MacKenzie Scott is not fucking around. Last year she signed The Giving Pledge, which is an initiative started by Bill and Melinda Gates that encourages the world’s wealthiest people to donate at least half their fortunes to charitable causes. At the time, MacKenzie said she wasn’t going to waste any time in doing so. So while her ex-husband Jeff Bezos is apparently waiting to get Lauren Sanchez listed as a 501(c) before signing the pledge, MacKenzie quietly got to work. In just over a year, she has already donated $1.7 billion to various organizations with a promise to “keep at it until the safe is empty.” And while I’m pretty sure she’s not doing it out of spite to make Jeff look trashier than he already does, the probability of Jeff’s left eye twitching at the thought of people expecting him to do the same is a bonus act of charitable giving on MacKenzie’s part.
MacKenzie really doesn’t want shit to do with Jeff or his dirty money which she calls “the product of a collective effort, and of social structures which present opportunities to some people, and obstacles to countless others.” After her divorce, she changed her last name to Scott, “the middle name she grew up with” and divested herself from her interest in the Washington Post. In an essay published on Medium, MacKenzie explained that giving away over a billion dollars the right way is a bit more complicated than simply strutting down the street in a top hat and tails throwing gold coins at all the people you meet, though that is how I’d do it. According to CNN:
Scott received a quarter of Bezos’ Amazon shares in the couple’s divorce settlement last year, giving her a 4% stake that was worth more than $35 billion at the time. Her net worth is currently estimated to be around $60 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index.
“Like many, I watched the first half of 2020 with a mixture of heartbreak and horror,” Scott wrote. “What fills me with hope is the thought of what will come if each of us reflects on what we can offer.”
The $1.7 billion donation was spread across 116 organizations focused on one of nine “areas of need,” she added, including racial equity, LGBTQ+ equity, functional democracy and climate change. Among the organizations she backed are the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Obama Foundation, the George W. Bush Presidential Center, RAINN and the European Climate Foundation.
That’s right, all that giving and can still afford to buy every 2-year-old in America a $200,000 pony. What’s good, Kylie? In her Medium essay, MacKenzie notes that she sought the leadership of individuals from marginalized communities to help her make the most of her donations.
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. Though this work is ongoing and will last for years, I’m posting an update today because my own reflection after recent events revealed a dividend of privilege I’d been overlooking: the attention I can call to organizations and leaders driving change.
$1.7 billion down, $57.3 billion to go (we’ll let her keep the extra billion for ponies and incidentals).