Chicago Urban League receives ‘transformational’ $6.6M donation

The gift from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott will be used to retire debt and upgrade the organization’s Bronzeville headquarters, the league’s local branch CEO says.

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The headquarters of the Chicago Urban League in Bronzeville.

The Chicago Urban League said it will use a gift from MacKenzie Scott to retire debt and complete improvements to the organization’s Bronzeville headquarters.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

The Chicago Urban League on Tuesday announced a “transformational” $6.6 million gift from billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, the largest single donation the 106-year-old organization has ever received.

The Chicago chapter was one of 25 Urban League branches across the U.S. to receive gifts from Scott, an author and former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, according to an Urban League statement.

“We’re honored and grateful that Ms. Scott and her team have recognized the Chicago Urban League’s value and impact to the community,” Chicago Urban League President and CEO Karen Freeman-Wilson said in a statement.

“By placing racial equity and social justice at the forefront of her philanthropic mission, Ms. Scott is shining a much-needed spotlight on the nation’s structural and institutional limitations and helping to build a stronger, more resilient society for everyone.”

Among other Urban League branches receiving seven-figure gifts from Scott were the Urban League of Palm Beach, Florida, which announced a $5 million donation; the Louisiana branch, which received $5.7 million; and the branch in Columbia, South Carolina, which received $1.5 million.

The Chicago Urban League will use the gift to retire debt and complete improvements to the organization’s Bronzeville headquarters, according to the statement. The organization listed liabilities of $3.9 million on its 2020 tax filings, the most recent year available.

Scott’s donation also will help the organization expand workforce development, housing, youth services, entrepreneurship programs, the statement said. Scott’s $6.6 million gift is roughly equivalent to what the organization brings in from donations in a typical fundraising year, according to tax records.

Scott has been a prolific donor to charitable causes, giving away an estimated $12 billion over the last two years, according to Forbes, a total composed of similar gifts to multiple branches of a nonprofit. In March, Scott gave a total of $436 million to Habitat for Humanity and 84 of the organization’s affiliates.

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