MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, has been on a (charitable) spending spree in 2020, giving away about $6 billion.
Scott was with Bezos at the birth of Amazon.com and acted as the company’s first accountant. Scott and Bezos divorced in 2019 after 25 years of marriage when Bezos revealed he was having an affair with former TV anchor Lauren Sánchez.
In their divorce, Scott received a 4% stake in Amazon (valued at $37 billion), the largest settlement ever awarded in a divorce. As a result of Amazon’s boom during the pandemic, those shares are now worth about $62 billion. According to Forbes, Scott is the third-richest woman in the world.
MacKenzie Scott is the third-richest woman in the world.
Shortly following her divorce, Scott signed the Giving Pledge, a commitment to give away at least half of one’s money. According to Vogue, the Giving Pledge is “led by Bill and Melinda Gates [and] has been described as ‘today’s Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller,’ and its purpose is to remake global philanthropy by encouraging earlier, bigger, and more public giving, particularly from the new generation of tech billionaires.”
In Scott’s May 2019 Giving Pledge statement, she wrote, “I have no doubt that tremendous value comes when people act quickly on the impulse to give. No drive has more positive ripple effects than the desire to be of service. There are lots of resources each of us can pull from our safes to share with others — time, attention, knowledge, patience, creativity, talent, effort, humor, compassion.”
She concluded her statement, writing, “We each come by the gifts we have to offer by an infinite series of influences and lucky breaks we can never fully understand. In addition to whatever assets life has nurtured in me, I have a disproportionate amount of money to share. My approach to philanthropy will continue to be thoughtful. It will take time and effort and care. But I won’t wait. And I will keep at it until the safe is empty.”
No drive has more positive ripple effects than the desire to be of service.
Since then, Scott has raised the bar in the philanthropic world. She has donated almost $6 billion in 2020, “which experts say might be the most ever given directly to charities in a single year by a living donor.”
Scott announced her first round of donations in July, amounting to almost $2 billion. Then, on December 15, Scott announced that she had given over $4 billion in free and unconditional donations to 384 organizations throughout all 50 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico.
She wrote, “I asked a team of advisors to help me accelerate my 2020 giving through immediate support to people suffering the economic effects of the [pandemic and economic] crisis. They took a data-driven approach to identifying organizations with strong leadership teams and results, with special attention to those operating in communities facing high projected food insecurity, high measures of racial inequity, high local poverty rates, and low access to philanthropic capital.”
My approach to philanthropy will continue to be thoughtful. But I won’t wait. And I will keep at it until the safe is empty.
“We do this research and deeper diligence not only to identify organizations with high potential for impact, but also to pave the way for unsolicited and unexpected gifts given with full trust and no strings attached. Because our research is data-driven and rigorous, our giving process can be human and soft,” Scott wrote. “These 384 carefully selected teams have dedicated their lives to helping others, working and volunteering and serving real people face-to-face.”
Scott donated money to 43 YMCAs and more than a dozen historically black colleges and Native American schools, plus community colleges and technical schools, food banks, debt relief, civil rights advocacy groups, and more.
MacKenzie Scott is demonstrating that hope and help in a challenging year come from other people, not the government.