Habitat for Humanity International – and 84 U.S. Habitat affiliate organizations – will receive $436 million in unrestricted giving from American author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.

Billionaire MacKenzie Scott (an author, philanthropist and ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos) is in the process of giving away her vast fortune.

However, the Quad Cities’ affiliate was not among the local affiliates to get a direct donation, according to executive director Kristi Crafton.

“This incredibly generous gift will allow us to dramatically increase capacity and implement programs that will have a multi-generational impact on communities around the U.S. and our global mission for many years to come,” Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International, said in a Tuesday release. “With this donation, Habitat is well-positioned to meaningfully advocate for the systemic and societal changes needed to improve equitable access to affordable housing.”

“We look forward to bringing diverse groups of people together to focus on the ways we can address systemic racism and injustices in the housing sector that continue to limit access and harm people of color,” Scott said in a March 23 statement.

Over the next four years, HFHI will use its $25 million portion of the donation to increase the supply of affordable housing and to prioritize advocacy and programmatic efforts that support the millions of individuals increasingly shut out of the housing market, Habitat said.

Past QC donation recipients

Scott, an author and philanthropist, pledged in 2019 to give away as much of her wealth as possible, after her divorce from Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon. At the time, her portion of the divorce settlement, some 4 percent of Amazon shares, was valued at around $36 billion, according to The New York Times.

In December 2020, the YWCA Quad Cities and Goodwill of the Heartland celebrated being among 384 charities throughout the United States that received a donation from MacKenzie Scott. At that point, she donated $4.1 billion to nonprofit organizations in all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.

Goodwill of the Heartland got a $10-million donation from Scott in December 20209.

In mid-December 2020, the Goodwill chapter serving the QC region announced the Scott donation was $10 million. This was the largest single gift to Goodwill of the Heartland in its then 55-year history, the nonprofit said in a release. The investment came at a time when more than 10 million Americans were unemployed and urgently needed help finding their next jobs.

This gift will enable Goodwill of the Heartland to expand and deliver its mission in the 19 counties that it serves (including the QC) to equip individuals with the skills they need to get back to work and onto sustainable career paths.

How Habitat will build on gift

Specifically, the new Scott donation will allow Habitat to expand advocacy for policy proposals and legislation that enable millions of people access to affordable housing through its Cost of Home campaign; increase Black homeownership in the U.S. by targeting current systemic barriers through an initiative that will launch this summer; and leverage innovative capital investments that service communities of color, the release says.

“This gift gives us the opportunity to increase and improve equity in our work, policies, practices and programs throughout our organization, our affiliated network, but especially in the communities with which we partner,” said Natosha Reid Rice, Habitat’s chief global diversity, equity and inclusion officer. “We look forward to bringing diverse groups of people together to focus on the ways we can address systemic racism and injustices in the housing sector that continue to limit access and harm people of color.” 

Of the 84 affiliates to benefit from Scott’s generosity, four are in Illinois and Iowa – serving Chicago, DuPage County, the Peoria area, and greater Des Moines.

Habitat for Humanity in the QC has built over 120 homes in Scott and Rock Island counties.

Habitat for Humanity QC serves Scott County in Iowa and Rock Island County in Illinois. The nonprofit has completed over 120 homes, building in the towns of Davenport, East Moline, Milan, Moline, Rock Island, and Silvis.

Since 1993, Habitat families have paid back more than $1.4 million in local property taxes, according to the local chapter’s website. “Not only do our programs impact the people we serve, but the whole community realizes benefits with every family we help,” the site says.

And since opening in 2002, Habitat’s QC ReStore has diverted more than 14.25 million pounds of ​materials from area landfills and provided funding for more than 18 homes.

Note from the CEO

In a Wednesday e-mail from Reckford to Habitat affiliates, he wrote that an organization supporting Scott’s philanthropy contacted HFHI last summer and required a few senior leaders to sign a nondisclosure agreement that they wouldn’t discuss the potential gift.

Jonathan Reckford is CEO of Habitat for Humanity International.

“After months of silence, we heard last month that indeed we would be receiving a gift, and we received the terms and a list of recipients just two weeks ago,” Reckford said. “We were clearly directed to maintain confidentiality until a joint announcement could be made this morning.”

“I want to emphasize that our entire network will greatly benefit from the investments that HFHI will make to help them innovate, engage new volunteers, and advance Black homeownership, all of which will enable them to serve more families across the country,” he wrote.

“In accordance with Scott’s broader philanthropic priorities, we will use our portion of the donation to enhance our advocacy and program efforts and to fundamentally increase the supply of affordable housing,” Reckford said.

Investments for Habitat will be used to:

  • Expand our advocacy for policy proposals and legislation through our Cost of Home campaign.
  • Increase Black homeownership in the U.S. through the initiative we will launch this summer.
  • Leverage innovative capital investments that service communities of color.

“We also intend to use this funding to advance research and measurement efforts to identify best practices in areas such as preserving home affordability and housing innovation, and to explore how new and existing programs lead to better outcomes for individuals and families,” Reckford wrote. “Because we are strongly urging affiliates to tithe on the funds they receive, we believe this can be a game changer for many national organizations as well.”

Supporting affiliates

Habitat for Humanity International’s donation will broadly support Habitat affiliates across the U.S. through grants that will help them innovate, engage new volunteers and advance Black homeownership, all of which will enable them to serve more families across the country, the nonprofit said.

One of the 120-plus Quad Cities homes built by Habitat volunteers and homeowners.

Additionally, the unrestricted gifts to HFHI and the U.S. affiliates support the nonprofit’s global work through the organization’s tithe program, through which U.S. affiliates are expected to contribute a portion of their unrestricted revenue each year in support of Habitat’s global ministry, the release said.

U.S. Habitat organizations tithed $14 million to support Habitat’s work around the world last year, and the Tithe International Disasters Fund has already committed $200,000 in support of Habitat’s initial response to refugees fleeing Ukraine.

“Habitat works to break down barriers and bring people together — to tear down obstacles and build a world where everyone, no matter who we are or where we come from, has a decent place to live,” Reckford said. “This tremendous gift helps make that work possible.”

Another home built by Habitat for Humanity Quad Cities, which was founded in 1993.

Habitat found its earliest inspirations as a grassroots movement on an interracial community farm in south Georgia. Since its founding in 1976, the Christian housing group has become a leading global nonprofit working in communities across all 50 states in the U.S. and more than 70 countries.

Families and individuals in need of a hand up partner with Habitat for Humanity to build or improve a place they can call home. Habitat homeowners help build their own homes with volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage.

Through financial support, volunteering or adding a voice to support affordable housing, everyone can help families achieve the strength, stability and self-reliance they need to build better lives for themselves.

To learn more, visit habitat.org.