MacKenzie Scott, ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has donated more than $4 billion in the past four months to hundreds of organizations and charities—in particular to food banks and emergency relief funds across the USA. Scott signed the Giving Pledge—an initiative sparked by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett a decade ago—and promised to give away her billions “until the safe is empty.”
This July, she began making good on her promise and has already donated $1.7 billion of her $60 billion fortune to 116 charities. Just 5 months later, the 50-year-old announced that she’d given even more money away. Since summer, the world’s third-wealthiest woman has donated more than $4.15 billion to 384 organizations in Puerto Rico and the States—taking her 2020 donations so far to $6 billion.
In a blog post that begins with an Emily Dickinson poem, Scott–a lauded novelist as well as a philanthropist—writes, “This pandemic has been a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling. Economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, for people of color, and for people living in poverty. Meanwhile, it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires.”
Scott said she has been working with a team of advisors to help her accelerate her giving to organizations that need immediate support in the face of the COVID crisis. Using a “data-driven approach” to identifying organizations with strong leadership teams, and paying “special attention to those operating in communities facing high projected food insecurity, high local poverty rates, and low access to philanthropic capital,” recipients of Scott’s funding include the YMCA, Meals on Wheels, the Global Fund for Women, civil rights organization the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs, many dozens of food banks, Goodwill, and various centers of education such as Blackfoot Community College.
In the latest round of giving, Scott donated $40 million to Morgan State University, an HBCU in Baltimore. The gift is the largest single private donation in the university’s history, and roughly doubles the school’s endowment. Scott also gave $50 million to Prairie View A&M University in Texas — the school’s largest donation ever, and nearly doubling its endowment, according to the university.
According to news outlets, these donations “might be among the most ever handed out directly to charities in a single year by a living donor.” Scott is not the only billionaire who’s been giving in 2020. While Jeff Bezos has not signed the Giving Pledge, he has distributed $791 million in grant money to large environmental organizations through the Bezos Earth Fund.