MacKenzie Scott — the ex-wife of Jeff Bezos — announced Tuesday that she’s donated more than $4.1 billion over the past four months to nearly 400 organizations helping fulfill basic needs for many Americans struggling in the pandemic.
“This pandemic has been a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling,” Scott writes. “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, who received one-quarter of her ex-husband’s Amazon stock in their divorce settlement in 2019, is the third richest woman in the world, behind L’Oreal heir Francoise Bettencourt Meyers and Walmart heir Alice Walton. Scott is worth an estimated $55.1 billion, according to Forbes’ calculations, after taking into account her newest charitable giving.
In a post on Medium, Scott, a novelist, said she and her team had vetted hundreds of organizations in recent months and ultimately donated $4.158 billion to 384 groups, which she named and linked to in her post. Recipients include community colleges and universities like Blackfeet Community College in Montana; food banks and meal providers like Feeding America, America’s Second Harvest and Meals on Wheels; and many individual YMCAs and YWCAs.
Scott also says that her gifts to these organizations are unrestricted, meaning that were not earmarked for certain initiatives. That allows the recipients to use the money however they best see fit.
“Not only are non-profits chronically underfunded, they are also chronically diverted from their work by fundraising, and by burdensome reporting requirements that donors often place on them,” she writes. By freeing nonprofit groups of that burden, she hopes the organizations can focus on their primary work —meeting the needs of those they serve.
That sits particularly well with YMCA of the USA, which received a $20 million donation from Scott. Local YMCAs received additional donations. Many YMCAs have been providing childcare to families of first responders and essential workers during the pandemic. But the YMCA says it’s faced a revenue drop of $1 billion across the organization since the pandemic started. So the gift is much needed.
“We are incredibly grateful to MacKenzie Scott for her generous gifts made to 43 YMCA associations and YMCA of the USA,” said Kevin Washington, president and CEO, YMCA of the USA. “Ms. Scott’s gifts are a testament to the trust Ys have earned by meeting pressing social needs in the communities the Y serves across the country. These unrestricted funds are especially important to the work of Ys to support communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In May 2019, Scott signed the Giving Pledge — a promise to give away at least half of her fortune to charitable organizations either during her lifetime or after she dies. In July this year, Scott announced, also through a Medium post, that she had donated nearly $1.7 billion to 116 charitable groups. It was her first large round of philanthropic giving. She also used the post to declare that she had changed her last name from Bezos to Scott (which was her middle name). Altogether, Scott’s announced gifts to charitable and nonprofit groups this year total $5.8 billion.
Jeff Bezos, still the world’s richest person, has not signed the Giving Pledge, though he has stepped up his charitable giving this year. In April, he announced a $100 million gift to Feeding America, which works with food banks across the country. In February, Bezos pledged $10 billion over an unspecified period of time toward solving climate change. As part of that pledge, in mid November he announced nearly $800 million in grants to 16 groups working to fight climate change.
Editor’s note, 7:30 pm ET December 15, 2020: This post was updated to clarify that the $20 million donation from Scott went to YMCA of the USA, while local YMCAs received additional donations. The article previously incorrectly implied that the $20 million donation was split among all the YMCAs.
by Kerry A. Dolan, Forbes Staff