Dallas’ Big Thought Receives $2.5M in Donations from MacKenzie Scott, Dan Jewett, Rainwater Charitable Foundation

The money will assist the local nonprofit in equipping Dallas youth with the space, tools, and skills to think of new ways to approach challenges, make connections, solve problems, and ultimately tackle systemic inequity.

Dallas-based Big Thought, which is dedicated to educating and motivating the city’s youth, has received $2.5 million in new donations: $1 million from the Rainwater Charitable Foundation in Fort Worth and $1.5 million from philanthropists MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett.

Big Thought is consistently working to motivate Dallas kids to build their creative muscles, create their authentic voice, and develop social and emotional skills. 

The funding will serve as a catalyst in expanding the work Big Thought is doing with its partners to help close the opportunity gap through educational programs, learning communities, and advocacy. In addition, the capital will enable Big Thought to provide more support to communities that traditionally have been underfunded by delivering programs that encourage children to imagine and design a more equitable and innovative future.

According to American novelist and philanthropist Mackenzie Scott, arts and cultural institutions can strengthen communities by “transforming spaces, fostering empathy, reflecting community identity, advancing economic mobility, improving academic outcomes, lowering crime rates, and improving mental health.” 

She and Jewett, her husband, evaluated smaller arts organizations creating these benefits, specifically “with artists and audiences from culturally rich regions and identity groups that donors often overlook.”

With this in mind, Scott and Jewett today made $2.74 billion in total donations to 286 high-impact organizations in communities that are focused on the arts and combating racial inequity.

Scott’s settlement in her 2019 divorce from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos made her one of the richest women in the world, according to CNN. Right before the divorce was finalized she joined The Giving Pledge, a campaign from Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Melinda Gates that “encourages extremely wealthy people to contribute a majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes.”

Jewett joined shortly after their marriage in March.

After rigorous research and analysis, Big Thought was selected for its undying focus on equity and education. The couple hopes to make relatively large donations that enable work and provide organizations with a sense of trust and encouragement.

On her blog Seeding by Ceding, Scott not only announced other awarded organizations such as The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and The Urban Institute, but also shared that, research has shown her giving organizations a sense of trust “empowers receivers by making them feel valued and by unlocking their best solutions.

“Generosity is generative,” she writes. “Sharing makes more.”

In addition to Scott and Jewett, the Rainwater Charitable Foundation, which funds initiatives that are focused on bettering the lives of children, contributed to Big Thought’s mission.

Rooted in the belief that high-quality education can transform the life trajectories of children and families, the Rainwater Charitable Foundation’s donation will support Big Thought’s efforts to tackle racial wealth inequality through systemic change.

“We have been doing this work with our community partners for more than 30 years, and these contributions will enable us to keep inspiring all youth to imagine and create a more innovative and equitable world,” said Byron Sanders, president and CEO of Big Thought. “These are transformational gifts that will have a lasting impact. They’ll enable us to learn along with our partners in communities how to center youth agency, deepen our own readiness along a race-equity journey, and equip youth with powerful creative experiences readying them for a twenty-first century world.”

As a long-time advocate for education, CEO Byron Sanders recently shared with Dallas Innovates that given the events of the past year, it is absolutely crucial to address the important link between school facilities and a student’s academic success and well-being.

For this reason Sanders joined Building Solution’s Educational Campaign’s Advocacy Committee as a part of their year long campaign to shine a light on educational inequities and partnered with the Dallas City of Learning Digital Explorations to launch a platform with hundreds of free programs for parents to access while students are learning from home.

Thanks to generous donations and diverse partnerships, Sanders plans to make Big Thought’s impact in the community even bigger.

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