One of the country’s most prominent philanthropists issued an update on her giving, but did not say how much money she was given or who received it.
Amazon AMZN’s ex-wife Mackenzie Scott,
Founder Jeff Bezos, who has publicly announced more than $8.5 billion in grants to nonprofits since the couple’s 2019 split, posted an essay titled “No Dollar Signs This Time” on Medium on Wednesday.
In December 2020, Scott wrote a Medium post announcing more than $4.1 billion in gifts to 384 organizations, many of them grassroots groups serving historically marginalized people. She then revealed with a June 2021 post that she had sent more than $2.7 billion to 286 “high-impact organizations.”
But in his latest letter, Scott, whose current net worth is estimated at $59.2 billion, omitted details and said he expects media coverage to focus on broadening society’s definition of philanthropy. “How much or how little money changes hands is not philanthropy,” wrote Scott. “Intent and effort make it philanthropic. If we accept what it has in common, there will be more in it.”
So, she explained, she uses the word “giving” instead of “charity” to describe what she’s doing with her money, and that’s why “I’ve been donating since my last post here. I am not including any amount lost,” she said.
Scott argued for a more liberal definition of philanthropy, one not limited to describing how ultra-wealthy people like him use their resources to solve society’s problems. Simple acts of kindness between people should also count as “altruism,” she wrote, and the amount of money or what is giving should not determine whether society pays attention.
“We pay more attention to the things we can match, and rank everything else,” Scott wrote. “Why should a form of compassionate action, a set of beneficiaries, be more important to one group of givers than others? Economically valuable versus socially valuable.”
Scott said she would leave it to the groups who received their money to “speak for themselves first if they choose to, with the hope that when they do, the media will focus on their contributions rather than mine.” focuses.”
The sheer size and momentum of Scott’s philanthropy has indeed earned him a great deal of media attention, as well as praise from philanthropic observers. She was ahead of US Vice President Kamala Harris in Forbes magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most powerful women this week.
Scott’s latest update is “absolutely remarkable”, and also “inspiring and problematic”, said philanthropist scholar Ben Soskis, Senior research associate at the Center for Nonprofit and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute, a Washington, DC-based think tank.
He added that Scott is serving as both a critic and participant in the top areas of philanthropy. Soskis said that in an effort to focus attention on the groups she’s giving money to, she’s pursuing a noble goal — but the size and impact of Scott’s fortune calls for public scrutiny. He said that some of the grants given by him are the biggest charitable contributions some organizations have ever received.
“I want to highlight what I think is a problematic element of his post, while also acknowledging that the way society reflects the misallocation of resources, the way society receives respect and attention. Keeps his finger on a really deep issue about how to allocate,” Soskis told Businesshala. “It’s a big issue of who we respect, who we respect, but also who we scrutinize and who we keep in mind.”
Bridgespan Group, a consulting firm that gives Scott the advice she gives, declined to comment.
Scott was one of the most active and influential individual donors of 2020. Some see them as a trailblazer for handing over money without strings attached, meaning nonprofits are usually free to use their gifts as they please. This style of “faith-based” philanthropy is considered a departure from the traditional power dynamic of wealthy donors that dictates how the recipients of their generosity should use their wealth.
Scott is also an example of a new breed of philanthropists who have set their terms on disclosing how they pay their billions. While traditional grant-giving foundations are required to report their grants to the public, individual mega-donors such as Scott, her ex-husband Jeff Bezos and Twitter TWTR,
Co-founder Jack Dorsey does not use the foundation to make his donations, which means he can choose when and how to disclose his charitable spending.
Scott, who signed the Giving Pledge in 2019, has no press team or website that lists his giving; She has made all her grant announcements through Medium posts and tweets. Bezos has announced some of his grants on Instagram FB,
and Dorsey lists donations from his charitable LLC on a public Google GOOGL,
Brian Mittendorf, a professor of nonprofit accounting at Ohio State University, said that while he understands Scott’s sentiment that there is too much focus on numbers versus reasons, he was disappointed with Scott’s move away from transparency.
“Another factor that can’t be overlooked is that these gifts potentially come with substantial tax deductions, so any gifts she gives are effectively made in conjunction with the general public,” Mittendorf told Businesshala. Told. “The question is what is its obligation in bringing the general public who supports these gifts along for the ride. The attention it will receive is inevitable, but the accountability provided by disclosing options to the public is one of the few levers we have to influence billionaire philanthropy. ,