Mat-Su Health Foundation receives largest one-time gift ever from MacKenzie Scott

WASILLA, Alaska (KTUU) – Billionaire philanthropist and author MacKenzie Scott recently donated $15 million to the Mat-Su Health Foundation, which is the largest single donation ever received by the community health organization.

The Mat-Su Health Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Mat-Su Regional Medical Center, and provides grant funding and strategic support to addressing health-related problems in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, with five main focus areas of healthy aging, healthy families, healthy minds, healthy future, and a healthy foundation.

The organization’s Chief Communications Officer Robin Minard said that it was the first time Scott had ever given to MSHF. The foundation sent out a press release on Oct. 3 announcing the gift.

“We are grateful for this generous gift from Ms. Scott,” MSHF Board Chair LeBron McPhail said. “It’s meaningful recognition of the work we are doing to improve the way systems work for Mat-Su residents and to eliminate the underlying causes of health inequities.”

In 2021, the foundation gave over $13 million in health and human services grants, and another $2 million in academic and scholarships. This is not the first time Scott has focused her giving in Alaska, after providing a multi-million dollar donation to the Alaska Native Heritage Center last year.

“While it’s too soon to identify specific uses for the money, we are committed to regranting these dollars in alignment with our theory of change, which calls for us to be data-driven, strategic, and community-driven,” said MSHF President and CEO Elizabeth Ripley.

The foundation produced a Community Health Needs Assessment in 2019 and has been working on the implementation of the eight identified goals since publishing the report. Ripley wrote in the release that the assessment will help “inform future spending decisions supported by this large donation.”

The eight stated goals of the assessment completed in 2019 are:

  • Resident economic stability
  • Safe and healthy relationships
  • Strong social connections
  • Freedom from discrimination/racial equity
  • Excellent mental health
  • Affordable and accessible healthy recreation
  • Affordable and accessible preventative care
  • Healthy environment

The 2021 evaluation of the assessment included a Mat-Su Homelessness Needs Assessment. Other reporting on health issues in the Mat-Su can be found under the research section of their website. In December of 2019, the McDowell Group and Strategy Solutions, Inc., produced an executive summary for the needs assessment with foundation staff members. In the summary, the top-ranked goal in terms of importance was “resident economic stability.”

“These funds were unsolicited, we did not ask for them,” Ripley said in an interview Tuesday. “Some folks that were working for MacKenzie Scott reached out in February and asked for a meeting with us. They said that colleagues around the country had referenced our work and recommended that they speak to us, and they reached out and said they had a philanthropist who was interested in making a donation to support our work and wanted to know more about it — specifically about our rural equity work.”

The assessment report said that in 2021, the foundation provided over $5 million in COVID-19 relief funding — 60% of which was directed to nonprofits. The funding was used for free COVID-19 testing, a free call line for COVID-19 questions, providing thousands of at-home rapid COVID-19 tests, 100 HEPA air filters for organizations within the community, and grants to homeless and food insecure individuals.

“We’re super excited,” Ripley said in an interview Tuesday. “This is a celebration. These assets are going to be deployed in the fastest-growing population in the state. These assets are going to be deployed to improve the health of our citizens and it’s a celebration that we’re on the map, that folks not just in Mat-Su, not just in the state of Alaska but folks across the nation are recognizing the good work and the leadership happening here in Mat-Su.”

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