Jeff Bezos’ ex-wife MacKenzie has shown him up with her generosity again, and taken a swipe at him for profiting during the pandemic while millions of Americans and people around the world lost their jobs.
In a Medium post on Tuesday, MacKenzie – who now uses her maiden name Scott and is worth $60bn – wrote that the COVID-19 pandemic had been a ‘wrecking ball’ to the lives of millions of Americans.
She revealed she has personally donated $4.1billion of her own money and took a very thinly veiled swipe at her ex-husband – the richest man in the world – writing: ‘This pandemic has been a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling.
‘Economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, for people of color, and for people living in poverty.
‘Meanwhile, it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires.’
It is the latest example of how MacKenzie has publicly one-upped her ex with her giving.
She has given 9.4 percent of her wealth to charity in the last year alone but public records suggest he has donated 1.3 percent of his in the last 10 years or so.
In 2019, MacKenzie was awarded $35billion in Amazon stock in her divorce from Bezos after his affair with Lauren Sanchez was made public. It has since gained billions in value.
Soon after the divorce, she joined The Giving Pledge – an organization founded by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett – whose members pledge to give at least half of their money to charity.
MacKenzie has pledged to give away half of her $60billion fortune and so far, she’s donated nearly 10 percent of it this year alone. Jeff, by contrast, is the richest man in the world and his charitable donations are half of his ex-wife’s
Amazon’s share price has grown hugely not only since Bezos and MacKenzie divorced but since the start of the pandemic. The company is worth more than $trillion now
MACKENZIE VS JEFF AND THEIR PHILANTHROPY
Net worth 2019 (year of divorce): $118 billion
What he’s made since: $70 billion
In 2020, his net worth went up by $70bn. He is now worth $185billion
What he’s given away: $2.27billion
Who he’s given to
These are some of the donations Bezos has made;
$690,000 to Australian bushfire relief fund (from Amazon)
$2bn to education funds (before his divorce)
$1million to freedom of press fund (he owns The Washington Post)
$33million to education for migrants program
Net worth 2019: $32.5billion
What she’s made since: $30bn
Amazon’s share price since the divorce was settled in April has almost doubled.
She’s now worth more than $60billion.
What she’s given: $5.86bn (this year)
MacKenzie has pledged at least half of her wealth to The Giving Pledge – that means at least $30billion.
Her most recent gift is $4,158,500,000 to 384 organizations.
She had already given $1.7billion.
Who she’s given to
$4.16billion to 384 charities designed to off-set financial hardship from the pandemic
She said at the time she had a ‘disproportionate’ amount of money.’
In her Medium post, MacKenzie gave credit to people who had shown spontaneous acts of generosity.
‘It would be easy for all the people who drew the long demographic straws in this crisis to hole up at home feeling a mix of gratitude and guilt, and wait for it to be over — but that’s not what’s happening.
‘The proliferation of community fridges, COVID relief funds, impromptu person-to-person Venmo gifts, viral debt relief campaigns, and mutual aid initiatives has been swift and uplifting.
‘In March, a 19-year-old girl in Chicago sent a group text to her friends suggesting they buy supplies for people in their neighborhood who had lost their jobs.
‘She posted two Google forms — one for people who needed help and another for people with help to give — and by two days later they’d raised $7,000. “We’re really excited.”
‘Me too,’ she said.
She had already donated close to $1.7billion when, earlier this year, she said she asked a team of advisers to help her ‘accelerate’ her philanthropy.
She said the team used a data-driven approach, identifying organizations with strong leadership and results, specifically in communities with high food insecurity, racial inequity and poverty rates, ‘and low access to philanthropic capital.’
Scott and her team started with 6,490 organizations, researched 822 and put 438 ‘on hold for now,’ waiting for more details about their impact, management and how they treat employees or community members.
In total, 384 organizations in 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., will share $4,158,500,000 in gifts, including food banks, emergency relief funds ‘and support services for those most vulnerable.’
Other organizations address ‘long-term systemic inequities that have been deepened by the crisis,’ such as debt relief, employment training, credit and financial services for under-resourced communities and education for historically marginalized and underserved people.
The money will also support legal defense funds ‘that take on institutional discrimination.’
Bezos, the world’s richest man, is seen right with his fiancee, Lauren Sanchez, in Mumbai, India, in January
Shortly after her divorce, MacKenzie announced she’d joined The Giving Pledge, an organization set up by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett where the richest people in the world donate half of their wealth to charity
Bezos isn’t part of The Giving Pledge. In 2017, he asked for ideas for where he should donate his money on Twitter. He has since given $2billion to an education fund
Washington state organization Craft3, a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) focused on investing in businesses owned by people of color, including Black and Indigenous owners, received $10million.
It is one of several CDFIs nationally to receive an investment from Scott.
‘We are incredibly honored by the recognition that comes with this unprecedented gift.
‘Community Development Financial Institutions are the front line of inclusive, equitable finance in the United States,’ Adam Zimmerman, president and CEO of Craft3, said in a statement.
Scott noted that she was ‘far from completing’ her giving pledge, and urged others to follow her lead in whatever way they could: time, a voice or money.
By contrast, her ex-husband has not publicly shared what he has donated to charity this year.
In previous years, he’s been criticized for what he’s given.
Since 2011, some of his donations have included a $690,000 from Amazon – not Bezos personally – to funds to help relief from the Australian wildfires.
It was a paltry amount for a company worth more than $1trillion.
Bezos is also not on the Giving Pledge list.
