Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott gives away $2.7bn to hundreds of charities

Scott, who was formerly married to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, issued a statement regarding distribution of the latest tranche of her $57bn fortune.

It was the third round of announcements Scott has made regarding her philanthropy, which rivals the largest of foundations. In 2020, she made two similar surprise announcements and donated about $6bn to causes including Covid relief, gender equity, historically Black colleges and universities and other schools.

In a post on Medium on Tuesday, Scott said she had “felt stuck” over how to articulate her purpose.

“I want to de-emphasize privileged voices and cede focus to others, yet I know some media stories will focus on wealth,” she wrote. “The headline I would wish for this post is ‘286 Teams Empowering Voices the World Needs to Hear’.

“People struggling against inequities deserve center stage in stories about change they are creating. This is equally – perhaps especially – true when their work is funded by wealth. Any wealth is a product of a collective effort that included them. The social structures that inflate wealth present obstacles to them. And despite those obstacles, they are providing solutions that benefit us all.”

Scott, 51, said a number of “high-impact organisations in categories and communities that have been historically underfunded and overlooked” were among recipients of a total disbursement of $2.739bn.

The organisations included local arts groups and institutions, including the Motown Museum, and groups working in education.

Scott and Bezos divorced in 2019. Last year, Scott’s charitable giving totaled $5.8bn – one of the biggest annual distributions by a private individual to working charities.

In her statement on Tuesday, she said “putting large donors at the center of stories on social progress is a distortion of their role”.

She wrote that she and her husband, Dan Jewett, a teacher, and “a constellation of researchers and administrators and advisers” were “all attempting to give away a fortune that was enabled by systems in need of change.

“In this effort, we are governed by a humbling belief that it would be better if disproportionate wealth were not concentrated in a small number of hands, and that the solutions are best designed and implemented by others.

“Though we still have a lot to learn about how to act on these beliefs without contradicting and subverting them, we can begin by acknowledging that people working to build power from within communities are the agents of change.”

As higher education was a proven pathway to opportunity, she said, she had given to institutions serving “students who come from communities that have been chronically underserved”.

She also identified organisations “bridging divides through interfaith support and collaboration” against deepening discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities.

Also included were “smaller arts organisations creating these benefits with artists and audiences from culturally rich regions and identity groups that donors often overlook”.

With more than 700 million people globally still living in extreme poverty, Scott wrote, her team “prioritised organisations with local teams, leaders of color and a specific focus on empowering women and girls”.

Beneficiaries included organisations staffed by “people who have spent years successfully advancing humanitarian aims, often without knowing whether there will be any money in their bank accounts in two months.

“What do we think they might do with more cash on hand than they expected? Buy needed supplies. Find new creative ways to help. Hire a few extra team members they know they can pay for the next five years. Buy chairs for them. Stop having to work every weekend. Get some sleep.”