Girl Scouts of Central Indiana on Tuesday said it has received a $2.4 million gift from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott—one of the largest unrestricted donations ever received from an individual donor in the organization’s history.
The gift was part of an overall $84.5 million donation Scott made to Girl Scouts of the USA and 29 of its local branches.
Girl Scouts of Central Indiana said the gift will help it expand its capacity to provide additional programs that “address the most urgent needs of girls today, while preparing them to be leaders in a future that will be full of change, challenges, and opportunities.”
Scott’s donation comes less than a month after Lilly Endowment Inc. provided a $15 million grant to support diverse membership growth within six Girl Scout councils serving Indiana girls: Girl Scouts of Central Indiana, Girl Scouts of Northern Indiana-Michiana, Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana, Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana, Girl Scouts of Southwest Indiana, and Girl Scouts of Western Ohio. The six councils plan to work together in a new coalition over a three-year period to reach girls and families who have historically not engaged with Girl Scouts.
Danielle Shockey, CEO of Girl Scouts of Central Indiana, said Scott’s gift will also be used to improve diversity.
“We are so grateful to Ms. Scott for making this generous gift to our organization and the vote of confidence and validation it indicates for the entire Girl Scout Movement,” Shockey said in written remarks. “This donation will be transformational in helping us identify and eliminate barriers within our community, particularly within the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion, to ensure that our mission is relevant, welcoming, and accessible for all girls and their families.”
The 110-year-old Girl Scouts of the USA called Scott’s gift a vote of confidence.
“Her support of our organization means honestly just as much as the donation,” Sofia Chang, CEO of GSUSA, said in an interview.
It’s the largest donation the Girl Scouts have received from an individual since their founding in 1912, she said. The funds will help the organization recover from the impact of the pandemic, which drove down membership. The Girl Scouts plan to support volunteers and staff, make camp properties more resistant to the impacts of climate change, improve science and technology education for youth members and develop diversity and inclusion programming to make their troops more accessible.
Philanthropic giving to organizations that specifically serve women and girls represents less than 2% of all donations, according to a research project of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. The institute found that proportion has not changed significantly between 2012 and 2019, the years the study has tracked.
Tessa Skidmore, research associate at the institute, said major gifts from women like philanthropists Melinda French Gates, Sheryl Sandberg and Scott could inspire other donors.
“Those are the types of things that have the potential to change that number,” she said.
The institute partnered with Pivotal Ventures, the investment firm founded by French Gates, and others to promote giving to women and girls on the International Day of the Girl, marked on Oct. 11 each year. It also shares its giving data in the hopes that donors or researchers will use it as one way to evaluate gender equity in donations.
Scott communicates infrequently about her giving, which has totaled around $12 billion since 2019. She has donated large, unrestricted grants to many different kinds of organizations, though her gifts have had a special focus on racial equity. Scott also made a blockbuster $275 million gift to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its affiliates this year.
In September, Scott filed for divorce from her second husband, Dan Jewett, whose profile was also removed from website of The Giving Pledge, a group that asks billionaires to give more than half their wealth away in their lifetimes. The former couple had jointly written on the site last year about their intention to give away Scott’s fortune, which largely comes from her divorce from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
Youth membership of the Girl Scouts fell dramatically during the pandemic, dropping nearly 30% from about 1.4 million in 2019- 2020 to just over 1 million in 2021-2022. Chang acknowledged the drop but made the case that the organization’s programs consistently help girls build confidence and tackle problems in their community.
“Our traditional way of supporting girls was really upended during the pandemic as troops couldn’t really meet in person,” Chang said. “So to build back stronger than we ever had before, we’re really listening to our Girl Scouts, listening to their families and to our volunteers to really ensure that what comes next for us is truly impactful in this moment.”