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MacKenzie Scott Announces $20 Million Gift to United Way of Greater Rochester

Posted on Tuesday, 15 December 2020

– The Surprise, Historic Gift Will Drive Transformative Change for United Way and the Greater Rochester Region –
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – United Way of Greater Rochester today received the largest single philanthropic gift in its history, with a $20 million commitment from MacKenzie Scott. The unexpected donation is a one-time, unrestricted grant to support United Way’s work in the Rochester region.
Scott’s December 15 blog post marked the second time in 2020 that the philanthropist announced billions of dollars in grants to organizations across the U.S., this time including both United Way and Goodwill of the Finger Lakes in the Greater Rochester community. The commitments began after Scott signed The Giving Pledge, a commitment by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to giving back.
In her post, Scott noted how she and her diverse and experienced team of advisors vetted nearly 6,500 nonprofit organizations, conducting “thousands of pages of data analysis on community needs, program outcomes, and each non-profit’s capacity to absorb and make effective use of funding.”
“This is an amazing, historic moment for our community,” said Lauren Dixon, Board Chair, United Way of Greater Rochester. “Among all the thousands of nonprofits in the country, MacKenzie Scott and her advisors recognized the work of select organizations with this extraordinary gift. This gift represents an incredible endorsement, an incredible opportunity, and an incredible responsibility.”
Given the unexpected nature and the size of the gift, the United Way team will convene a special task force of its board of directors and work closely with other community partners to define the plan for leveraging the donation for maximum impact over the coming several years. The defined plan will recognize the community’s current needs while focusing on transformation and investment in the community’s future.
“This tremendous gift is powerful even beyond its size,” said Jaime Saunders, United Way of Greater Rochester’s CEO. “There are moments, like this one, when a donor has the means and the vision to make a truly transformational gift that will help design our collective future. It is all the more powerful when it is complemented by the foundation our local donors have already established.”
United Way will kick off its 2021 fundraising campaign in January, enabling workplaces and individuals to invest in local change. Scott’s gift will not be part of its Annual Campaign, which funds more than 81 crucial programs that support health, education, and economic mobility. The annual community campaign also supports United Way’s quick and coordinated responses to crises like the current COVID-19 pandemic.
“Today we celebrate an extraordinary example of giving at a magnitude that will catapult us to another level. This is not the status quo,” Saunders said. “This community steps up every year to meet the needs of today, and this gift is about transforming for the future. United Way has been able to run towards community problems for more than 100 years because of the difference our donors make every year in our campaign.”
“This recognition brings tremendous validation for and potential to Rochester,” Dixon said. “A strong United Way drives a strong community and I am so proud that such a respected philanthropist sees the strength of this organization to tackle important challenges and drive crucial change for our region.”  
United Way will actively share regular updates as plans are made to spend down the grant.
United Way learned today that Goodwill of the Finger Lakes, a partner agency and critical leader in the region’s response to COVID-19, was included in Scott’s commitment.
“This donation from MacKenzie Scott is such a gift to our organization, our team and our community,” said Goodwill of the Finger Lakes CEO Jennifer Lake. “Goodwill of the Finger Lakes has been fighting for our community since the start of this pandemic, and well before that. We’ve answered over 103,000 calls through our 211/LIFE LINE program from neighbors who need support for food, housing, mental health and more. We’ve accepted donations and kept our store doors open. Times are tough, and these dollars will help fund Goodwill’s programs that allow us to support and strengthen our community throughout the pandemic and beyond. That said, we still rely on the generous support of our community, by shopping at a Goodwill store, donating your stuff to us, volunteering your time or giving what you can by monetary donations. This will always matter to our organization.”
“Today is truly a landmark day for Rochester,” Saunders said. “Goodwill and 211/LIFE LINE have been such remarkable partners, helping lift our community every day and especially during trying times. We are excited about what these transformational gifts will mean to best serve our region.”
About United Way of Greater Rochester
United Way harnesses the power of collective giving to unite community members, business and local leaders in doing good as they raise their hands, open their hearts, and share resources to build a thriving region for all. Visit to learn more.