Six Michigan nonprofits receive donations from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

Six Michigan nonprofits, many dedicated to working with communities of color or in the arts, got a substantial boost Tuesday thanks to philanthropist and author MacKenzie Scott.

Known for donating billions of dollars to nonprofits in the last two years, Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, on Tuesday announced another round of $2.6 billion in gifts to 286 organizations. In Michigan, ACCESS, Allied Media Projects, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Mosaic Youth Theatre, Motown Museum and the Sphinx Organization all received donations.

The Motown Museum's $5 million gift from Scott is one of the largest donations it has received during a $25 million fundraising campaign. 

“Motown Museum is just over the moon that Mackenzie Scott selected us to be one of her nonprofit gift recipients,” said Robin Terry, the Motown Museum's chairwoman and CEO.  “As a leading cultural institution, Ms. Scott felt a powerful connection to our mission of inspiring future generations — particularly youth and people of color in Detroit — to identify and amplify the power of their unique artistic talents and extraordinary entrepreneurial aspirations."

The Motown Museum is in the midst of a $25 million fundraising campaign. Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott gave the museum $5 million on Tuesday.

Tuesday's donations mark the third time Scott has given away millions of dollars to nonprofit groups and many in Michigan in just a few years.

In a post on late Tuesday morning announcing the donations, Scott, who has pledged to give away her wealth while she's alive, said she is attempting to give away "a fortune that was enabled by systems that need change."

"We are governed by a humbling belief that it would be better if disproportionate wealth were not concentrated in a small number of hands, and that the solutions are best designed and implemented by others," Scott wrote.

Scott's gift to the Motown Museum comes as it is more than halfway to its $25 million fundraising goal to expand its facilities. Ford Motor Co. donated $5 million toward the 50,000 square foot expansion, Motown founder Berry Gordy donated $4 million and Ballmer Group donated $3 million.

Called Hitsville Next and scheduled to open later this year, Hitsville Next will serve as the museum’s educational and creative hub. Construction started in 2019. 

Mosaic Youth Theatre, meanwhile, declined to disclose the amount of its donation from Scott but said it's the single largest donation the organization has ever received. Calling it "transformational," it will go toward expanding the Mosaic family and increasing organizational capacity. The theater works with students in third through 12th grade. 

D'Marreon Alexander, portraying Marvin Gaye, sings at the rehearsal for "Now That I Can Dance - Motown 1962" at the Mosaic Youth Theatre in Detroit in 2019. The theatre recently received a gift from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott as part of $2.6 billion in giving.

“This donation will help us pursue our strategic vision with greater fortitude in order to serve our community and develop young leaders through performing arts programming," said DeLashea Strawder, Mosaic's executive artistic director. “The work of Mosaic does not change because of this gift. We’ve been given a unique opportunity to be stewards and make an even bigger impact with our community because of it."

Other recipients on Tuesday include the Sphinx Organization, a Detroit-based social justice organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts, and Allied Media Projects, also in Detroit. Allied Media Projects uses media, art and technology to advance a more just and creative world, according to its website.

Rana Abbas Taylor, a spokeswoman for ACCESS in Dearborn, a community and social services organization, couldn't comment on the amount of its gift from Scott but said officials had just found out about it Tuesday morning.

The organization is "very excited!" Taylor said in an email.

Tuesday's donations aren't the first time Scott has given substantial gifts to Michigan nonprofits.

In December last year, she donated more than $40 million to Easterseals Michigan, Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, Forgotten Harvest, Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids, Goodwill Northern Michigan, Invest Detroit, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit and YWCA of Metropolitan Detroit. 

The United Way of Southeastern Michigan alone received $25 million.