By Arré Bench Dec. 16, 2020
In 2020, MacKenzie Scott, former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has donated $6 billion to charities and educational institutions. In a recent announcement, she shared a list of 384 organisations that she had helped with donations since July this year.
When MacKenzie Scott divorced Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in 2019, the company shares she received as part of the settlement instantly catapulted her into the list of the world’s wealthiest individuals. This year, as Amazon became one of the few companies to actually see its stock rise during the pandemic, the boost to Scott’s net worth saw her become the richest woman in the world. In September, the Bloomberg Billionaires Index declared that Scott’s total net worth amounted to $ 66.4 billion. And in addition to being the world’s richest woman, Scott has also proven to be the world’s most charitable, giving away vast sums amounting to billions of dollars to charity, setting a philanthropic example for her fellow members of the ultra-rich.
Yesterday, Scott published a blog post titled “384 Ways to Help”. In it, the 50-year-old award-winning author outlined the manner in which she has been accelerating her “donation strategy”. Since July this year, in the space of just over four months, Scott has donated $4.15 billion dollars to 384 organisations across the United States. This comes after Scott’s announcement in July that she had already given away $ 1.7 billion to 116 charities. Last year, Scott signed The Giving Pledge – an initiative where the world’s richest people commit to donating vast sums to charity – and vowed to give away at least half her personal wealth to charitable causes during her lifetime.
Scott’s commitment to charity is of a markedly different stripe than many other philanthropists, which is what makes her stand out. Rather than setting up a foundation in her name or dictating how her donations should be used by the recipients, Scott simply chose to give out small grants to a diverse array of small charitable organisations and educational institutions. A profile of Scott by author Stephanie Clifford, published in October this year, says that she is “making a mark as a new kind of philanthropist.”
Since July this year, in the space of just over four months, MacKenzie Scott has donated $4.15 billion dollars to 384 organisations across the United States.
During her 25-year marriage to Bezos, which saw Amazon grow from a garage-run start-up to the golden goose that made Bezos the richest man in the world, Scott was rarely in the spotlight. However, when the news of the couple’s divorce first broke in January 2019, Scott’s newfound status as one of the globe’s highest net-worth individuals saw her become the target of some misogynistic comments. The fact that Scott was Amazon’s first-ever employee and a central figure during its early years, and therefore entitled to her shares and stake in the company, was forgotten by internet trolls in favour of a narrative about a “gold-digger” who got rich by riding on the coat-tails of a man’s success.
Scott is now single-handedly rewriting that narrative – rather fitting, considering her career as an author and Amazon’s origins as an online bookstore. In 2020 alone, she has given approximately $6 billion to charity, while also publishing details like a list of organisations that would be receiving funds, as well as the total number of organisations her team considered before shortlisting the recipient. In her blog post, Scott said, “This pandemic has been a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling… Economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, for people of colour, and for people living in poverty. Meanwhile, it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires.” This self-aware nature of her own wealth, and its potential to be used for improving the lives of others, is evident in the almost unprecedented pace at which she is donating it.
The unpleasant reality is that wealth inequality is what leads to billionaires existing in the first place; however, if they took a cue from MacKenzie Scott, the world might be a better place.