In a June blog post, Scott explained that she's 'attempting to give away a fortune that was enabled by systems in need of change.'
Editor's note: This article was originally published on January 21, 2022. It has since been updated.
Since divorcing Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in 2019, MacKenzie Scott has been giving away her fortune faster than any billionaire ever. So much so, the 51-year-old novelist has donated considerably more in the past two years than her ex-husband has in his entire lifetime. According to Forbes, Scott has distributed at least $8.6 billion in less than two years to about 780 charitable groups focused on gender equality, racial justice, public health and more. This amounts to more than 14% of her current net worth—which stands at $53.5 billion as of January 19, 2022—including 10% in a single year. Bezos, on the other hand, has given away roughly $2.1 billion in his entire lifetime; a little over 1% of his $184.8 billion net worth.
Mackenzie Scott has distributed at least $8.6 billion in less than two years to 780-plus organizations. Ex-husband Jeff Bezos has ramped up philanthropy since transitioning from Amazon CEO to chairman, announcing $1 billion in donations in 2021 https://t.co/ehQjdqmUyq pic.twitter.com/FQerGq37pu— Forbes (@Forbes) January 19, 2022
While Bezos only joined the top philanthropist ranks since stepping down as Amazon's CEO in July, his known charitable gifts—reportedly totaling more than $13 billion—would have ranked him among the biggest donors ever; if he'd actually given the cash away. The entrepreneur's biggest donations are typically doled out over a long period of time. Take, for example, the Bezos Earth Fund. Although he has pledged an eye-popping commitment of $10 billion to fight climate change, Bezos has publicly donated only $1234 million to date, with a plan to give the entire amount by 2030.
According to @forbes, "nation’s 25 biggest givers have donated a total of $169b over the course of their lifetimes," not including @mackenziescott's recent gifts. To put that # in perspective, the 25 are “a collective $150b richer than they were a yr ago.” https://t.co/XxhfJ3LYFM— Benjamin Soskis (@BenSoskis) January 20, 2022
The exceptions to this trend came in 2021 when Bezos announced $1 billion in donations, the most he's given away since Amazon went public in 1997. This included $443 million to environmental organizations from The Bezos Earth Fund, $100 million to former President Barack Obama's foundation, and $96 million to nonprofits helping homeless families through the Bezos Day One Fund. Meanwhile, Scott has operated with a sense of urgency since committing to keep giving away her wealth "until the safe is empty."
When MacKenzie Scott publishes an update on Medium, the nonprofit world pays attention. So far, Scott has distributed at least $8.6 billion in less than two years to 780-plus organizations, focusing on causes including racial justice, gender equality and public health pic.twitter.com/yFtZKzxw7x— Forbes (@Forbes) January 19, 2022
When Scott and Bezos split in 2019 after 25 years of marriage, the author got a quarter of Bezos' Amazon shares, a 4% stake worth $34 billion at the time. She announced her first round of gifts in July 2020, awarding a total of $1.675 billion to 116 organizations, including Howard University, a historically black university, and the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which supports equality in education. Scott also gave away another $4.1 billion to 384 groups in December that year, followed by the third round of $2.7 billion in donations to 286 groups in June 2021.
Unlike her ex-husband, who has so far favored big-ticket names like the Smithsonian and Princeton University's Neuroscience Institute, Scott has made a point of selecting grassroots and hyperlocal community groups. In a June blog post, she explained that she's "attempting to give away a fortune that was enabled by systems in need of change" and "it would be better if disproportionate wealth were not concentrated in a small number of hands. 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. Their service supports and empowers people who go on to support and empower others."