MacKenzie Scott donates $ 2.74 billion to 286 organizations
Mac Kenzie Scott promised she would give her fortune “until the safe is empty”. It turned out to be more difficult than expected.
Ms Scott made this commitment in 2019, following her divorce from Jeff Bezos. At the time, his share of the settlement, roughly 4% of Amazon stock, was valued at around $ 36 billion.
With the rising value of this stock, Ms. Scott is accumulating wealth faster than she can give it away. Although she has donated over $ 8 billion in the past 11 months, mostly through direct donations to nonprofits, she is now richer than ever, worth of about $ 60 billion, according to Forbes.
In 2020, a year of incredible need, Scott gave nearly $ 6 billion to 500 organizations. Now, for the third time in less than a year, Mrs Scott announced a new round of grants, worth a combined $ 2.74 billion, demonstrating that his dedication to quickly disbursing his fortune has not wavered.
The latest grants will be distributed to 286 organizations, including leading universities, distinguished arts groups and nonprofits that fight racial injustice and domestic violence. Grant recipients – the average size was just under $ 10 million – included the Alaska Native Heritage Center, Broward College in Florida, and the Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Yet even as she shelled out her billions, Ms Scott expressed some ambivalence about her wealth and its source, writing in a blog post that “it would be better if disproportionate wealth were not concentrated in a small one. number of hands ”.
The wide array of giveaways and the way they were advertised reflects Ms Scott’s very unconventional approach to philanthropy. Although her net worth now exceeds the value of the endowment of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest charity in the world, Ms Scott has shown no interest in developing this type of formal structure around her donations.
It does not have a foundation of its own, which would require detailed public documents and potentially large staff. Instead, three times in the past 11 months, she wrote a blog post on the Medium website, shared some thoughts on philanthropy and the causes it supports, and announced that she has donated 1 billion dollars or more.
While philanthropy experts have applauded Ms Scott’s generosity, the scale of her donations prompts her to ask to be more transparent.
“MacKenzie Scott is a private citizen, but she plays a public role,” said Maribel Morey, founding executive director of the Miami Institute for the Social Sciences. “Just as a judge must explain his logic, or a senator must answer to his constituents, a philanthropist must explain how and why he made his decisions. “
Little is known about how Ms. Scott selects her beneficiaries, and there is no formal method for groups to apply for funds. Instead, most grant recipients first learn of their potential windfall when approached by representatives for Ms. Scott, often from the non-profit consultancy firm Bridgespan Group, and tell them they are in. study for a substantial sum from an anonymous donor. They were sworn to secrecy at first, but are allowed to talk about the money once Ms Scott’s final letter is published.
Since Ms Scott does not have a foundation, at least some of her contributions go through a Donor Advised Fund, a controversial vehicle that facilitates some charitable giving.
It’s an innovative approach to megaphilanthropy that seems designed to protect her well-guarded privacy. Ms Scott has not been interviewing the media recently and maintains a close circle of friends and advisers. She went public with part of her personal life this year when she announced that she had married Dan Jewett, a chemistry teacher at her children’s school.
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In her latest round of donations, Ms Scott did not indicate how much she gave to each organization, but her blog post included a list of those receiving funds. They included well-known artistic groups such as the Apollo Theater and the Hispánico Ballet. The Dance Theater of Harlem, which received $ 10 million, said the donation was the largest in its history.
Ms. Scott has also given to institutions of higher education, including systems schools at the University of California and the University of Texas; organizations focused on racial justice, such as Race Forward and Borealis Philanthropy; groups focused on gender equity and combating domestic violence; and an assortment of other nonprofits, including the Authors League Fund, which helps writers in need, and Afrika Tikkun, which works to end child poverty in South Africa.
And while in many ways, Ms Scott has shaken up the way philanthropy works in recent decades, she has also invested in several pillars of the existing philanthropic community.
Like her previous public letters, Ms. Scott’s last blog post was a personal reflection on privilege, need and responsibility. She said she hoped to “emphasize privileged voices and cede attention to others.”
Breaking with the workings of many foundations, Scott said her donations were not intended for specific programs. “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 said.
As she has done before, Ms Scott also included a literary reference, this time from the Sufi poet Rumi.
Ms Scott seems aware that her immense and growing fortunes are made possible by Amazon, a company that has long come under scrutiny for its harsh working conditions and the myriad of ways in which it has reshaped the business. economy, often centralizing wealth and power along the way. .
“I, Dan, a constellation of researchers, administrators and advisers – we are all trying to donate a fortune that has been made possible by systems in need of change,” she wrote.
Yet in the latest batch of beneficiaries, Ms Morey saw little evidence that Ms Scott was attempting to use her wealth to counter Amazon’s influence.
“It is really essential for any philanthropist to tackle the inequalities in the way their wealth has been created,” she said. “If you want to have a leading voice in the fight against inequality, you have to tackle Amazon’s profit maximization in the private sector.”
David Callahan, founder of the site Inside philanthropy, added that although Ms Scott had a clear focus on organizations working on the front lines, she had so far shown little interest in the think tanks and research institutes that often shape policy in Washington and state houses across the country.
“She just doesn’t seem to listen to that stuff at all,” Callahan said. “It reflects an incomplete understanding of how change is happening in this country. Change occurs from bottom to top, but also from top to bottom.
Ms Scott’s latest round of donations was less than the $ 4.2 billion in grants announced in December, which she directly linked to the huge needs generated by the pandemic. But the $ 2.74 billion in donations, announced just six months after the windfall, firmly establish her as the most generous and influential philanthropist working today.
By distributing her billions so quickly, Ms Scott continues to undermine the philanthropic status quo, which is dominated by large foundations with large program staff who select beneficiaries and manage donations.
“His main expression of this criticism is to give so much money so quickly and support so many bottom-up organizations,” Callahan said. “She has this anti-elite approach to philanthropy. She does not put herself in the driver’s shoes.