United Way receives $10 million gift from MacKenzie Scott


The donation marks the largest gift in its 96-year history


NEW ORLEANS 12/15/2020 – United Way of Southeast Louisiana (UWSELA) Tuesday announced a $10 million donation from author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, who selected UWSELA following a thorough review of nearly 6,500 organizations. Ms. Scott’s contribution is the single largest gift to UWSELA in its 96-year history. 

2020 shed light on the disparities UWSELA has focused on for years through its Blueprint for Prosperity, the nonprofit’s plan to eradicate poverty in its service area of Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Washington and Tangipahoa parishes.

The contribution will accelerate UWSELA’s ability to fund the Blueprint’s proven, long-term strategies for creating systemic change and equitable communities. 

UWSELA President and CEO Michael Williamson shared the following statement in gratitude:

“Faced with a once-in-a-generation challenge, Southeast Louisiana stepped up in response to the impacts of COVID-19 and hurricanes. United Way staff, donors, volunteers, and partners came together in an unprecedented way, generating over $16 million in impact – and their efforts were noticed in a grand way. 

“MacKenzie Scott identified United Way of Southeast Louisiana as a leader in creating real, lasting change and invested $10 million in our fight to end poverty in Southeast Louisiana. We are forever grateful and recognize the significant responsibility that comes with the gift – the duty to invest and leverage every cent to help our most vulnerable neighbors.

“We will continue to fund the long-term strategies outlined in our Blueprint and support the programs and partners working on the issues that most directly affect the lives of people in our communities. The goal is not just to improve some people’s lives in the areas of education, income, and health; we aim to improve all people’s lives in these areas.”

So far in 2020, Ms. Scott has donated over $4.1 billion to 384 organizations across all 50 states, including two fellow Louisiana United Ways, to help fill basic needs for those most vulnerable.

“Not only are non-profits chronically underfunded, they are also chronically diverted from their work by fundraising, and by burdensome reporting requirements that donors often place on them. 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,” said Scott in a post announcing her gifts. “I highly recommend a gift to one of the thousands of organizations doing remarkable work all across the country. Every one of them could benefit from more resources to share with the communities they’re serving. And the hope you feed with your gift is likely to feed your own.”

“We’re sharing our gratitude for MacKenzie Scott’s gift with our United Way team, donors, volunteers, and partners. Without their year-round giving and support, we would not have generated the impact that made this donation possible,” add Cathy McRae, UWSELA Board of Trustees Chair. “We are grateful Ms. Scott recognized our United Way’s ability to maximize our donors’ gifts to create long-term change, and just as she invested in us, we’re calling on the entire community to join us in our fight. Tens of thousands of our neighbors are struggling to survive, and we can build a better tomorrow for us all if we start United today.”  

According to the latest United Way ALICE® Report, 52% of households did not earn enough money in 2018 to afford basic necessities - housing, food, transportation, child care, health care and necessary technology. Today, those households and many more are struggling to get by as they navigate a global pandemic and economic crisis.

UWSELA created over $16 million in community impact to address the effects of COVID-19 and three major hurricanes. Learn more about UWSELA’s work in 2020 at UnitedWaySELA.org/20-wins-2020


About United Way of Southeast Louisiana
For more than 95 years, United Way of Southeast Louisiana (UWSELA) has been a leader and trusted partner in improving lives and making a lasting difference. We fight to eradicate poverty by preparing people for quality jobs, growing incomes, and affording better health and education opportunities throughout Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, and Washington parishes. We have a bold vision of equitable communities where all individuals are healthy, educated, and financially stable – and we have a plan. United Way of Southeast Louisiana’s Blueprint for Prosperity guides all strategic investments in programs, initiatives, collaborations, volunteerism, and advocacy aimed at tackling poverty. For more information, please visit UnitedWaySELA.org. Find us on social: @UnitedWaySELA.