Scott-Bezos Philanthropy Rivalry Heats Up With Dueling Funding
MacKenzie Scott Closing In On $13 Billion

The “anything you can do, I can do better” competition between former spouses MacKenzie Scott and Jeff Bezos heated up this past week, as each released new information about their planned or completed giving.

On Nov. 14, Scott revealed the recipients of nearly $2 billion in donations she made during the past seven months, while on the same day Bezos told CNN he intends to give away most of his fortune to organizations that combat climate change. Bezos’s net worth is well in excess of $100 billion but fluctuates largely based on the stock value of Amazon.com, the company he founded and in which he holds a stake of around 10%.

Bezos’s CNN interview followed a Nov. 13 announcement that he will give humanitarian and country music legend Dolly Parton $100 million for her to use for philanthropic causes as she wishes. The bequest was the third such gift made through the Bezos Courage and Civility Award. Bezos awarded identical gifts to CNN commentator Van Jones and chef José Andrés in 2021.

Scott’s latest round of announced donations, which she revealed via a post on Medium.com, brings her total identified funding to around $15 billion (https://bit.ly/3X9Q4py) In her post on the media platform Medium, she offered insights into her current thinking on philanthropy, as well as revealing the 343 latest organizations to benefit from her largesse. This round of donations brings the total number of recipients to more than 1,500.

“Of special note is that many of the organizations are funds,” Scott wrote about the most recently announced recipients. “For anyone similarly interested in supporting the leadership of people from the communities they’re assisting, funds are a great resource. They pool donations and spread them across a diverse group of smaller organizations working toward a common cause. The funds we picked look for teams with lived experience in the issues they’re addressing, as we did when selecting the other non-profits in this giving cycle, and the 1,200+ recipients before them, many of which are also funds.”

Scott also commented on her philanthropy philosophy, which is rooted in unrestricted gifts. “I recently learned a saying used in disability communities: ‘Nothing about us without us,’” she wrote. “For me, it’s another beautiful and powerful reminder. I needn’t ask those I care about what to say to them, or what to do for them. I can share what I have with them to stand behind them as they speak and act for themselves.”

The most recent recipients of unrestricted gifts from Scott include several organizations within the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Friends of the Children, Girl Scouts, Junior Achievement and National Urban League networks, as well as many one-off organizations that serve a variety of communities, A full list is available here: https://bit.ly/3tBXdBo

The former couple were not the only ones recently making news about philanthropic activities. During the week, the Center for Effective Philanthropy released Giving Big: The Impact of Large, Unrestricted Gifts on Nonprofits, a report that offered insight into the impact of Scott’s giving between her initial bequests during the summer of 2020 through summer 2021. The report authors were particularly interested in determining whether news of the Scott gifts had a deleterious effect on funding from other sources.

In short, it didn’t.

Most nonprofits receiving the Scott gifts reported other funding levels, within both restricted and unrestricted gifts, either increased or stayed the same. The percentage of nonprofits reporting drops in funding from other sources, whether from foundations or individuals, ranged between 4% and 7%.

The report’s authors also found:

* 40% of the organizations are regranting some of the funds received. While the report did not detail changes in granting amounts, the percentage doing the regranting was consistent with that seen prior to receiving Scott’s gift.

* 83% of recipients reported Scott’s gift would significantly strengthen their organization’s ability to achieve its mission. Some 63% believe it would substantially benefit their organization’s long-term financial stability and 64% said it would significantly strengthen the long-term organizational capacity of their organization.

* Scott’s gifts are often focused on advancing equity with 93% of recipients saying the gift would either significantly or moderately advance racial equity. Other benefits included: 89% saying it would substantially or moderately aid economic mobility; 87% indicated it would boost health equity (including disability issues); 82% said it would promote gender equity; and, 75% said it would enhance lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and other sexual identity equity.

* The gifts also created jobs and supported salary increases, with 73% either using or planning to use funds to hire staff and/or consultants to take on new or existing work, and 62% setting aside funds to increase salaries and/or improve benefits.

The report findings were based on surveys completed by managers at 277 gift-receiving nonprofits and were augmented by interviews with 40 leaders from various organizations. The full report is available here: https://bit.ly/3UJE5gz