MacKenzie Scott Gives NewSchools Venture Fund $35 Million

Staff Writer

A nonprofit venture philanthropy that largely supports early-stage education companies has received a $35 million from billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.

It’s the largest single donation the NewSchools Venture Fund has ever received. And it comes after the organization publicly set a goal of raising and investing $150 million over three years in areas that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in schools and among entrepreneurs.

The fund, based in Oakland, Calif., supports young companies through both funding and capacity-building support, such as pairing entrepreneurs with a coach and connecting them to other organization leaders or national experts.

President Frances Messano said her team will consider ways to direct the new money to current grantee companies or new, innovative ideas by pausing to gather input on the best way to dole out resources “swiftly and responsibly.”

“Our deep commitment to prioritizing racial equity and diverse leaders in our educational investments is one of the reasons why we were on Mackenzie Scott’s radar,” Messano said.

The infusion of funding gives NewSchools “the additional support for us to keep diving in more deeply on this topic, to make sure that we’re expanding access to innovators of color and that we’re continue to think about how we can make sure that equity is at the center of all the work that we do.”

The one-time gift, announced earlier this month, is the latest in a string of charitable donations by Scott, who since her 2019 divorce from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has sold billions worth of the company’s stock.

Earlier this month, she donated $133.5 million to Communities in Schools, which will allow the nonprofit to provide social service and wraparound health supports to all eligible Title I schools in the country.

Title I schools educate large numbers of students experiencing poverty.

Scott also gifted $800 million to a number of historically Black colleges and universities, as well as other colleges dedicated to serving large numbers of Black, Latino and Native American students.

Teacher Shortages, Mental Health In Sight

NewSchools plans to invest nearly $40 million in 2022. The organization launched a funding opportunity earlier this week for new initiatives in the areas of learning solutions, diverse leaders, and racial equity.

Messano said her team was looking to better respond to school districts’ new needs arising from the pandemic prior to Scott’s donation.

That includes channeling funding into new innovations, especially ones that address teacher shortages, support mental health, or help schools meet the needs of students with learning differences.

“Even before this gift, we were [thinking] we need to put money to work in flexible and responsive ways,” Messano said. “It’s something that we think we need to see from philanthropy more generally so that we can meet this moment.”

Image Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

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