MacKenzie Scott announced her latest donation of $2,739,000,000 to 286 organizations that are making an impact in communities around the United States and globally.
The gift continues to establish Scott as one of the most progressive philanthropists in the country. It builds on $4.2 billion in donations that she made in December 2020, and her recent commitment to the Giving Pledge along with her husband, Dan Jewett.
In a Medium post outlining her approach to philanthropy, Scott said that she honors the principle that on-the-ground activists know what their communities need the most and that philanthropists should just give money and then get out of the way. She also emphasized that she doesn't want to be at the center of the story; that the activists, organizers, and community groups who are receiving the funds deserve to be highlighted.
“Putting large donors at the center of stories on social progress is a distortion of their role,” she wrote. “Me, Dan, a constellation of researchers and administrators and advisors — we are all attempting to give away a fortune that was enabled by systems in need of change.
“In this effort, we are governed by a humbling belief that it would be better if disproportionate wealth were not concentrated in a small number of hands, and that the solutions are best designed and implemented by others,” she continued. “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.”
Scott’s letter acknowledges an enduring critique of wealthy philanthropists — that they unilaterally decide what gets funding and then impose limitations on how funds can be spent.
By taking a no-strings-attached approach, Scott is hoping to empower the people who are often excluded from resources and opportunities. She’s also doing her part to rebalance the enormous income inequality that has developed in recent decades.
The world’s 2,153 billionaires, for example, hold more wealth than the poorest 4.6 billion people, according to Oxfam. The COVID-19 pandemic has further deepened this inequality. As hundreds of millions of people slid into extreme poverty over the past year, billionaires netted trillions.
Scott’s letter notes that this wealth is accrued through unjust means and economists have argued that such extreme wealth hoarding is a sign of a fundamentally broken economic system that only benefits a few at the expense of the majority.
Global Citizen is calling on the world’s billionaires to join the Give While You Live campaign — which calls on billionaires to give 5% of their wealth annually to charitable causes — to help fill funding gaps critical to eliminating poverty and achieving the Global Goals by 2030.
Some billionaires are setting a positive example. The new Forbes 400 philanthropy score, inspired by Give While You Live and formed in partnership with Global Citizen in 2020, found that some billionaires such as Warren Buffett and George Soros give extraordinary sums. Meanwhile, Scott's ex-husband, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, was among the billionaires who received the lowest score.
Scott, through her ongoing gifts, may soon be at the top of the list.