MacKenzie Scott, the billionaire philanthropist known for her unexpected multi-billion dollar donations to charities and racial equity causes, announced Tuesday that she had donated $ 2.7 billion to 286 organizations. This is the third round of major unconditional philanthropic gifts Scott has made, which together rivals charitable contributions made by larger foundations.
Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, wrote in a Medium post that she and her husband, Dan Jewett, made the donations to enable the recipients to continue their work and as a “signal of confidence and encouragement” to themselves and others.
And she made it clear in her announcement that she is troubled by the increasing concentration of vast wealth among a small proportion of individuals. She and Jewett worked with a team of researchers and philanthropy advisers “to donate a fortune that has been made possible by systems in need of change.”
“In this effort,” she said, “we are governed by the humble conviction that it would be better if disproportionate wealth were not concentrated in a few hands and that solutions were better designed and implemented. work by others. “
In 2020, Scott made two similar surprise announcements, donating a combined $ 6 billion to help COVID-19, gender equality, historically black colleges and universities, and other schools. The 286 organizations chosen for Tuesday’s announcement included “equity-driven” nonprofits working in long-neglected areas and were selected through a rigorous process of research and analysis, said Scott.
“Because we believe that experienced teams on the front line of challenges will best use the money wisely, we have encouraged them to spend it as they see fit,” she wrote.
Scott’s wealth, estimated by Forbes at around $ 60 billion, has only grown since she divorced Bezos in 2019 and walked away with a 4% stake in Amazon. Shortly after the split, the 51-year-old signed the Giving Pledge, a pledge developed by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett for the world’s richest to donate the majority of their wealth during their lifetime or in their wills. . Jewett also became a signatory earlier this year.
David Callahan, founder of the Inside Philanthropy website and author of “The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age,” says Scott’s donations show not only a focus on the wealth gap, but also a attempt to help increase the political voice of historically marginalized communities.
Since 2020, Scott has made great contributions to organizations run by minorities, women or others from vulnerable populations. “And, she specifically didn’t want to do philanthropy in a way that puts her, the philanthropist, in the driver’s seat,” Callahan said.
“A lot of philanthropists are very, in a way, controlling,” he added. “They think they have the best ideas. They carefully choose who to give money to (in order to) find groups that are willing to implement their ideas. And MacKenzie Scott is doing something very different. groups that have their own ideas and empower them to do their jobs.
The latest recipients range from universities – including $ 40 million each to the University of Central Florida and the University of Texas at San Antonio – to refugee resettlement and civil rights groups, as well as arts and culture organizations that have suffered from a drop in donations, with donors focusing on needs most urgent cases caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Wynton Marsalis, executive and artistic director of the recipient Jazz at Lincoln Center, said the nonprofit is proud to be one of “esteemed organizations that have been tireless in their dedication to developing the arts, transforming education systems and improve our collective humanity by nurturing communities. “
“In a very difficult time and with uncertainties ahead, we are grateful for this generous and unexpected support,” Marsalis said in a statement.
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Melissa Berman, chair of recipient Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, said her group was first informed in May that they would receive a donation from Scott. “This is an unsolicited gift, for which we are extremely grateful,” said Berman, without specifying the amount that was given.
She said the donation would help the charity conduct nonprofit research and “share more information on giving that works to change pernicious systems like racism, economic inequality and climate change.”
Donations have also gone to nonprofit organizations that focus on minority communities. The Native Americans in Philanthropy group, a grantee that links philanthropic organizations with Native American-led nonprofits, said in a statement that the multi-million dollar contribution would help them in their efforts to increase funding for tribal communities.
“MacKenzie Scott has re-engaged in transformational work, the organizations that undertake it, and the leaders whose ideas are often underfunded and overlooked,” said Erik Stegman, group executive director, in a statement. “It’s important to note that she also just wrote checks to these organizations, putting her own interests aside and ceding power to the organizations she funds.”
Scott’s concern about the huge gap between the richest Americans and everyone else was highlighted in a report from last week from the nonprofit investigative journalism organization ProPublica. He reported that the 25 richest Americans pay less in taxes than many regular workers, once you include taxes for Social Security and Medicare.
Using data from the Internal Revenue Service on the nation’s wealthiest people, ProPublica said some of them paid little or no income tax in some years. Among them is Scott’s former husband Bezos, who ProPublica says paid no income tax in 2007 and 2011.