MacKenzie Scott, ex-wife of Bezos, gives $4.1 billion to charity

MacKenzie Scott, philanthropist, author and former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has announced that she has given away more than $4.1 billion in the past four months to hundreds of organizations as part of a giving pledge she announced last year.

In total, 384 organizations in 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., will share $4,158,500,000 in gifts, including food banks, emergency relief funds “and support services for those most vulnerable.”

Among the recipients were six organizations in Indiana, including two in Indianapolis: United Way of Central Indiana, YMCA of Greater Indianapolis, Goodwill Industries of Michiana, Meal on Wheels of Northwest Indiana, YWCA Evansville and YWCA North Central Indiana. The amount given to each group wasn’t disclosed.

“I can confirm that United Way of Central Indiana has been selected to receive a transformational gift from Ms. Scott,” United Way of Central Indiana CEO Ann Murtlow said in an email to IBJ. “This gift was a surprise and we are both humbled and grateful for the confidence Ms. Scott has placed in us to deploy these funds effectively in our community.”

Scott is the world’s 18th-richest person with a net worth of about $60.7 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. She received a quarter of her ex-husband’s Amazon shares following their 2019 divorce, worth about $38 billion at the time.

Scott announced her pandemic-era philanthropy in a Medium post Tuesday, The Seattle Times reported. She described the coronavirus pandemic as “a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling,” and noted is has been worse for women, people of color and those living in poverty.

“Meanwhile,” she wrote, “it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires.”

After donating $1.68 billion to 116 nonprofits, universities, community development groups and legal organizations last July, Scott asked a team of advisers to help her “accelerate” her 2020 giving with immediate help to those financially gutted by the pandemic.

She said the team used a data-driven approach, identifying organizations with strong leadership and results, specifically in communities with high food insecurity, racial inequity and poverty rates, “and low access to philanthropic capital.”

Scott and her team started with 6,490 organizations, researched 822 and put 438 “on hold for now,” waiting for more details about their impact, management and how they treat employees or community members.

Other organizations receiving donations are those that address “long-term systemic inequities that have been deepened by the crisis,” such as debt relief, employment training, credit and financial services for under-resourced communities and education for historically marginalized and underserved people. The money will also support legal defense funds “that take on institutional discrimination.”

Washington state organization Craft3, a Community Development Financial Institution focused on investing in businesses owned by people of color, including Black and Indigenous owners, received $10 million. It is one of several CDFIs nationally to receive an investment from Scott.

“We are incredibly honored by the recognition that comes with this unprecedented gift. Community Development Financial Institutions are the front line of inclusive, equitable finance in the United States,” Adam Zimmerman, president and CEO of Craft3, said in a statement.

Scott noted that she was “far from completing” her giving pledge, and urged others to follow her lead in whatever way they could: time, a voice or money.

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