When Big Brothers Big Sisters Twin Cities CEO Pat Sukhum got an out-of-the-blue phone call a month ago, informing him that philanthropist MacKenzie Scott would be donating $6 million to the organization, he nearly fell out of his chair.
"I can honestly say it's probably the most unprofessional I've ever been on a call. I was hooting and hollering and jumping around the room," Sukhum recalled.
The gift is part of a total grant of $122.6 million that Scott gave to Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies nationwide. It’s the largest donation from a single individual in the 120-year history of the national organization, which works to connect young people with caring adult mentors, for what the nonprofit hopes will be meaningful, lifelong relationships.
Sukhum said the $6 million donation is slightly larger than the Twin Cities nonprofit’s annual budget.
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While the donation will help with some short term needs, “what this is going to do is really supercharge our ability to be transformative,” he said, noting there are more than 300 young people currently on a list waiting to be assigned mentors.
“We believe that every child benefits from having a mentor,” Sukhum added. “You think about confidence, self esteem and positive decision making, the number one factor in building resiliency is the presence of a caring adult.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies are located in all 50 states. There are three in Minnesota. In addition to the Twin Cities location, offices are also located in St. Cloud and Owatonna.
Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has donated over $12 billion to more than 1,250 nonprofits since 2020.
Earlier this year she gave nearly $50 million to several other Minnesota nonprofits, including Boys & Girls Clubs, Planned Parenthood and Habitat for Humanity.
Big Brothers Big Sisters said Scott has directed the majority of her philanthropy to organizations supporting equity and the needs of underrepresented people.
In a statement, the organization said that support is needed now more than ever, “as young people experience increased grief and loss, mental health challenges, feelings of isolation and stress from social injustice in the Twin Cities.”