Novelist and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, whose ex-husband is Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, announced on Tuesday that she’s already donated close to $1.7 billion of her immense wealth in the past year. The causes and nonprofits she has so far chosen include those supporting racial, LGBTQ+, and gender equity, as well as those dedicated to combating climate change and improving public health and economic mobility, among others. Scott has a net worth of more than $60 billion, thanks to recent gains in Amazon stock.
The announcement, made as part of a Medium post under Scott’s new name (taken from her middle name) following her divorce, comes after Scott last May signed The Giving Pledge. The campaign was launched in 2010 by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and billionaire investor Warren Buffett to encourage the world’s wealthiest people to donate a majority of their wealth over their lifetimes. It currently has more than 200 signatories from nearly two dozen countries.
Following up on the commitment I made last year to give away the majority of my wealth in my lifetime: https://t.co/Ocb8eU5UR1. (Note my Medium account is under my new last name — changed back to middle name I grew up with, after my grandfather Scott.)
“Last year I pledged to give the majority of my wealth back to the society that helped generate it, to do it thoughtfully, to get started soon, and to keep at it until the safe is empty. There’s no question in my mind that anyone’s personal wealth is the product of a collective effort, and of social structures which present opportunities to some people, and obstacles to countless others,” Scott writes in her Medium post.
“Like many, I watched the first half of 2020 with a mixture of heartbreak and horror. Life will never stop finding fresh ways to expose inequities in our systems; or waking us up to the fact that a civilization this imbalanced is not only unjust, but also unstable,” she adds. “What fills me with hope is the thought of what will come if each of us reflects on what we can offer.”
Here’s the breakdown of how Scott says she’s donated money so far:
Total given to date:
Racial Equity: $ 586,700,000
LGBTQ+ Equity: $ 46,000,000
Gender Equity: $ 133,000,000
Economic Mobility: $ 399,500,000
Empathy & Bridging Divides: $ 55,000,000
Functional Democracy: $ 72,000,000
Public Health: $ 128,300,000
Global Development: $ 130,000,000
Climate Change: $ 125,000,000
“Last fall, I asked a team of non-profit advisors with key representation from historically marginalized race, gender, and sexual identity groups to help me find and assess organizations having major impact on a variety of causes,” she writes. “On this list, 91% of the racial equity organizations are run by leaders of color, 100% of the LGBTQ+ equity organizations are run by LGBTQ+ leaders, and 83% of the gender equity organizations are run by women, bringing lived experience to solutions for imbalanced social systems.” The Medium post also contains a full list of the dozens of nonprofits to which Scott is contributing.
Bezos is still the US’s wealthiest individual, with a net worth of more than $180 billion even after his divorce, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The divorce, which reportedly stemmed from an affair Bezos had with news anchor Lauren Sánchez, granted Scott a quarter of Bezos’ Amazon holdings and immediately made her one of the richest Americans and the among the top five richest women in the world.
Despite his wealth, which has only surged in recent months as Amazon has become a central service provider during the COVID-19 pandemic, Bezos is the only one of the five richest people in the US to have not signed The Giving Pledge as of March 2020, Business Insider reports.
Bezos’ lack of philanthropic ambition, only further underlined by Scott’s transparency and willingness to dedicate her fortune to nonprofits, has been a source of controversy over the years. The CEO famously polled Twitter in 2017 for recommendations on what he should do with his wealth, having previously donated very little of it and mostly poured portions of his spare billions into his rocket venture Blue Origin and The Washington Post.
Since then, Bezos has been more forthright about his philanthropy plans. Those now include $2 billion, pledged in 2018, to fight homelessness and provide low-income families with education opportunities through his Bezos Day One Fund and a $10 billion lifetime commitment made in February of this year to combat climate change through the newly created Bezos Earth Fund.