Jeff Bezos’ ex-wife MacKenzie Scott recently donated $2.7billion to 286 different organizations, increasing her total charitable donations to $8.5billion since last July.
In a Medium post published on Tuesday, the former wife of the Amazon founder listed the charities to which she donated and denounced the country’s wealth gap, explaining that she and her new husband Dan Jewett, a Seattle science teacher, are ‘attempting to give away a fortune that was enabled by systems in need of change.’
Some of her causes included higher education, organizations fighting ethnic and religious discrimination, arts and cultural institutions and community engagement groups.
After her divorce in 2019, which granted her a $36billion settlement and 25 percent stake in Amazon, the 51-year old author and philanthropist signed the Giving Pledge and promised to distribute at least half of her wealth to charitable causes.
She currently ranks as the 22nd-richest person in the world, with a net worth of $59.8billion – and has given away nearly 10 percent of her fortune since the divorce.
MacKenzie Scott announced Tuesday that she and her new husband Dan Jewett (pictured together) recently donated $2.7billion to 286 different charities
Scott wrote in her Medium post: ‘In this effort, 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.’
She added that she, her husband and a team of philanthropic researchers and analysts spent the first quarter of 2021 ‘evaluating equity-oriented non-profit teams working in areas that have been neglected.’
‘These are people who have spent years successfully advancing humanitarian aims, often without knowing whether there will be any money in their bank accounts in two months,’ she wrote.
What also stands out about Scott’s donations is that they came in the form of blank checks, granting the charities to decide how they will use the funds.
‘Because we believe that teams with experience on the front lines of challenges will know best how to put the money to good use, we encouraged them to spend it however they choose,’ she wrote.
Some of the charities expressed their appreciation for the donations on Twitter. The BOMA Project, a Kenya and Vermont-based nonprofit that supports women’s empowerment and education, yielded a $10million donation and wrote in a post on its Twitter page: ‘This gift will allow BOMA to accelerate and expand its work across Africa to reach millions of women and families.’
‘The pandemic has pushed millions worldwide into extreme poverty, and there is an urgent need for sustainable solutions,’ BOMA CEO John Stephens said in a press release. ‘We’re proud that MacKenzie Scott has affirmed and invested in BOMA’s powerful impact in that arena.’
A number of colleges received donations, such as the University of Central Florida, which received the largest donation in its history at $40million. On its Twitter page, it wrote that the funds ‘will fuel social mobility, student success, academic excellence and faculty research for generations to come.’
Last July, Scott shook the philanthropy world when she announced that she donated $1.7billion to 116 charitable causes over the previous year
Another donation went to the National Equity Project, a leadership and systems change organization, which tweeted, ‘This unprecedented gift will support our ongoing efforts to develop leaders who can reimagine and design a world where everyone thrives and belongs.’
Last July, Scott shook the philanthropy world when she announced that she donated $1.7billion to 116 charitable causes over the previous year, $586.7million of which went to racial equity and justice causes.
Scott is one of 210 millionaires and billionaires to sign the Giving Pledge, which was started by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.
Other cosigners include Steve and Jean Case; Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan; and Sara Blakely. Bezos, the richest man in the world, has not signed the pledge.
According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, which tracks the net worth of the world’s 500 richest people, Jeff Bezos is first on the list with a total net worth of $196billion, up $5.69billion from last year.
Meanwhile, Scott is 22nd on the list and has a total net worth of $59.8billion, up $1.32billion from last year.
While Bezos has increased his philanthropic efforts since their split, he still has a long way to go before coming even close to the generosity of his ex-wife.
Last year, he committed $10billion to fight climate change by launching the Bezos Earth Fund last year and has so far donated $791million of it.
Over the last 10 years, however, he only donated two percent of his total wealth. In 2020 alone, Scott has donated 9.4 percent of her fortune.
MacKenzie Scott is one of 210 millionaires and billionaires to sign the Giving Pledge. Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, has not signed the pledge. She skyrocketed to the 22nd richest person in the world in June 2020, largely thanks to her $36billion divorce settlement with Bezos
Amazon’s share price has grown hugely not only since Bezos and MacKenzie divorced but since the start of the pandemic
Bezos isn’t part of The Giving Pledge. In 2017, he asked for ideas for where he should donate his money on Twitter. Last year, he committed $10billion to fight climate change by launching the Bezos Earth Fund last year and has so far donated $791million of it
Scott and Bezos announced in January 2019 they were divorcing after 25 years of marriage and four children after the National Enquirer revealed the tech entrepreneur had been having an affair with former news anchor Lauren Sanchez.
