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MacKenzie Scott charity shocks San Francisco nonprofit with $1M gift

Young people sit at a long table with papers in front of them with chandeliers and artifacts hanging from the ceiling.
Students work on their projects at the 826 Valencia writing center and pirate supply store. | Source: Courtesy 826 Valencia

The staff of literary nonprofit 826 Valencia—so used to working with words—were uncharacteristically at a loss for them. They had just received news of a windfall $1 million gift from MacKenzie Scott’s Yield Giving program

“Surprise is an understatement,” said the organization’s executive director, Bita Nazarian, emotion in her voice. “We were over the moon with so much enthusiasm.”

The Yield Giving program represents the first time the billionaire ex-wife of Jeff Bezos offered an open call for her charitable giving. Community-focused and community-led organizations—like 826 Valencia, which supports underserved students with their writing—were invited to submit grant proposals for consideration, rather than blindly hoping Scott’s philanthropic team would call. 

The response, in turn, was tremendous: 6,353 organizations applied in what became a yearlong, multi-round process. Last week, 826 Valencia, the Dave Eggers-founded nonprofit, learned it had become one of just 361 organizations to make the cut—5% of the total applicants.

A "Scurvy Begone" bottle of candy and a children's literary journal sit on a a wooden table in a pirate-themed storefront.
The Pirate Supply Shop at 826 Valencia sells nautically themed gag gifts and literary journals penned by the nonprofit's students. | Source: Courtesy 826 Valencia

For Miranda Ling, the group’s director of advancement, the size of the donation mirrored the ambitions of the literary nonprofit. 

“It speaks about our ability to dream big,” Ling said. “And the power of writing.”

The organization had to go through a lengthy grant-writing process to justify receiving a gift that would match the largest it had ever received. 

Founded in 2002 by author Dave Eggers and teacher Nínive Calegari, 826 Valencia offers a variety of writing programs for public school students and underserved youth, such as school workshops, after-school programs and weekend activities. Named after the storefront where its pirate supply business set up shop, the mission of 826 has since spread across the country

Given the organization’s $6.5-million budget for 2024, the gift represents nearly a fifth of its operating costs. The nonprofit also has a goal of raising $25 million for its growth and sustainability plan to serve more people and extend the organization’s reach into the future, especially since more schools request services than it is able to provide. 

The grant will help to support 6,000 San Francisco students in their growth as writers, allowing 826 to build out its elementary school program, expand writing-focused professional development for teachers and add more paid tutors, who are more likely to reflect the ranks of the students they serve. 

“Individualized attention is a big part of our secret sauce,” Ling said. 

The California Environmental Voters Education Fund and the California Native Vote Project also received funds as did the food entrepreneur incubator, La Cocina. 

“There’s so much conversation about what’s wrong in San Francisco,” Nazarian said. “But there’s awesome young people in this city, and they have a lot to say.” 

This story has been updated with the correct percentage of applicants to The Yield Giving program that received grants.
Julie Zigoris can be reached at