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United Way to receive $20 million donation

The United Way of Greater Rochester  is receiving what its leadership calls a transformational donation that will benefit the entire community.

It recently learned it will be receiving a $20 million commitment from MacKenzie Scott, a novelist and philanthropist who is also the ex-wife of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Scott has awarded more than $4 billion to 384 organizations, including the local United Way. The CEO of the local United way, Jaime Saunders, said that MacKenzie’s organization originally looked at almost 6,500 organization, before paring the list down to just under 400.

Saunders said this gift will be used to impact the Rochester community for a number of years.

“As we face COVID as we get through and beyond, the reverberations on our region, this could not have come at a better time to help us catapult forward to the community that we know needs a different way of operating if we’re all going to be successful and thrive.” Saunders said that the United Way will still hold its regular fundraising campaign, which kicks off in January. That campaign funds more than 81 programs that support health, education and economic mobility.

Goodwill of the Finger Lakes will also be a beneficiary of the donations by Scott. The amount for that organization won’t be known until early next year.

In a blog post on Medium, Scott said that her advisors took a data-driven approach to identifying organizations with strong leadership teams and results, “with special attention to those operating in communities facing high projected food insecurity, high measures of racial inequity, high local poverty rates, and low access to philanthropic capital.”

The United Way of Greater Rochster will create a task force to work closely with community partners to come up with ways to leverage the $20 million gift over the coming years.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.