Portland, OR. MacKenzie Scott’s latest round of charitable giving brings the total she’s donated since her divorce from Jeff Bezos to more than $12 billion. Scott announced her most recent gifts in a Medium post listing, “465 non-profits converting $3,863,125,000 into meaningful services for others.”
Scott explains, “Our team’s focus over these last nine months has included some new areas, but as always our aim has been to support the needs of underrepresented people from groups of all kinds.”
The latest list of Scott’s recipients also includes several regional branches of the women’s health group Planned Parenthood; agricultural education group the National 4-H Council; several chapters of Boys & Girls Clubs throughout the U.S.; several groups providing relief for Ukraine; several branches of the dropout prevention group Communities in Schools, and others.
In Scott’s latest set of donations, 60% of the recipient organizations were led by women, she wrote, noting that only a “tiny fraction” of global humanitarian assistance goes to “organizations focused on the disproportionate challenges experienced by women and girls.”
In the U.S., less than 2% of charitable giving goes to groups directly serving women and girls, according to research by Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.
Scott finalized her split from Amazon AMZN, +0.35% founder Jeff Bezos in 2019, and she then became the world’s fourth wealthiest woman when she left the marriage with a 4% ownership stake in Amazon. That same year, along with her new husband Dan Jewett, Scott signed the Giving Pledge, a public promise to give away most of her wealth either in her lifetime or in her will.
She quickly started deploying her fortune in charitable gifts, and meanwhile, her net worth has swelled to an estimated $49 billion, according to Forbes.
Scott is a member of the Giving Pledge. When she signed the pledge, she said, “I have a disproportionate amount of money to share. 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.” Despite its name, the pledge is not legally binding.
Scott works on who to give her funding to with The Bridgespan Group, a national nonprofit organization that advises charities and philanthropies, including prominent philanthropists like Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg. Bridgespan will not take calls or interviews about their clients. It is unclear if the team of advisors to which she refers is one and the same as The Bridgespan Group, but many of us in the fundraising world believe it to be so.
Becoming a grant recipient is difficult according to the Nonprofit Quarterly:
- Many of the nonprofits that received an award had a strong pre-existing relationship with Scott.
- Yet, for many other nonprofits, the award came without warning. The awards are usually unrestricted, and the nonprofits simply received notice by email.
- MacKenzie Scott seems to be nonresponsive to traditional approaches (i.e., application processes) and operates much more like a Donor-Advised Fund (DAFs). As you probably know, DAFs are not public entities, so there’s no application process unless the donor decides to make the process public, which Scott has not chosen to do. A DAF is not a private foundation, nor does it operate as such. There are no required distributions as of yet, although there is proposed legislation to change that.
- Scott’s funding operation has no known address—or even a website.
At her blog, she refers to a “team of advisers” rather than a large, dedicated staff. Her team of advisors helps her give her wealth away faster. She writes that her team’s focus has been on “identifying organizations with strong leadership teams and results. Her priorities are to those operating in communities facing high projected food insecurity, high measures of racial inequity, high local poverty rates, and low access to philanthropic capital.” She describes the advisors here on her Medium blog. You can subscribe to her blog to receive her future posts.
Some nonprofit consultants like Laurence Pagnoni, the chairman of LAPA Fundraising, believe future grant recipients may include:
- Equity-oriented nonprofits working in areas that have been neglected will get more support, including some truly transformative gifts.
- High-impact nonprofits in categories and communities that have been historically underfunded and overlooked will take priority.
- Scott is a firm believer that higher education is a proven pathway to opportunity, so 2- and 4-year institutions successfully educating students who come from communities that have been chronically underserved will receive significant funding.
- Scott is concerned about discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, so nonprofits bridging divides through interfaith support and collaboration will benefit.
- Smaller arts organizations will be funded because they benefit artists and audiences from culturally rich regions and identity groups that donors often overlook.
In her own words, from MacKenzie Scott’s blog:
Helping Any of Us Can Help Us All
The increasing stridency of opinions in the news can be divisive. But lately, I’ve heard something different in it. Turned up so loud, all I can notice is how similar it all sounds. The universal tendency to shout is an ironic reminder of how much we all have in common, as well as encouraging evidence that we have what we need to solve our shared problems. It’s as if the antidote is right there waiting in all that venom. We are all human. And we all have enormous energy to devote to helping and protecting those we love.
It’s easy to think of different groups struggling within the same systems as not only separate but also opposing. Yet when we help one group, we often help them all. A growing body of research on this contains numerous examples — bike lanes designed to protect cyclists improving local retail sales and property values for everyone, seatbelt laws adopted to protect young children saving the lives of people of all ages, students of all ethnicities achieving better learning outcomes at schools that are racially diverse, workforce and education opportunities for women and girls leading to global economic growth. And those are just the positive ripple effects that can be easily counted. The dividends of changes in attitude each time disparate groups help each other are harder to trace. But the trend line is clear. Communities with a habit of removing obstacles for different subsets of people tend to get better for everyone.
Below is a list of gift recipients since my post in June, 465 non-profits converting $3,863,125,000 into meaningful services for others. Our team’s focus over these last nine months has included some new areas, but as always our aim has been to support the needs of underrepresented people from groups of all kinds. The cause of equity has no sides.
Nor can it have a single solution. Equity can only be realized when all people involved have an opportunity to help shape it. And even people who spend years learning about the same problem will disagree on the best approach. When our giving team focuses on any system in which people are struggling, we don’t assume that we, or any other single group, can know how to fix it. We don’t advocate for particular policies or reforms. Instead, we seek a portfolio of organizations that supports the ability of all people to participate in solutions. This means a focus on the needs of those whose voices have been underrepresented. It also means including others within the system who want to help improve it, harnessing insights and engagement from every role. Teachers, administrators, parents, and students. Incarcerated people, crime survivors, police officers, and the family members of them all. Veterans and refugees. Kids enrolled in public schools as well as charters. Rural students as well as urban ones. Affordable housing and job training for people in any geography. Healthcare for people with circumstances and beliefs of every kind. Very few solutions gain universal agreement. I don’t know the best outcome of each debate, but there’s heartening evidence that supporting the capacity of all people to be heard leads to better outcomes for all.
This belief in a diversity of voices also inspires our commitment to a vital category of leaders. The leadership of people directly experiencing inequities is essential, both because it is informed by insights no one else can contribute, and because it seeds power and opportunity within the community itself. Yet only a tiny fraction of global humanitarian assistance today is given directly to local and national organizations, and to organizations focused on the disproportionate challenges experienced by women and girls. Though we support many great organizations doing work for groups distant or different from their own, we invest extra time and money to elevate high-impact teams with leadership from the communities they’re serving. Approximately 60% of the organizations listed below are led by women, and 75% by people with lived experience in the regions they support and the issues they seek to address.
A belief in a diversity of voices drives my own communication choices as well. It’s what inspired me to override a personal preference for privacy and write a series of essays that bring attention to the work of these organizations. It’s what motivated my recent decision to invite them to speak for themselves first, if they want to, before I share their names. It’s what underlies my approach to press inquiries — respecting the autonomy and role of journalists by doing nothing to try to influence or control what they report. And it’s what governs the pace and design of the website we’re creating, which will go live only after it reflects the preferences of every one of these non-profit teams about how details of their gifts are shared.
We look forward to sharing the work of these remarkable organizations through this database of their gifts, 1257 to date since my pledge to give away this money with steadiness and care. Each non-profit it will list was selected through a rigorous process, and has a strong track record of serving under-supported needs. If you are looking for a way to serve humanity’s common cause, every one of them is a great candidate. Helping any of us can help us all.