MacKenzie Scott Prefers These Philanthropic Causes, Experts Say

MacKenzie Scott, the billionaire ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, is apparently shifting some of the focus of her philanthropic efforts.

Scott’s exact giving numbers have always largely been a mystery, but experts have said that she’s focusing some of her giving on new themes.

In March, the grants that Scott announced fell in line with the usual themes that she supports philanthropically — health, economic security, opportunity, equity and justice were the largest benefactors.

At the same time, a higher percentage of the recent grants she issued went to organizations that focus on democracy, according to Panorama Global’s founder and CEO, Gabrielle Fitzgerald.

The two largest categories that received gifts from Scott included organizations that work on “youth development” and “race and ethnicity.” That’s according to a database of the gifts she gave that’s posted on her website called Yield Giving.

Generally speaking, most of the grants Scott gives out go toward organizations based in the South. The latest round, though, went to organizations in New York and California.

Scott generally doesn’t discuss where she gives her money, though she does discuss the topic at times through essays that she posts on her website. Understanding where her philanthropic focuses are is a high priority for non-profit organizations that dream of receiving one of the gifts that she gives out, especially since they are quite large and usually are unrestricted.

Scott has pledged in the past that she will donate more than half of her entire wealth. She has said that, since 2019, she’s donated in excess of $17.3 billion to more than 2,300 non-profit organizations.

Forbes has estimated that Scott’s net worth is roughly $37 billion, which is roughly $2 billion more than it was after her divorce with Bezos was finalized.

Last year, Scott initiated an effort to expand the donations she makes, doing so by offering non-profit organizations the opportunity to apply for grants worth $1 million through an initiative she launched called LEver for Change.

Applicants must have an annual budget that ranges from $1 million through $5 million, which only covers a small amount of the more than 1.8 million non-profit organizations that are registered in the U.S.

While she originally pledged $250 million to the applicants of this program, Scott decided to increase that amount.

This year, Scott and her team ultimately gave out $640 million in grants to 361 non-profit organizations, all of which received a gift of either $1 million or $2 million. There were 6,353 applicants to the program.

Pamala Wiepking, who is a professor at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, recent commented on Scott:

“She’s been an inspiration for a lot of people, but not a lot of people are acting upon that inspiration.”

Wiepking and some co-authors reported that there is a mismatch between the missions of many funders who want to affect social changes and the way they award grants. Most have specific limitations on what the awards can be used for, and for how long they last.

Scott takes the opposite stance, placing very few limitations on her gifts, if any at all.