MacKenzie Scott, philanthropist, author and former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has announced that she has given away US$4.1 billion in the past four months to hundreds of organisations as part of a giving pledge she announced last year.
Scott announced her pandemic-era philanthropy in a Medium post on Tuesday, The Seattle Times reported. She described the coronavirus pandemic as “a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling,” and noted it has been worse for women, people of colour and those living in poverty.
“Meanwhile,” she wrote, “it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires”.
After donating US$1.68 billion to 116 non-profits, universities, community development groups and legal organisations last July, Scott asked a team of advisers to help her “accelerate” her 2020 giving with immediate help to those financially gutted by the pandemic.
She said the team used a data-driven approach, identifying organisations with strong leadership and results, specifically in communities with high food insecurity, racial inequity and poverty rates, “and low access to philanthropic capital”.
Scott and her team started with 6,490 organisations, researched 822 and put 438 “on hold for now,” waiting for more details about their impact, management and how they treat employees or community members.
In total, 384 organisations in 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, DC, will share US$4,158,500,000 in gifts, including food banks, emergency relief funds “and support services for those most vulnerable.” Other organisations address “long-term systemic inequities that have been deepened by the crisis,” such as debt relief, employment training, credit and financial services for under-resourced communities and education for historically marginalised and underserved people. The money will also support legal defence funds “that take on institutional discrimination.”
Washington state organisation Craft3, a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) focused on investing in businesses owned by people of colour, including black and Indigenous owners, received US$10 million. It is one of several CDFIs nationally to receive an investment from Scott.
“We are incredibly honoured by the recognition that comes with this unprecedented gift. Community Development Financial Institutions are the front line of inclusive, equitable finance in the United States,” Adam Zimmerman, president and CEO of Craft3, said in a statement.
Scott noted that she was “far from completing” her giving pledge, and urged others to follow her lead in whatever way they could: time, a voice or money.