In March 2020, Scott announced her marriage to Dan Jewett, a science teacher at the private Seattle Lakeside School where the children she shares with Bezos attend.
In a post on the Giving Pledge website, Jewett said he was joining his wife’s ‘commitment to pass on an enormous financial wealth to serve others’.
To see a full list of the charities to which Scott donated, click here.
MACKENZIE’S FULL POST
Sitting down to write this post, I felt stuck. I want to de-emphasize privileged voices and cede focus to others, yet I know some media stories will focus on wealth. The headline I would wish for this post is ‘286 Teams Empowering Voices the World Needs to Hear.’
People struggling against inequities deserve center stage in stories about change they are creating. This is equally — perhaps especially — true when their work is funded by wealth. Any wealth is a product of a collective effort that included them. The social structures that inflate wealth present obstacles to them. And despite those obstacles, they are providing solutions that benefit us all.
Putting large donors at the center of stories on social progress is a distortion of their role. Me, Dan, a constellation of researchers and administrators and advisors — we are all attempting to give away a fortune that was enabled by systems in need of change. In this effort, 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.
Because community-centered service is such a powerful catalyst and multiplier, we spent the first quarter of 2021 identifying and evaluating equity-oriented non-profit teams working in areas that have been neglected. The result was $2,739,000,000 in gifts to 286 high-impact organizations in categories and communities that have been historically underfunded and overlooked.
Higher education is a proven pathway to opportunity, so we looked for 2- and 4-year institutions successfully educating students who come from communities that have been chronically underserved.
Discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities has been deepening, so we assessed organizations bridging divides through interfaith support and collaboration.
Arts and cultural institutions can strengthen communities by transforming spaces, fostering empathy, reflecting community identity, advancing economic mobility, improving academic outcomes, lowering crime rates, and improving mental health, so we evaluated smaller arts organizations creating these benefits with artists and audiences from culturally rich regions and identity groups that donors often overlook.
Over 700 million people globally still live in extreme poverty. To find solutions, we all benefit from on-the-ground insights and diverse engagement, so we prioritized organizations with local teams, leaders of color, and a specific focus on empowering women and girls.
We also assessed organizations focused on supporting community engagement itself. The 1.6 million non-profits in America employ 10% of our country’s workforce, and 63 million volunteers. While political pendulums swing back and forth, redistributing and re-concentrating wealth, we can choose to fund organizations with the potential to increase the impact of every dollar and hour donated by others. Social sector infrastructure organizations empower community leaders, support grassroots organizing and innovation, measure and evaluate what works, and disseminate information so that community leaders, elected officials, volunteers, employees, and donors at every level of income can make informed decisions about how to partner and invest. These organizations, which are themselves historically underfunded, also promote and facilitate service, which in turn inspires more people to serve.
We chose to make relatively large gifts to the organizations named below, both to enable their work, and as a signal of trust and encouragement, to them and to others. Would they still benefit from more (more advocates, more money, more volunteers)? Yes. Like those we shared in July and December of 2020, these 286 teams were selected through a rigorous process of research and analysis. These are people who have spent years successfully advancing humanitarian aims, often without knowing whether there will be any money in their bank accounts in two months. What do we think they might do with more cash on hand than they expected? Buy needed supplies. Find new creative ways to help. Hire a few extra team members they know they can pay for the next five years. Buy chairs for them. Stop having to work every weekend. Get some sleep.
Because we believe that teams with experience on the front lines of challenges will know best how to put the money to good use, we encouraged them to spend it however they choose. Many reported that this trust significantly increased the impact of the gift. There is nothing new about amplifying gifts by yielding control. People have been doing it in living rooms and classrooms and workplaces for thousands of years. It empowers receivers by making them feel valued and by unlocking their best solutions. Generosity is generative. Sharing makes more.
A favorite verse by Rumi captures this well:
‘A candle as it diminishes explains,
Gathering more and more is not the way.
Burn, become light and heat and help. Melt.’