When Junior Achievement of Southeastern Michigan (JASEM) CEO Jason Lee received a random, almost cryptic email from an unknown source, he almost deleted it. “In the email, the author wrote ‘I was advised to give you a call.’ They name dropped our national director for Junior Achievement. I reached out to him to verify and he said, ‘You might want to take the call.’

Junior Achievement of Southeastern Michigan (JASEM) CEO Jason Lee. Photo of Junior Achievement of Southeastern Michigan

“When I got the call, I sat there with tears in my eyes.”  

Jason Lee

The email and call were from a representative for billionaire MacKenzie Scott’s philanthropy team. Junior Achievement of Southeastern Michigan received a $1M donation, the largest single gift in the organization’s 73-year history. 

This year, the novelist and ex-wife of Jeff Bezos has donated nearly $2B to nonprofits globally, including several in southeastern Michigan led or founded by African Americans and those who identify as Black. Scott selected JASEM as one of 26 Junior Achievement offices across the U.S. to receive a portion of a larger $38.8 million total gift made to Junior Achievement.

Similarly, Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan (GSSEM) announced it received a $2.4M donation from Scott. Monica Woodson, GSSEM CEO, recalled what it was like to receive communication about the unsolicited gift. “You get this email and you’re like, ‘Is this spam?’ You call them back and they’re lovely and you chat and they tell you who they’re calling on behalf of,” Woodson explained. “It was very much a surreal moment.”  The gift is part of an $84.5M donation awarded to Girl Scouts of the USA and 29 local councils selected by Scott’s foundation. The unprecedented investment is the largest donation from a single individual in the national organization’s history, according to a statement released by GSSEM. 

Monica Woodson, Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan CEO. Photo of Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan

“What gifts of this nature do more than anything is allow you the freedom to dream.” 

Monica Woodson

Scott, who joined The Giving Pledge in 2019, committed to giving away a significant portion of her wealth. In her most recent blog post for Medium.com, Scott noted that “over the last seven months, with the help of my team, I gave $1,990,800,000 to 343 organizations supporting the voices and opportunities of people from underserved communities.”


Shortly after the post, Detroit Public Schools Community District announced it received $20M. The district intends to use the funds to raise student achievement by implementing its literacy and math intervention model at scale, targeting lower grade levels.

Rasheda Kamaria Williams is a social entrepreneur, mentoring consultant and founder of Empowered Flower Girl. A youth and community advocate, Rasheda is passionate about nonprofits and philanthropic organizations. Connect with her at rkamaria@empoweredflowergirl.com

Shortlist of 2022 Detroit-area recipients:

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit

Detroit Public Schools Community District

Friends of the Children — Detroit

Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan

Junior Achievement of Southeastern Michigan

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