It’s no secret MacKenzie Scott has committed some stunning acts of philanthropy of late. She gave surprise gifts totaling $410 million to historically Black colleges and universities in December 2020 alone, adding to the nearly $6 billion she gave away last year.
But a new Bloomberg report makes excellent use of a visual timeline to provide some perspective on just how much more generous Scott has been with her money compared to her ex-husband Jeff Bezos:
Since their divorce in 2019, she’s become one of the most consequential philanthropists of her generation. Scott, who now controls one-quarter of the former couple’s combined wealth of more than $250 billion, gave away almost $6 billion last year to working charities—organizations that do good on a daily basis, rather than just steward philanthropic money.
The Bloomberg timeline shows how the pace of giving shifted after the couple divorced; prior to 2019, they made several million- and multimillion-dollar donations here and there. (I’m still chuckling at the image for the year 2014 when the Bezoses donated a total of $2.25 million to fund clinical food allergy research at Stanford University: a photo of peanuts. It works on two levels!)
The article also notes that Bezos and Scott tend to differ in how they donate their money. Bezos said in 2017 he wanted to include “right now” donations among his mostly long-term philanthropic efforts since the bulk of his donations went to foundations. But Scott gave directly to charitable organizations:
Chuck Collins, director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies, notes that cash went directly to charities, rather than sitting in a foundation. “The money hit the street,” he says.
Scott also won praise from philanthropy experts for the way she donated her money: without strings attached. Many donors of large amounts have specific instructions for how they want charities to use their funds. But Scott’s gifts in 2020 were unrestricted, indicating she trusted the people on the ground doing the work, and it gives lie to the idea that it’s “hard” to make billion-dollar donations.
Bezos is following in the footsteps of other famous billionaires who turned their focus toward philanthropy after retiring from the day-to-day of running a business. He’s stepping down as Amazon CEO later this year and says he plans to focus on “other passions,” including the Bezos Earth Fund, the Day 1 Fund, and The Washington Post.
If he needs some pointers on how to have a meaningful impact with his gigantic fortune, he could do a lot worse than to take a few tips from his ex. She seems to have a handle on how to do the most good as directly as possible. Go read this Bloomberg article for a detailed look at how she’s done it.