It is not often a nonprofit organization wakes up to a call informing them they will be receiving a $25 million unrestricted grant. Thanks to the generosity of MacKenzie Scott, United Way received that call and the single largest donation in the organization’s 80+ year history.

Scott is an author, philanthropist, and believer in social change. She is also the executive director and founder of Bystander Revolution, an anti-bullying organization. Scott is a member of the Giving Pledge, a movement of philanthropists who commit to giving the majority of their wealth to philanthropy or charitable causes, either during their lifetimes or in their wills.

Her gift to United Way of Metro Chicago is part of the more than $4.1 billion she donated to 384 organizations from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington D.C. in the second half of 2020. Some of the organizations provide basic needs, such as food banks or emergency relief funds, while others tackle systemic inequities that have been exaggerated during the pandemic, like debt relief and education for historically marginalized and underserved people. Scott and her team considered almost 6,500 organizations for possible contributions.

The staggering number of donations breathe a new life into philanthropy across the country when organizations need it most.

“These 384 carefully selected teams have dedicated their lives to helping others, working and volunteering and serving real people face-to-face at bedsides and tables, in prisons and courtrooms and classrooms, on streets and hospital wards and hotlines and frontlines of all types and sizes, day after day after day,” Scott wrote in her Medium piece. “They help by delivering vital services, and also through the profound encouragement felt each time a person is seen, valued, and trusted by another human being.”

Over the next four years, the $25 million gift will be used to increase United Way’s investments in basic needs, ensuring households have access to the services they need to be stable. In addition, the investment will allow United Way to support the community proposed infrastructure projects that we believe will serve as catalytic investments, allowing neighborhoods to attract additional private and public investments.

“MacKenzie Scott’s investment in our organization speaks to the outstanding efforts being made across our community,” said Sean Garrett, President & CEO of United Way of Metro Chicago. “It’s on behalf of the entire team at United Way that we thank her for investing in whole families and neighborhoods. This donation will allow us to be bolder and more innovative in the work we do to create an equitable Chicago region.”