A New York Times primer for anyone who doesn’t know MacKenzie Scott, the eighteenth wealthiest person in the world.
“Ms. Scott, who was formerly married to the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, has pledged to give away most of her wealth. Her shares in Amazon were valued at about $38 billion last year but would have gained value during the coronavirus pandemic.”
Scott isn’t letting the pandemic stop her from making true on her pledge. Quite the opposite. Last week she revealed she was “the one behind the donations to dozens of colleges and universities, part of nearly $4.2 billion she had given to 384 organizations in the last four months.”
As impressive as the amount Scott’s given away is is how her team did it.
“The money came after weeks or months of hush-hush conversations in which Ms. Scott’s representatives reached out to college presidents to interview them about their missions, several of the presidents said on Wednesday. When they learned who was behind the effort, it was a surprise to them, too. But it could not have come at a better time — when the pandemic was hitting their student bodies hard, they said.
‘I was stunned,’ Ruth Simmons, president of Prairie View A&M University, a historically Black college in Prairie View, Texas, said of learning that Ms. Scott was giving $50 million, the biggest gift the university had ever received. She thought she had misheard and the caller had to repeat the number: ‘five-zero.'”
Scott is the antithesis of most ultra wealthy philanthropists who almost always give to their alma maters, most of which are already flush with nine or ten figure endowments.
“Ms. Scott’s latest gifts bring her charity to almost $6 billion this year, an extraordinary amount. In another unorthodox touch, she announced them in a Medium post on Tuesday. ‘This pandemic has been a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling,’ she wrote. ‘Economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, for people of color, and for people living in poverty.'”
Experts on philanthropy were surprised to see Scott associate herself with institutions that were “much more humble and, indeed, needy.”
“To these institutions, a $20 million donation was the equivalent of several times that to a Harvard or Yale, and could have a disproportionate impact.
‘One of the things that’s so incredible about this massive grouping of gifts is that she does not have a personal connection to most, if any, of these universities,’ said Kestrel Linder, chief executive of GiveCampus, a fund-raising platform that works with colleges and universities.
Ms. Scott made gifts to more than a dozen historically Black colleges and universities, as well as community and technical colleges and schools serving Native Americans, women, urban and rural students.”
Dare to be different. And hella generous.