Upon her divorce with one of the wealthiest men in the world, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, MacKenzie Scott became the wealthiest woman in the world with over 50 billion dollars to her name. Scott was immediately viewed under a microscope as many millionaires and billionaires are– what was she going to do with all that money?
On May 25, 2019, MacKenzie Scott announced exactly what she planned to do with her Giving Pledge, inspired by a quote toward the end of Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life: “…Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you.” With that in mind, Scott promised to distribute a majority of her wealth to communities in need across the world. She and her team of advisors would start evaluating who really needed the help and get to work.
“…I have a disproportionate amount of money to share,” she writes. “My approach to philanthropy will continue to be thoughtful. It will take time and effort and care. But I won’t wait. And I will keep at it until the safe is empty.”
With a promise like that, it was evident Scott would jump into action within the next few years for certain, but what wasn’t certain was where that money would go.
Fast forward a year. It’s May, 2020, a time when it had become abundantly clear that the pandemic wasn’t just a passing scare. It was already catastrophic event, and the year wasn’t even half over. Hundreds of thousands of people had been infected. Over 100,000 had died. But there was– and continues to be– a second fight people across the globe are forced to face: a financial crisis. Unemployment numbers skyrocketed to unprecedented levels. Millions of Americans struggled to put food on the table.
And it was only May.
As summer came along and the virus showed no signs of stopping, Scott got together with her team of advisors to come up with a plan to give out immediate support to people suffering from the effects of the economic crisis. Together, the team came up with a group of organizations who have shown to make a difference in the lives of those who sought help, with special attention paid to those operating in places of high projected food insecurity, high measures of racial inequity, high local poverty rates, and low access to philanthropic capital.
CBS report on MacKenzie Scott’s giving.
On December 15, MacKenzie Scott published a Medium post titled “384 Ways to Help.” In this update, she revealed that she had donated $4,158,500,000 to 384 organizations across all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington D.C. since July. These organizations vary from food banks and support services, to debt relief and civil right advocacy groups. Every gift is totally no string attached because even though the research was “data-driven and rigorous,” Scott believes the giving process “can be human and soft.”
At the end of her announcement, Scott encourages her readers to look inside and gift support to others. As a jumping point for many hopeful donors, Scott lists hundreds of organizations that do great things and could use the aid.
The charities Scott has given to include (but are not limited) to:
Inspired by the work of these teams and so many others this year: https://t.co/TlMe3wP4UQ
— MacKenzie Scott (@mackenziescott) December 15, 2020
MacKenzie Scott’s expedited approach to giving is unheard of when it comes to the world of philanthropy. Most billionaires give to a variety of charities, of course, but not to this extent. Their approach is far lower and slower, often ending in a trust fund of money for family members to do as they please with once the billionaire has passed.
“You think of all these tech fortunes, they’re the great disrupters, but she’s disrupting the norms around billionaire philanthropy by moving quickly, not creating a private foundation for her great-grandchildren to give the money away,” Chuck Collins, director of the Charity Reform Initiative at the Institute for Policy studies says.
Even those who do give more often in higher amounts, they have a foundation behind them with thousands of employees to be paid out. Scott’s approach is different. She has a small team of advisers to help her find worthy causes, allowing money to funnel straight to these causes. Instead of leaving it up to the future generations to make a difference, Scott is actively making a difference, and she’s making it now.
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