Originally published: November 1, 2022
Pittsburgh Post Gazette

The Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh on Monday reached another historic milestone in its 104-year history.

The nonprofit civil rights organization announced it has received its largest single contribution in 104 years of operation — a $6 million gift from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.

Leaders of the local Urban League described it as a “transformational” contribution that will allow the organization to magnify its support of economic self-reliance, parity, power and civil rights for Black Americans.

“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,” said Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh president and CEO Carlos T. Carter in a prepared statement.

Ms. Scott’s historic $6 million contribution to the Pittsburgh affiliate of the Urban League comes about a week after the Heinz Endowments announced a $1 million gift to the organization.

The Heinz Endowment gift will fund the Urban League’s One Pittsburgh Now initiative, which aims to connect unemployed and underemployed working-age African American individuals in Pittsburgh with job opportunities.

The grant will focus specifically on the challenges faced by single parents in Pittsburgh, and it will establish a child care resource fund.

The Urban League estimates that 1,600 households will benefit through economic improvement during the Heinz Endowments’ three-year grant period.

Ms. Scott’s gift to the Urban League does not appear to be earmarked for a specific program. The local Urban League is among 25 Urban League affiliates across the nation that received similar donations from Ms. Scott.

The billionaire philanthropist and ex-wife of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos received $59 billion worth of shares of Seattle e-commerce giant Amazon in a divorce settlement. In 2019, she signed The Giving Pledge, a promise by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to charitable causes.

Ms. Scott has made other large donations to Pittsburgh organizations.

Pressley Ridge, a nonprofit agency based in McCandless, announced in March that it received a $10 million unrestricted gift from a billionaire. It was also the single largest donation Presley Ridge ever received in its 190-year history.

In July 2021, Center of Life, a nonprofit focused on helping the underserved community and K-12 students in the Hazelwood area, disclosed that it had received a donation from Ms. Scott, although it did not release the amount.

A month earlier, the Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh initiative, which provides grants to artists in the community in partnership with The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments, was approved for $2 million.

And in February 2021, YWCA Greater Pittsburgh was alerted that it would receive $20 million — money that it hadn’t applied for — from Ms. Scott.

As the newest recipient of Ms. Scott’s largess, the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh said it will determine the most impactful use of the $6 million contribution as part of its strategic planning process scheduled to start in January 2023.

“The board of directors and I acknowledge this contribution as a vote of confidence in the work of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh,” Mr. Carter said.

He added that the historic gift also acknowledges the Urban League staff, “who are engaged in executing the heavy lift of opening doors and creating pathways for underserved and marginalized people to achieve self-reliance, parity, power and civil rights.”

The Urban League’s central operating budget is around $1 million, a spokesman said, although it also works with additional restricted funds that support specific programming.