In 2019, Mackenzie Scott, ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, promised to give “until the safe was empty.” Making good on this pledge, Scott announced her third donation amounting to $2.74 billion, this time to organizations focusing on the arts and combating racial discrimination.
Her bequests to various charities and organizations now amount to more than $8.5 billion.
After 25 years of marriage, Mackenzie Scott divorced Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos in 2019. Her settlement made Scott one of the wealthiest women in the world, with a fortune believed to be about $59 billion. She has since remarried, tying the knot with Dan Jewett in March.
Scott’s current donation is part of her commitment to The Giving Pledge, a campaign created by Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Melinda Gates to encourage the extremely wealthy to give generously to worthy philanthropic causes.
Scott made her first donation through the campaign in July 2020, when she bestowed $1.7 billion to 116 organizations. These groups worked on areas of need, such as racial equity, LGBTQ+ equity, functional democracy, and climate change.
She made another considerable donation in December 2020, parting with $4.2 billion that was then distributed to 384 organizations. This latest contribution is her third in less than a year.
Scott announced the gifts to 286 deserving organizations in her blog and on Twitter. She stated that these groups, which include the Racial Equity in Journalism Fund, the Asian American Federation, the Emerging LGBTQ Leaders of Color Fund, and the National Equity Project, were “high-impact organizations in categories and communities that have been historically underfunded and overlooked.”
These areas and groups include higher education, organizations that bridge religious and ethnic divides, arts and cultural institutions, and groups that empower women and girls and support community engagement.
In her post entitled Seeding by Ceding, she said, “I want to de-emphasize privileged voices and cede focus to others. People struggling against inequities deserve center stage in stories about change they are creating.”
She described her donation as “Me, Dan, a constellation of researchers and administrators and advisors — we are all attempting to give away a fortune that was enabled by systems in need of change.”
The post also condemned the wealth gap that concentrated most of the world’s wealth into a select group of people. Scott stated, “In this effort, 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.”
She added, “Though we still have a lot to learn about how to act on these beliefs without contradicting and subverting them, we can begin by acknowledging that people working to build power from within communities are the agents of change. Their service supports and empowers people who go on to support and empower others.”
For this reason, Scott and her team, after a rigorous process of research and analysis, chose equity-oriented non-profits as recipients of the donation. There are also no strings attached with the cash gifts.
“Because we believe that teams with experience on the front lines of challenges will know best how to put the money to good use, we encouraged them to spend it however they choose,” she wrote.
The announcement brought about a wave of reactions from the donation’s beneficiaries. Reverend Alvin Herring, executive director of the 50-year old non-profit Faith in Action, said the gift would be directed toward working on issues such as gun violence, health care, immigration, voting rights, and building leadership skills for women of color.
Erik Stegman, executive directorof Native Americans in Philanthropy, which connects donors with American-led nonprofits, stated, “MacKenzie Scott has recommitted to transformative work, the organizations that undertake it and the leaders whose ideas are often underfunded and overlooked. It’s important to note that she has also just written checks to these organizations, leaving her own interests to the side and giving up power to the organizations she’s funding.”
Scott’s statement on the concentration of extreme wealth in a small number of people was underscored by a ProPublica report, which stated that the richest 25 Americans paid less taxes compared to ordinary Americans.
Using Internal Revenue Service data, the report showed that some of the country’s wealthiest people paid little to no income tax in some years. Scott’s former husband Bezos, for instance, did not pay income tax in 2007 and 2011.
From 2006 to 2018, Bezos reported an income of $6.5 billion, on which he paid $1.4 billion in personal federal taxes. For the same period, ProPublica reported that his total wealth increased by $127 billion, most of it tied to Amazon stock.
Scott’s wealth, similar to Bezos, is tied to the stock market fortunes of Amazon.com, whose shares increased by a massive 30 percent, as people made more purchases online due to the pandemic.
Her donation shows that the very well wealthy have more than enough to share with the rest of the world.
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