NEW YORK (AP) — Megadonor and novelist MacKenzie Scott announced nearly $2 billion in donations to 343 organizations in a short blog post on Monday, emphasizing his interest in supporting people from underprivileged communities.
In his first post in nearly eight months, Scott showcased his donations to numerous funds as a “great resource” for giving. “They collect donations and distribute them to a diverse group of smaller organizations working for a common cause,” she wrote. “The funds we’ve selected are looking for teams with real-life experience in the issues they’re tackling.”
Scott also repeated a promise he first made in December of last year to release a database of the organizations he’s donated to.
Her new list of donations includes several that have previously been announced, including $85 million to the Girl Scouts of the United States last month, $39 million to Junior Achievement USA in August and $123 million to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America in May. In Monday’s post, however, no donation amounts were listed.
Phil Buchanan, president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, said Scott’s recent gifts continue to demonstrate how well avoiding the traditional “top-down, donor knows best” philanthropic style can work.
Scott’s focus on giving to mutual funds allows her to support smaller organizations that do good work in specific areas.
“If you’re trying to reach a very small organization in a particular community and you’re a larger donor, it’s wise to find a middleman,” said Buchanan, whose organization plans to release a research report Tuesday on the impact of Scott’s donations from the summer of 2020 through the summer of 2021.
The Center for Effective Philanthropy studied tens of thousands of donations over that time frame and found that the average grant was $100,000. During the same period, Scott’s average grant was $8 million.
“That’s a whole other order of magnitude,” Buchanan said.
Ana Conner, co-director of the Third Wave Fund, which received a $3 million grant from Scott to support her work for youth-led gender justice, said the donation will help groups that “fall into the cracks of philanthropy”.
“We are the bridge between those groups and the big donors and big philanthropy,” said Conner. “By amplifying what the funds do, he’s putting out a big call to action for wealthy donors to see what it might be like to fund community groups.”
Lauren Janus, chief operating officer of philanthropic consultancy Phīla Giving, praised Scott for mentoring other donors to donate to funds led by people with lived experience in the communities where they work.
“Philanthropy doesn’t have to be the way it always has been. It doesn’t have to be these typically white men in these tall towers handing out gifts to the deserving and appreciative nonprofits below them,” Janus said. “It can be a true partnership. where the funder is just a kind of helper, he supports this amazing non-profit and really takes a back seat.
The ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Scott shot to philanthropic fame in 2019 when she pledged to give away the majority of his wealth and then lost $5.8 billion in donations by the end of 2020.
Monday’s announcement brought the amount it said it had given to about $14 billion to about 1,500 organizations.
Bezos said in an interview with CNN published Monday that he would give away most of his wealth during his lifetime, although he did not specify how.
Forbes estimates Scott’s net worth at $29.5 billion, a figure that has declined since its peak in 2021.
As she has in previous posts, Scott has expressed a desire to uplift the work of the organizations she supports, while also trying to avoid the limelight herself. She reproduced a poem by Gwen Nell Westerman, a Minnesota poet, visual artist, and professor, that seems to speak in the voice of a person trying to undo the damage but who doesn’t seem to have tried to understand the pain done in the first place.
Titled “Dakota Homecoming,” the poem ends with what Westerman said was a direct quote: “We want to write an apology letter, they said, ‘Tell us what to say.'”
Westerman said she’s honored that Scott has chosen her poetry as inspiration for her work, adding that she believes many people will recognize the sentiment in the poem.
“Not having context or not having any kind of similar lived experience and knowing that something needs to be done and then putting all the work and effort into that marginalized group or oppressed group and saying, ‘Here to help us fix that,'” he said. She said.
Scott said Westerman’s poem, which her staff asked permission to reproduce in advance, inspires her to stop talking whenever she reads it.
“I had to shut down my laptop for a couple of days before writing this very short post,” Scott wrote.
Beyond the speed and size of his donations, Scott’s approach to spending his money has also attracted the attention of other major non-profit donors and recipients: He employs a small team of a consulting firm and typically informs nonprofits of the largest donations they have ever received through a cold call or following an anonymous email. Gifts from him have no conditions and very few reporting requirements.
Because he made these donations as an individual and not through a foundation, few public records exist other than announcements from beneficiary organizations, not all of which disclosed the sums they received.
During the previous three years, Scott has not spoken about his philanthropy except through his blog posts, choosing not to respond to media inquiries.
“I think we can all do good work on our own levels and can be inspired by the generosity of others like Mackenzie Scott,” Westerman said.
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