more accessible.
The Girl Scout council in Southern Arizona decided to use the $1. 4 million it received from Scott to elevate the work they are already doing rather than to start a new program or initiative, said its CEO Kristen Garcia-Hernandez.
“We are a small council and we’re certainly not in a major metropolitan hub. Garcia-Hernandez stated that gifts this large are not common for them.
The gift accelerates their plan to hire more staff to reach most places in the seven counties they serve in under an hour and provide programming year-round. A van will be outfitted by the council to serve as a mobile technology and science classroom. This is a project that they tried funding for over a year. She said that many local funders believe the Girls Scout’s cookie sales will cover their expenses.
“While the cookie program sustains us certainly and it’s wonderful and the girls are part of that process, which makes it even more beautiful, we certainly need more from the community,” Garcia-Hernandez said.
Philanthropic giving to organizations that specifically serve women and girls represents less than 2% of all donations, according to a research project of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. The institute found that proportion has not changed significantly between 2012 and 2019, the years the study has tracked.
Tessa Skidmore is a research associate with the institute. She said that major gifts by women such as philanthropists Sheryl Sandberg, Melinda French Gates and Scott can inspire others donors.
“Those are the types of things that have the potential to change that number,” she said.
The institute partnered with Pivotal Ventures, the investment firm founded by French Gates, and others to promote giving to women and girls on the International Day of the Girl, marked on Oct. 11 each year. In the hope that researchers and donors will be able to use this data, it also discloses its giving data.
Scott communicates infrequently about her giving, which has totaled around $12 billion since 2019. Although she has given large unrestricted gifts to many organizations, her gifts have been focused .on racial equality HTML1. Scott also made a blockbuster $275 million gift to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its affiliates this year. In September Scott divorced Dan Jewett. His profile was removed from the website of The Giving Pledge. This group asks billionaires not to leave more than half of their wealth behind in their lives. The former couple had jointly written on the site last year about their intention to give away Scott’s fortune, which largely comes from her divorce from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
Youth membership of the Girl Scouts fell dramatically during the pandemic, dropping nearly 30% from about 1. 4 million in 2019- 2020 to just over 1 million in 2021-2022. Chang acknowledged the drop but made the case that the organization’s programs consistently help girls build confidence and tackle problems in their community.
“Our traditional way of supporting girls was really upended during the pandemic as troops couldn’t really meet in person,” Chang said. “So to build back stronger than we ever had before, we’re really listening to our Girl Scouts, listening to their families and to our volunteers to really ensure that what comes next for us is truly impactful in this moment.”
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