Inspired Millions

Client: College of the Desert Foundation

MacKenzie Scott’s $18M Gift Inspires a New Generation of Donors.

In June 2021, College of the Desert (COD) received its largest one-time grant in the College’s 60-year history, an unprecedented $18 million donation from billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.

Scott identified COD as one of 286 high-impact organizations in communities with students who have been historically underfunded and overlooked. “Higher education is a proven pathway to opportunity,” shares Scott. “We looked for two- and four-year institutions successfully educating students who come from communities that have been chronically underserved.”

Scott, her husband, Dan Jewett, and a team of researchers and advisors quietly conducted an independent quest to identify those schools. COD was among only 31 colleges and universities nationwide to receive a monetary gift – unsolicited, unexpected and unrestricted for its use.

Scott’s objective behind the donations has inspired the staff and students of COD, the greater community and the higher education system as a whole.

“People struggling against inequities deserve center stage in stories about change they are creating,” shares Mackenzie Scott.

Private donors like Scott have historically built COD into the esteemed community college it is today. It is a school that empowers dreams for those who may otherwise have given up. COD is an institution that has grown and matured on a foundation of inclusivity – now singled out by Scott on a national level for those efforts.

Scott joins an impressive list of generous donors including The Donald and Peggy Cravens Foundation, The Auen Foundation, Patrick M. McCarthy Foundation, The Richard Brooke Foundation, The Berger Foundation, The Coeta and Donald Barker Foundation and many others.

Gifts of every size have advanced the future careers of COD students. Scott’s gesture enables COD to enter a new era of helping ambitious local students afford to take the next step in their education.

On her website, she shed light on the process behind the contributions they bestowed. In an explanation that has been widely praised and reposted by individuals and organizations Scott said: “We are governed by a humbling belief that it would be better if disproportionate wealth were not concentrated in a small number of hands, and that the solutions are best designed and implemented by others. Though we still have a lot to learn about how to act on these beliefs without contradicting and subverting them, we can begin by acknowledging that people working to build power from within communities are the agents of change. Their service supports and empowers people who go on to support and empower others.”

“We are overwhelmed by Scott’s donation,” shares Christine Anderson, COD Foundation Board President. “Our students can study, launch their careers, grow, thrive and trickle-down their impact onto their families who will continue to support our community at large. Our talented team of educators continues to deliver our mission; now we just need additional support to give more chances to more students.”

To support COD’s most deserving students, please contact Matt Durkan, Director of Development at 760.773.2561 or by e-mail at