Billionaire MacKenzie Scott’s new donation could transform Girl Scouts

MacKenzie Scott breaks her promise to give away half of her multi-billion dollar fortune.

On Tuesday, Girl Scouts of the USA announced an $84.5 million gift from the billionaire, the largest donation from a single benefactor in the organization’s history. The money will be used to upgrade facilities, hire new staff and improve membership for girls from all walks of life, the Girl Scouts said.

This includes creating new diversity, equity, inclusion and racial justice initiatives for “under-engaged communities,” the announcement said. The donation will also “support expanding girls’ access to STEM exploration by building on areas of interest such as hands-on programming, aviation and sustainability,” the organization added.

“The support of all of our donors, including Ms. Scott, is critical to bringing our work of imagination and transformation to fruition,” Sofia Chang, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA, said in a statement. “We’re excited to demonstrate how Ms. Scott’s investment in girls will change the world – because when one girl succeeds, we all succeed.”

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The funds will also “future-proof its facilities” by making Girl Scout buildings more climate-resilient and accessible to visitors, the announcement said. Girl Scouts from the US did not immediately respond to CNBC Make It’s request for clarification.

Since the pandemic began, the youth organization’s membership has fallen by 30%: it stood at just over 1 million in 2021-2022, up from around 1.4 million in 2019-2020, according to figures released by the group last year .

The donation will be split between Girl Scouts across the United States and 29 local councils selected by Scott himself, the organization said. A southern Arizona community is using its portion of Scott’s gift, about $1.4 million, to continue an earlier initiative: converting a van into a mobile science and technology classroom, its CEO Kristen Garcia-Hernandez told NPR on Tuesday .

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Philanthropic contributions are becoming increasingly important as many people mistakenly assume that the Girl Scouts raise enough money to support themselves just by selling cookies, Garcia-Hernandez said. The Girl Scouts sell up to 200 million boxes of biscuits a year, but the organization says the bulk of that revenue goes to local councils and troops.

Scott has an estimated net worth of $28.4 billion, making him the 41st richest person in the world according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. In 2019 she signed the Giving Pledge and pledged to give at least half of her wealth away. So far, she’s making good progress: she’s donated $12.8 billion to 1,200 organizations, according to Forbes.

Her donation to Girl Scouts aligns with her other significant donations to community-focused organizations, including Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Habitat for Humanity. Scott’s philanthropy focuses on groups facing disproportionate obstacles, and she believes that will have an impact on surrounding communities, she wrote in a blog post in March.

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“A growing body of research on the subject includes numerous examples: bike lanes designed to protect cyclists to improve local retail sales and property value for all, seatbelt laws enacted to protect young children who could harm people’s lives of all ages… save jobs and educational opportunities for women and girls that lead to global economic growth,” Scott wrote. “Often, when we help one group, we help all.”

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