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YWCA gets $9 million gift from MacKenzie Scott

Gift from billionaire was totally unexpected, says YWCA's executive director.

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A rendering of the new YWCA building under construction on Ridge Avenue in Evanston.

MacKenzie Scott, a billionaire philanthropist and author known for supporting organizations committed to gender and racial equity, has given $9 million to the YWCA Evanston/North Shore.

The YWCA was one of 384 nonprofit organizations nationwide to receive gifts from Scott that were revealed this week.

“To select these 384, the team sought suggestions and perspective from hundreds of field experts, funders, and non-profit leaders and volunteers with decades of experience,” wrote Scott in a blog post announcing the gifts.

Scott wrote that her team looked at 6,490 nonprofits and, after reviewing each organization’s “capacity to absorb and make effective use of funding,” arrived at a final list of 384.

Recipients were selected based on a wide range of criteria including community need, program impact and outcomes, strong leadership teams, and the ability to absorb and make effective use of funding to leverage even greater impact.

“This was a totally unexpected surprise,” said Karen Singer, president and CEO of YWCA Evanston/North Shore.

“We are so honored and grateful that MacKenzie Scott, a philanthropist who cares deeply about equity and the systemic issues that affect women and children, has recognized the need for our work and has confidence in what we do to improve the lives of women, children and families, and make our communities more equitable for all,” Singer added. “This incredible gift helps amplify the ongoing support of our donors and community partners who make our work possible day in and day out.”

Singer said she is now working with the YWCA’s board of directors to think through a long-term strategy to leverage this unique gift to propel social change, drive program innovation and build resilience for generations to come.

“Scott’s gift at this particular moment in time gives us the opportunity to strengthen and expand our work not just today – in the midst of a pandemic, which has increased rates of domestic violence and revealed, deep systemic inequities — but for generations to come,” continued Singer. “It ensures we’ll be here to meet the needs of those in our communities for years into the future.”

She added, “We would not be here without the commitment of our board of directors, our amazing staff and the thousands of people who engage in our work in a variety of ways, from financial support, to volunteering, to participating in our programs, educational opportunities, and events.”

According to Singer, the YWCA’s strategic plan for the future, which includes a campus renovation and a new domestic violence shelter currently under construction, will not change due to the gift. Rather the organization is currently reviewing how to best use the funds to accelerate programs made possible by their strategic expansion to achieve even greater impact.

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