Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott has given $20 million to another 10 Twin Cities nonprofits, she and the winning recipients announced Tuesday.

The massive donations, which are often record amounts for organizations, were given to 361 nonprofits nationwide and are part of a surge in philanthropy from the Seattle billionaire over the last few years.

Scott, 53, an author and the ex-wife of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, has doled out more than $129 million to 34 Minnesota nonprofits since 2020 as part of her pledge to give out a majority of her wealth over her lifetime.

"This really is a game changer for us," said Mary Niedermeyer, CEO of CAPI USA in Brooklyn Center, which received $2 million to support its programs, including a culturally specific food shelf. "This type of gift never comes around. It's unheard of until she started doing this."

Scott's private donations are all "unrestricted," meaning nonprofits can use the funds in whatever way they want, a rarity in philanthropy. Scott also gave to eight other Minnesota nonprofits:

  • $2 million to Appetite for Change, which increases access to healthy foods in north Minneapolis
  • $1 million to Dream of Wild Health, a Native-led Minneapolis nonprofit that provides culturally specific food and related programs
  • $2 million to ISAIAH, a faith-based, nonpartisan coalition in St. Paul
  • $2 million to OutFront Minnesota, a St. Paul-based LGBTQ advocacy organization
  • $2 million to WellShare International in Minneapolis, which provides public health programs in Tanzania and Minnesota
  • $2 million to Gender Justice in St. Paul, a legal and policy advocacy organization
  • $2 million to Build Wealth Minnesota in Minneapolis, which offers financial literacy classes and loan assistance for homeowners
  • $3 million to Twin Cities Rise in north Minneapolis, which helps low-income Minnesotans with job training and career coaching
  • $2 million to All Square in Minneapolis, a criminal justice reform and re-entry program

"They are vital agents of change," Scott wrote on her website Yield Giving, adding that these nonprofits are "advancing the voices and opportunities of individuals and families of meager or modest means, and groups who have met with discrimination and other systemic obstacles."

David McGee teared up when he heard that Build Wealth Minnesota scored $2 million, double what the nonprofit's executive director had expected.

"I screamed, and my whole office ran in," he said. "We're elated. It's a real nice shot in the arm."

The money will help more Black Minnesotans achieve homeownership through loans and closing cost assistance, narrowing racial disparities.

This week's round of grants was different from Scott's past donations, which were a surprise to organizations that received cryptic notices of an out-of-the-blue donation they hadn't applied to get. This time, Scott's organization, Yield Giving, put out an open call for applications.

More than 6,000 organizations applied for what was planned to be 250 grants of $1 million each but Scott and her team decided to more than double that, giving $640 million to 361 organizations. Smaller nonprofits with annual budgets between $1 and $5 million were eligible.

Nonprofits that applied evaluated one another before an evaluation panel made the final decision. The process was overseen by Chicago-based Lever for Change. That meant applicants went through seven rounds of evaluation before becoming a finalist, said Dream of Wild Health Executive Director Neely Snyder.

"It was kind of a shot in the dark. We didn't know we'd get it," Snyder said of applying last year. "We knew it would be very competitive."

Dream of Wild Health will use its $1 million to expand programs and amenities on farmland in Hugo the nonprofit bought in 2020, providing more youth programs and space for Native farmers to grow food.

To be vetted by other nonprofits validates OutFront Minnesota's work advocating for LGBTQ equity in Minnesota, said Kat Rohn, the nonprofit's executive director.

"To have our work recognized on the national stage is such a huge honor," Rohn said, adding that the historic $2 million donation will likely help expand advocacy work statewide.

In Minneapolis, WellShare will use the $2 million to expand staffing and community health programs, while in St. Paul, the $2 million to ISAIAH will support its existing work statewide.

Gender Justice will also be able to expand its work, with 25 employees working in Minnesota and North Dakota on issues including abortion access and trans rights. Gender Justice Executive Director Megan Peterson said she hopes a large Scott gift will spark other donations.

According to the Associated Press, Scott has given away $16.5 billion. Her net worth is estimated to total more than $35 billion, according to Forbes.

Emma Corrie, CEO of Twin Cities Rise, said the unprecedented $3 million donation will help the organization serve more Minnesotans of color and expand to St. Cloud this year, helping break cycles of generational poverty. Smaller nonprofits like hers, which has 34 employees, is mostly reliant on private donations and foundation grants for revenue.

"An infusion like this allows us to amplify our work and be noticed by other donors," she said.

CAPI USA will use the donation to start a community fund to provide closing costs for new homebuyers in Brooklyn Center. The donation will also boost its capital campaign for a building expansion.

"We were just shocked and so excited," Niedermeyer said. "It's going to be reinvested in the community."