March 21, 2024

MacKenzie Scott Doubles Down On Philanthropy Pledge With $640M in Gifts

The philanthropist has given away $17.3 billion in the past five years.


In March of last year, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott launched an open call for nonprofits in the U.S. seeking grants. While her original plan was to award 250 recipients a total of $250 million, that figure has more than doubled to $640 million, as announced by Scott yesterday (March 19).

The funds will be dispersed to 361 community-led and community-focused nonprofits located in 38 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico. Awardees were selected for “their outstanding work advancing the voices and opportunities of individuals and families of meager or modest means, and groups who have met with discrimination and other systemic obstacles,” said Scott in a statement.

Many of the organizations work in justice, education and health—key priorities for Scott’s organization Yield Giving. “This gift is a game-changer; it will allow us to continue to sustain critical daily programs and volunteer operations at the high level of impact we’re used to and pursue targeted opportunities to accelerate the mission,” said Andrea Goodman, CEO of I AM ALS, in a statement. The nonprofit, which raises awareness of and provides support to those with ALS, received a grant of $2 million from Scott.

The same amount was given to Avenues for Justice, a New York-based organization advocating for incarceration alternatives. Co-founder Angel Rodriguez in a statement described the donation as “truly a testament to the dedication of our amazing staff, and most importantly, the resilience of our participants.” And the Families Forward Learning Center, a Pasadena-based learning center, tweeted that Scott’s contribution “is a transformational gift,” one that “will be used to expand vital onsite services and seed new initiatives that will not only impact our families directly, but also broaden our reach.”

A new form of philanthropy for MacKenzie Scott’s Yield Giving

Scott, who has an estimated net worth of $35.7 billion, launched the open call with Lever for Change, a nonprofit that hosts philanthropic challenges. The challenge marked the first time Yield Giving strayed from its typical process of “quiet research,” which consists of anonymously identifying, evaluating and reaching out to grantees.

According to Lever for Change, the open call received more than 6,300 applications. While Scott had initially intended to award $1 million grants to some 250 awardees, her team was so impressed by the applicants that they decided to expand both the awardee pool and award amount. Judged by peers and external panelists, around 279 organizations within the top tier of scores received $2 million, while the 82 nonprofits in the next tier were given $1 million each.

Not everyone has been impressed by Scott’s charitable efforts. Earlier this month, Elon Musk responded to an X user complaining about Scott’s emphasis on race or gender-focused organizations by tweeting that “super rich ex-wives who hate their former spouse” should be listed among the “reasons that Western Civilization died.” But that hasn’t stopped Scott, the former wife of Amazon (AMZN) founder Jeff Bezos, from ramping up her contributions—as of 2024, she’s given a total of $17.3 billion to more than 2,300 nonprofits.

She first declared her intention to donate the majority of her wealth in late 2019 by signing the Giving Pledge, a campaign that urges the world’s richest individuals to contribute their fortunes to charity. In addition to revealing in 2022 that her donations had totaled more than $3.8 billion in a nine-month period, Scott’s giving in 2023 measured more than $2.1 billion. “My approach to philanthropy will continue to be thoughtful. It will take time and effort and care,” wrote Scott in her Giving Pledge letter. “But I won’t wait. And I will keep at it until the safe is empty.”


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