Adult Literacy Programs Receive Millions through Yield Giving

May 29, 2024

Earlier this spring, billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott’s organization, Yield Giving, announced the winners of her competition in which she had planned to give 250 community-based nonprofits $1 million. The awards program was established to help bolster organizations making a positive impact in their communities. However, to everyone’s surprise and excitement, Scott not only decided to recognize 361organizations, but she also decided to increase the dollar amount of the awards to $2 million for 279 of those recipients.

The list is impressive and includes organizations that advocate for health equity, the homeless, LGBTQIA+ people, food security, mental health services, youth wellbeing, immigrant assistance, and more. Among the list of nonprofits building better communities, we were not surprised to see the names of four of our member programs.

We know adult literacy is critical to building strong and engaged communities, and we are thrilled that Literacy Mid-South, Intercambio, the English Empowerment Center, and Beyond Literacy were recognized as change makers.

Gifts of this size can be transformative, and the commitment of these four programs to use the money to expand on the fantastic programming they already have in place to reach and serve more adult learners is a testament to their belief in the power adult literacy and education.

Literacy Mid-South, Memphis, TN

Literacy Mid-South received $2 million from Yield Giving to further its mission of improving literacy rates in Memphis and Shelby County, TN, where it has had a presence for 50 years.

Literacy Mid-South CEO Sam O’Bryant

Literacy Mid-South works tirelessly to ensure that everyone has access to the literacy resources they need for success in education, work, and life, and it has the ambitious goal to achieve 100% literacy in Memphis.

“This gift is a recognition of Literacy Mid-South’s vital role in the Memphis community for the last 50 years and an endorsement of our bold vision for the future. With these additional resources, we can continue our existing programs and expand our reach, distribute more books, and further engage with our community across all ages,” said Sam O’Bryant, executive director.

This money will help Literacy Mid-South build on its extensive programming across age groups and literacy needs. In 2023 alone, among other amazing statistics, Literacy Mid-South coordinated more than 1,000 hours of adult tutoring.

It also runs an Out-of-School Time program to help prevent summer learning loss, especially for students from low-income families who may not have access to costly summer programs. Through this and its Tutor901 program, Literacy Mid-South has provided thousands of school-age students with services that have successfully improved literacy rates, which will result in fewer low-literate adults in the future.

As Memphis continues to grow, the money received from this grant will be crucial in ensuring Literacy Mid-South can keep up to help everyone attain the literacy skills needed for a brighter future.

Intercambio, Boulder and Longmont, CO 

Yield Giving shared with Intercambio that it was chosen to receive $2 million because the nonprofit has stayed true to its mission, avoiding mission creep and focusing on expertly delivering services and developing curriculum. Remaining true to this, Intercambio will continue connecting as many English language learners with community volunteers as possible, both online and in person. The grant means it will be able to do this at much accelerated pace.

“Our mission and our vision of millions of people cultivating new levels of cross-cultural connection and belonging, one conversation at a time, will remain the same. Our commitment to facilitating connections to create a more fair, just, and inclusive society will remain the same. But our capacity to achieve our goals and the rate at which milestones are met will be dramatically changed. With this grant, we will set a course to connecting thousands more students and volunteers, increasing the quality and access of adult English language learning, building bridges, and changing lives,” said Intercambio CEO John Lopez.

By recognizing Intercambio’s work of supporting cross-cultural connection in the lives of volunteers and students and in communities across the US, this grant boosted the visibility of the organization locally and nationally. With increased awareness, Intercambio has the ability to bring more people together to enrich the lives of all participants.

“Our commitment to facilitating connections to create a more fair, just, and inclusive society will remain the same. But our capacity to achieve our goals and the rate at which milestones are met will be dramatically changed.”

English Empowerment Center, Falls Church, VA

Being awarded a $1 million grant reaffirmed that the English Empowerment Center is doing important work lifting up its community. Now, the Yield Giving grant will give the English Empowerment Center a chance to put into action its many more ideas to serve its community even better and more efficiently. The nonprofit can now realistically consider expanding its work to other parts of its community.

The center will now be able to put systems in place to take care of repetitive and manual tasks, freeing staff and instructors to concentrate on serving students. The organization will now be better equipped to focus on outreach so that people can find its classes more easily, and it wants to create an endowed scholarship fund so that it will not have to worry each year about where the money for scholarships will come from for the 30% of students who need them.

The English Empowerment Center will use this as an opportunity to continue to dream of ways to expand its programs to serve more people in the years to come.

Beyond Literacy, Philadelphia, PA

Beyond Literacy received a $2 million gift from Yield Giving, which will allow it to boost its ability to change lives through literacy and provide essential upskilling support to underserved communities across the region.

In a press release, Beyond Literacy noted that in Philadelphia, known as America’s most impoverished large city, 52% of adults read and comprehend below a sixth-grade level. The award raises awareness of the effectiveness and significance of Beyond Literacy’s education programs in addressing the adult literacy and workforce readiness crisis in the city.

Beyond Literacy will use the award to expand its reach and efforts in promoting literacy as a pathway to empowerment and opportunity.

In the release, Beyond Literacy CEO Kimmell Proctor said, “We are deeply honored and grateful to MacKenzie Scott and her Yield Giving team for their incredible generosity. This transformative gift underscores the importance of investing in intergenerational education opportunities as a catalyst for positive social change. The award will have a profound impact on our ability to make strategic investments that break barriers and make a meaningful difference in the economic mobility of more Philadelphians.”

Congratulations to these ProLiteracy member programs on this amazing recognition for their work to build better communities!