MACKENZIE’S FULL POST
Emily Dickinson lived much of her life isolated in a single room, and I’ve found her poetry coming to me a lot this year. Though her isolation was voluntary, I doubt it was easy. Her room overlooked a cemetery, and many of her poems are focused on death.
As the winter of 2020 approached, I might have expected one of those poems to keep floating to mind, but instead it was her writing on hope: “’Hope’ is the thing with feathers,” it begins, “/ That perches in the soul / And sings the song without the words / And never stops — at all -”
Maybe it was the unspoken question she posed at the end from her solitary room: “I’ve heard it in the chillest land / And on the strangest Sea / Yet — never — in Extremity / It asked a crumb — of me.”
So what does hope feed on?
This pandemic has been a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling. Economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, for people of color, and for people living in poverty. Meanwhile, it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires.
It would be easy for all the people who drew the long demographic straws in this crisis to hole up at home feeling a mix of gratitude and guilt, and wait for it to be over — but that’s not what’s happening. The proliferation of community fridges, COVID relief funds, impromptu person-to-person Venmo gifts, viral debt relief campaigns, and mutual aid initiatives has been swift and uplifting. In March, a 19-year-old girl in Chicago sent a group text to her friends suggesting they buy supplies for people in their neighborhood who had lost their jobs. She posted two Google forms — one for people who needed help and another for people with help to give — and by two days later they’d raised $7,000. “We’re really excited,” she said.
After my post in July, I asked a team of advisors to help me accelerate my 2020 giving through immediate support to people suffering the economic effects of the crisis. They took a data-driven approach to identifying organizations with strong leadership teams and results, with special attention to those operating in communities facing high projected food insecurity, high measures of racial inequity, high local poverty rates, and low access to philanthropic capital.
The result over the last four months has been $4,158,500,000 in gifts to 384 organizations across all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington D.C. Some are filling basic needs: food banks, emergency relief funds, and support services for those most vulnerable. Others are addressing long-term systemic inequities that have been deepened by the crisis: debt relief, employment training, credit and financial services for under-resourced communities, education for historically marginalized and underserved people, civil rights advocacy groups, and legal defense funds that take on institutional discrimination.
To select these 384, the team sought suggestions and perspective from hundreds of field experts, funders, and non-profit leaders and volunteers with decades of experience. We leveraged this collective knowledge base in a collaboration that included hundreds of emails and phone interviews, and thousands of pages of data analysis on community needs, program outcomes, and each non-profit’s capacity to absorb and make effective use of funding. We looked at 6,490 organizations, and undertook deeper research into 822. We put 438 of these on hold for now due to insufficient evidence of impact, unproven management teams, or to allow for further inquiry about specific issues such as treatment of community members or employees. We won’t always learn about a concern inside an organization, but when we do, we’ll take extra time to evaluate. We’ll never eliminate every risk through our analysis, but we’ll eliminate many. Then we can select organizations to assist — and get out of their way.
We do this research and deeper diligence not only to identify organizations with high potential for impact, but also to pave the way for unsolicited and unexpected gifts given with full trust and no strings attached. Because our research is data-driven and rigorous, our giving process can be human and soft. Not only are non-profits chronically underfunded, they are also chronically diverted from their work by fundraising, and by burdensome reporting requirements that donors often place on them. These 384 carefully selected teams have dedicated their lives to helping others, working and volunteering and serving real people face-to-face at bedsides and tables, in prisons and courtrooms and classrooms, on streets and hospital wards and hotlines and frontlines of all types and sizes, day after day after day. They help by delivering vital services, and also through the profound encouragement felt each time a person is seen, valued, and trusted by another human being. This kind of encouragement has a special power when it comes from a stranger, and it works its magic on everyone. We shared each of our gift decisions with program leaders for the first time over the phone, and welcomed them to spend the funding on whatever they believe best serves their efforts. They were told that the entire commitment would be paid upfront and left unrestricted in order to provide them with maximum flexibility. The responses from people who took the calls often included personal stories and tears. These were non-profit veterans from all backgrounds and backstories, talking to us from cars and cabins and COVID-packed houses all over the country — a retired army general, the president of a tribal college recalling her first teaching job on her reservation, a loan fund founder sitting in the makeshift workspace between her washer and dryer from which she had launched her initiative years ago. Their stories and tears invariably made me and my teammates cry.
This kind of chain reaction was captured perfectly by a longtime advocate for people with disabilities: “We work with people who have been marginalized for many reasons… Some of our greatest moments of success come through small gestures when a client’s hope is restored…. Feeling valued is an amazing sensation. I see the eyes of our clients light up when their efforts are appreciated…. Good begets good. I have always believed this, but I have been sorely tested over the past few years.”
Our hopes are fed by others.
Though I’m far from completing my pledge, this year of giving began with exposure to leaders from historically marginalized groups fighting inequities, and ended with exposure to thousands of organizations working to alleviate suffering for those hardest hit by the pandemic. Witnessing the determination, creativity, and compassion of people in a crisis has been inspiring: cash cards for farmers in Puerto Rico; direct deposits for furloughed workers without access to employer-based benefits; rental assistance for immigrant families without access to government relief; young volunteers stepping in for vulnerable older ones to deliver millions of meals to newly isolated seniors; shelters and counseling centers forming partnerships to handle the surge in domestic violence; two former debt collections executives enabling donors to anonymously forgive $1,000 in crushing medical debt for struggling families with every gift of $10.
If you’re craving a way to use your time, voice, or money to help others at the end of this difficult year, I highly recommend a gift to one of the thousands of organizations doing remarkable work all across the country. Every one of them could benefit from more resources to share with the communities they’re serving. And the hope you feed with your gift is likely to feed your own.