It has been an exceptionally difficult year for many nonprofits around the country -- with demand for their services going up, and donors going down -- but things have suddenly turned the corner in a big way for a few.
That’s because MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos, has given them a huge chunk of her fortune
A total of 286 nonprofits will get a portion of the $2.7 billion she’s handing out with no strings attached and several of them are in the Bay Area.
The Ryse Center in Richmond has been a beacon for youth in that community, training them to be leaders of the future in a place where it's easy to end up on the wrong path.
“Everything we do at Ryse, young people drive. Young people are the ones that hire staff. So if someone wants to work at Ryse, young people will be on your hiring panel. Young people chose the programs, young people chose the campaigns they want to work on,” said founder Kimberly Aceves-Iniguez.
From social justice to the arts, to civic engagement, the youth in Richmond are driving the conversation, thanks to the Ryse Center.
“We are where we are because of young people’s work,” said Aceves-Iniguez.
Yet when the phone rang a few weeks ago, the center’s founder was in disbelief.
Scott chose Ryse to receive a grant worth millions.
“The first thing I did was cry. The second is think ‘is this a hoax?’” said Aceves-Iniguez. “So I said, ‘wait, wait, really? This is true?’”
It was true.
“I was speechless,” said Aceves-Iniguez. “You don’t just get a call saying a donor just wants to give you millions of dollars have big visions.”
Visions like completing their new Ryse Center and more.
“Completely blown away, but also very moved,” said Audrey Yamamoto, executive director of the Asian Pacific Fund, another grant recipient, and NBC Bay Area’s partners in the AAPI solidarity fund.
“I literally burst into tears because it was such a phenomenal recognition of our nearly 30 years of helping or most vulnerable Asian Pacific Islanders here in the Bay Area and beyond,” said Yamamoto.
The Asian Pacific Fund provides micro grants to 80 nonprofits around the Bay Area.
“Our longstanding commitment has been to serve the most vulnerable here in the Bay Area,” said Yamamoto. “We really do see it as something that's going to make a difference for us, being able to support our network of eight nonprofits here in the Bay Area.”
The executive director says the Scott grant will also help them step up the fight against Asian hate. And they’ll work with a consultant to make sure the funds are spent where they are needed most.
“Never have I experienced a gift like this,” said Yamamoto.
The nonprofits are getting the money, but each will say it’s the community that will get the real benefit.