January 27, 2021
By Rafael A. Sanchez, United Way of Central Indiana board chair
According to the Urban Dictionary, Wait. What? is an expression made when you “suddenly realize something isn’t right.” All the cool kids say it, my teenagers remind me. I see it on Twitter and Facebook all the time, especially when someone is poking fun at politicians.
In any professional setting, I’d like to think (or at least force myself to believe) my reactions are always thoughtful, poised and non-idiomatic. But then, I got the call from Ann, our beloved United Way president and CEO.
As leaders of United Way, Ann and I talk often. I liken our meetings to that of Queen Elizabeth and whomever might be England’s Prime Minister at the time (yes, I’m addicted to Netflix’s “The Crown” at the moment). Our frequent conversations are always focused on our goals, our impact, our outcomes, and any challenges that need our attention.
On this day though, Ann just needed to tell me this: United Way of Central Indiana was about to receive the largest gift in its history from an individual who did not reside in our community and had never donated to our United Way.
Naturally, I paused. I drew a breath. I’m sure my brow furrowed, and my eyes squinted. I barely remember gazing out the window. And then, I let out my reflexive response. “Wait. What?”
A $25 million transformational donation from MacKenzie Scott was, indeed, coming to United Way of Central Indiana. As we announced today, United Way will invest this immense generosity in strategic efforts to help central Indiana emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic – especially in the areas of education, economic mobility, and racial equity.
I couldn’t help but follow up “Wait. What?” with “but, why us?”
Included in a blog in late December, Ms. Scott announced her decision to grant $4.1 billion to 384 organizations around the U.S. For months, her team of expert advisors had been intensely researching the organizations’ work, including pandemic response, and which of them had the demonstrated leadership, and capacity to address complex issues. In simple terms, Ms. Scott did her homework, and we are extremely proud and humbled to have passed this blind test. What an incredible validation of our work!
On behalf of our board, staff, and our entire Central Indiana community, I want to thank MacKenzie Scott for this transformational gift to United Way. I want to thank her and her team for their confidence and trust in our United Way to steward these resources at the right time and for the right purpose. Most importantly, I can’t thank her enough on behalf of thousands of individuals, children and families who will be served by this enormous generosity over the next several years.
I also appreciate Ms. Scott for helping me be one of the cool kids. In saying that out loud, my 15-year-old just said, “wait, what?”