MacKenzie Scott, the philanthropist and ex-spouse of Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos, announced a new round of donations Tuesday, totaling some $2.7 billion to 286 organizations around the U.S. She detailed her thought process and the list of recipients in a Medium blog post.
“Sitting down to write this post, I felt stuck,” Scott writes. “I want to de-emphasize privileged voices and cede focus to others, yet I know some media stories will focus on wealth.” (Duly noted by us here at Forbes.) By our estimate, Scott’s fortune—after distributing the latest gifts—stands at $57 billion as of 10:30 am ET, which makes her the 22nd richest person in the world.
Scott says she wished she could have titled her post “286 Teams Empowering Voices the World Needs to Hear,” because she and her team are “attempting to give away a fortune that was enabled by systems in need of change.” With that, Scott jumps into the billionaire debate that’s long simmered amid recent explosive reporting by ProPublica revealing that the world’s richest—including her ex-husband—pay very little in taxes relative to their wealth.
“We are governed by a humbling belief that it would be better if disproportionate wealth were not concentrated in a small number of hands, and that the solutions are best designed and implemented by others,” Scott writes. She says she focused her latest donations on higher education, groups bridging divides through interfaith support, arts and culture, anti-poverty organizations led by people of color and grassroots groups supporting local communities.
Scott didn’t disclose the specific dollar amount of each grant she made. But she did say that in total, she dispersed $2.739 billion. If the grants are equal in size, that means each of the 268 organizations received about $10 million. One recipient, the Children’s Defense Fund, says they received $20 million, “the largest single contribution” in its history. Global health organization Muso received $15 million, likewise its largest donation to date, according to a press release. The BOMA Project, which aims to end poverty in rural Africa, received $10 million.
Fascinating, though, are Scott’s donations to groups that enable philanthropic giving or aid. Like Kiva, which makes microloans. Or Give Directly, which gives cash to the very poor in African countries. Another recipient, the National Council of Nonprofits, told Forbes their unrestricted grant will help their work supporting tens of thousands of nonprofits across the country. “Grateful for the tremendous trust that MacKenzie and Dan [Jewett, her husband] have in our work does not even begin to describe how we are feeling today,” CEO and president Tim Delaney says.
In keeping with Scott’s stated belief of ceding control of money for the best results in disseminating wealth, she gave to the Decolonizing Wealth Project, which redistributes wealth to Black, Indigenous and other philanthropic initiatives led by people of color. A gift was also made to Homeboy Industries, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that rehabilitates former gang members and helps them become contributing members of society.
Among Scott’s education recipients is DonorsChoose, a nonprofit that lets teachers crowdfund for their classrooms. Founder Charles Best told Forbes that Scott’s gift was “overwhelming,” and said her Tuesday blog post “will surely be cited as one of the most powerful philanthropic manifestos ever written.” Scott also donated to numerous colleges and universities.
Another recipient, Faith in Action, told Forbes they look forward to using their multi-million donation “toward continued investments in Black and Brown communities” as part of their mission to help people of religious faith work towards more just and equitable societies. “This gift is transformative for Faith in Action,” executive director, the Reverend Alvin Herring, says. “As we center the leadership of everyday folks who aren’t looking for the limelight, we are grateful to Ms. Scott for investing in organizations led by people directly impacted by the issues we care so deeply about.”
Arts organizations receiving funds include the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center and the L.A. Arts Endowment Fund, among others.
Tuesday marks Scott’s third major round of donations. By Forbes’ estimate, she gave away nearly $6 billion in 2020 to 500 organizations. Scott is also a signee of the Giving Pledge, promising to give away half of her fortune to charitable causes during her lifetime, or after her death.