Last year, a surprising contribution appeared in the world of philanthropy, the former wife of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, MacKenzie Scott, who made many donations to food banks and aid to foundations that support immigrants and others to universities.
Scott donated $ 6 billion in donations in 2020, but these donations are not bound by restrictions, unlike what philanthropists usually do in the United States.
This McKinsey Scott approach entered the world of philanthropy, not only because of the enormous amount she donated, but also because it leaves the decision to dispose of the money in the hands of the organizations concerned, and thus frees the steps of those organizations from administrative measures.
Inspired by the work of these teams and so many others this year: https://t.co/TlMe3wP4UQ
— MacKenzie Scott (@mackenziescott) December 15, 2020
Laura MacDonald, president of the non-profit Giving UE Foundation that researches charitable donations, says the method adopted by the ex-wife of the world’s second-richest man emanates from the “trust-based philanthropy” movement. “This may encourage other donors … to take more risks,” adds this expert.
Donations to 384 foundations
In December, Scott made donations to 384 foundations, from a university technical institute in Blackfeet Indigenous Reserve in Montana to a food bank in Arkansas, via the Emigrant Families Fund to help immigrants.
“This pandemic has ruined the lives of Americans who were already suffering,” Scott wrote. “The economic losses and the medical consequences were more severe for women, minorities, and the poor. Meanwhile, this, in turn, raised the wealth of billionaires significantly.”
Philanthropists say Scott’s initiatives will likely encourage more wealthy people, including her ex-husband, to follow suit.
“I hope that the sums of money they provide and their intent to continue to do so will encourage all of those sitting with great sums as we face extraordinary challenges and needs,” said Phil Buchanan, president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, which provides information to charities.
Scott, who since her divorce has owned huge shares of $ 58 billion in Amazon online trading, has pledged to cede a large portion of her fortune to combat social inequality. It announced $ 1.7 billion in aid in July and 4.2 billion in December.
The opposite of her ex-husband
Scott, one of the world’s richest women, has hired a team of counselors to help her identify organizations that support those suffering from the economic impact of the pandemic, and that specifically combat hunger, poverty, and racial inequalities.
“These organizations are dedicated to helping others, to work and do good, face to face and day to day, at the tables of real people and near their families, in prisons, in the street, in classrooms, and in-hospital services,” Scott, 50, wrote in an article on the Medium website.
Her approach contrasts with that of her ex-husband, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who gave $ 10 billion to fight climate change, the largest charitable contribution made in 2020, but his contributions were more slowly and relatively less, given that his wealth is three times that of his ex-wife.
The former duo could give a major boost to US charity, which in 2019 amounted to about $ 450 billion.
Benjamin Suskis, a researcher specializing in philanthropy at the Urban Institute, believes that Scott’s initiatives are distinct not only for their size but also for the speed of release of funds. In addition, “she insisted on giving money and staying away,” according to the researcher, noting that “philanthropists usually consider themselves part of the process, and carry out many verification and evaluation processes, which may require a lot of effort and time.”
Meanwhile, the expert said he could criticize Scott for the “ambiguity” of the selection of donation recipients. But her courage sets an important precedent, “no major donor can afford to ignore her example,” according to Suskis.