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As you know this has been a very challenging year for all of us. We’ve had to make some really tough decisions and make sacrifices we never anticipated. You’ve probably worked harder in the last 9 months than you ever had in your career.

Today, we learned some good news! Christmas has truly come early for the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas. We learned earlier today that we are the recipient of a $10 Million Gift from the MacKenzie Scott Foundation.

This is the largest gift in the history of the Dallas Y. The grant is unrestricted and made as an up-front, single disbursement for the Y to allocate across programs and years at our discretion. We received the funds yesterday. In the last four months, she has donated $4.2 billion to 384 organizations across all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington D.C. to combat the impact of the pandemic.

From the press release MacKenzie put out today:

“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. We leveraged this collective knowledge base in a collaboration that included hundreds of emails and phone interviews, and 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. We looked at 6,490 organizations and undertook deeper research into 822. We put 438 of these on hold for now due to insufficient evidence of impact, unproven management teams, or to allow for further inquiry about specific issues such as treatment of community members or employees. We won’t always learn about a concern inside an organization, but when we do, we’ll take extra time to evaluate. We’ll never eliminate every risk through our analysis, but we’ll eliminate many. Then we can select organizations to assist — and get out of their way.

We do this research and deeper diligence not only to identify organizations with high potential for impact but also to pave the way for unsolicited and unexpected gifts given with full trust and no strings attached. Because our research is data-driven and rigorous, our giving process can be human and soft. Not only are non-profits chronically underfunded, but they are also chronically diverted from their work by fundraising, and by burdensome reporting requirements that donors often place on them. These 384 carefully selected teams have dedicated their lives to helping others, working and volunteering and serving real people face-to-face at bedsides and tables, in prisons and courtrooms and classrooms, on streets and hospital wards and hotlines and frontlines of all types and sizes, day after day after day. They help by delivering vital services, and also through the profound encouragement felt each time a person is seen, valued, and trusted by another human being. This kind of encouragement has a special power when it comes from a stranger, and it works its magic on everyone. We shared each of our gift decisions with program leaders for the first time over the phone and welcomed them to spend the funding on whatever they believe best serves their efforts. They were told that the entire commitment would be paid upfront and left unrestricted in order to provide them with maximum flexibility. The responses from people who took the calls often included personal stories and tears. These were non-profit veterans from all backgrounds and backstories, talking to us from cars and cabins and COVID-packed houses all over the country — a retired army general, the president of a tribal college recalling her first teaching job on her reservation, a loan fund founder sitting in the makeshift workspace between her washer and dryer from which she had launched her initiative years ago. Their stories and tears invariably made me and my teammates cry.”

The full release can be found here.

I was told of the gift last week but was required to keep it in confidence until she announced it. It took a few days for the magnitude of the gift to sink in. It hit me when I told our daughter with tears streaming down my face that our team has worked so hard over the last nine months and had to sacrifice quite a bit to support our important work. It’s nice when someone you don’t know recognizes our Y for being good at what we do. I told MacKenzie’s contact that she made my week, month and year!

Christmas has truly come early!!