MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, said in a blog post that she has given away $4.2 billion of her fortune in the past four months. Scott said she accelerated her charitable plans because of the "wrecking ball" of the pandemic, which she noted has also "substantially increased the wealth of billionaires."
Scott is among those billionaires whose fortunes have soared since the pandemic first crippled the U.S. in March. Her wealth is now valued at more than $60 billion, representing a boost of almost $24 billion since the start of the year, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Her wealth is largely tied to the fortunes of Amazon.com, whose shares have jumped 67% this year as more consumers shopped online due to the pandemic. Scott's charitable contributions come on the heels of her signing the Giving Pledge, a philanthropic campaign founded by celebrated investor Warren Buffett, in May 2019, vowing to donate most of her wealth to philanthropic causes over her lifetime.
On December 15, Scott announced her recent flurry of charitable gifts in a Medium post, writing that she was inspired by grassroots efforts to help people in need, such as community fridges and "impromptu person-to-person Venmo gifts." Scott said she started out by looking at 6,490 organizations, and then whittled down her list to 384 organizations that have a "high potential for impact."
Many of those organizations, such as food banks, address basic needs, while others focus on what Scott called "long-term systemic inequities that have been deepened by the crisis."
"We shared each of our gift decisions with program leaders for the first time over the phone, and welcomed them to spend the funding on whatever they believe best serves their efforts," she wrote. "The responses from people who took the calls often included personal stories and tears."
Scott's approach to charitable giving is notable — and not only for the size of the gifts, said Chuck Collins, the director of the charity reform initiative at the Institute for Policy Studies. Collins, the heir to the Oscar Mayer food empire, himself has given away much of his wealth.
"Scott, a newcomer on the billionaire wealth scene, has surrounded herself with advisors that come from under-resourced communities, not the folks that typically sit on foundation boards," Collins said in an emailed statement.
He added, "As a result, the bulk of these gifts are to the works of mercy during this pandemic – food banks, direct social service organizations, emergency funds, and support services for the most vulnerable."
It's not the first time Scott has given away a chunk of her wealth. In July, she said she had donated $1.7 billion of her personal fortune to charity. Those gifts were directed to organizations committed to racial and gender equity, economic mobility, public health, climate change and more.
First published on December 15, 2020 / 5:23 PM
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