MacKenzie Scott, ex-wife of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, donates $1.7 billion to nonprofits

MacKenzie Scott, formerly known as MacKenzie Bezos, is making a new name for herself.

The 50-year-old Princeton graduate and mother of four has always had her own accomplishments to be proud of: She won an American Book Award in 2006 for her debut novel, The Testing of Luther Albright, and she founded the anti-bullying organization Bystander Revolution in 2014, which she still leads.

Now, she’s making an impact in another way -- by giving back.

Scott, who changed her name after divorcing Bezos, became an individual billionaire after the two officially split in April 2019, ending a 25-year marriage.

A $38 billion divorce settlement positioned Scott as one of the wealthiest people in the world. According to Forbes, Scott is worth $57.8 billion as of Friday, making her the 22nd richest person in the world.

The month after the divorce was settled, Scott signed the Giving Pledge, a non-binding commitment to give the majority of her wealth to philanthropy or charitable causes either during her lifetime or in her will. Other high earners who have signed the pledge include George Lucas, Arthur Blank, Michael Bloomberg, Ted Turner and Warren Buffett, as well at Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates.

In her 2019 pledge letter, Scott wrote: “I have a disproportionate amount of money to share. My approach to philanthropy will ... 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.”

In a blog post Tuesday, Scott provided an update, naming a number of groups she’s donated to in the last year -- a total of $1.7 billion across 116 organizations. Most of them were focused on racial equality, education, LGBTQ and women’s rights and climate change.

“There’s no question in my mind that anyone’s personal wealth is the product of a collective effort and of social structures which present opportunities to some people and obstacles to countless others,” Scott wrote. “Like many, I watched the first half of 2020 with a mixture of heartbreak and horror. Life will never stop finding fresh ways to expose inequities in our systems or waking us up to the fact that a civilization this imbalanced is not only unjust but also unstable.”

Scott said she leaned on a team of advisers “with key representation from historically marginalized race, gender and sexual identity groups” to help her choose the groups she donated to.

She shared organizations’ names and the amount of money she donated to each cause, noting that she paid funds up front and in full.

Here are some of the groups she donated to:

  • Presidential foundations: George W. Bush Presidential Center, Obama Foundation
  • LGBTQ+ initiatives: Fund for Trans Generations, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Transgender Law Center, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice
  • Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Hampton University, Spelman College, Howard University, Morehouse College, Xavier University of Louisiana, Tuskegee University
  • Non-profits for racial, gender and educational equality and progress: National Congress of American Indians, National Urban League, Hispanic Scholarship Fund, Black Girls CODE, National Women’s Law Center, LatinoJustice, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

“All of these ... organizations have a track record of effective management and significant impact in their fields,” she wrote. “I gave each a contribution and encouraged them to spend it on whatever they believe best serves their efforts.”

Scott encouraged continued allyship among marginalized groups and recommended others get involved.

“I’ll highlight more as my giving continues in the months and years to come,” she wrote.

Read MacKenzie Scott’s full blog post on Medium.