SEATTLE – MacKenzie Scott, philanthropist, author and former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has announced that she has given away $4.1 billion in the past four months to hundreds of organizations as part of a giving pledge she announced last year.
In Houston, the YMCA of Greater Houston announced that it will receive $18 million from Scott. The gift is the YMCA of Greater Houston’s single largest donation in its 134-year history.
“It will lay the groundwork for the organization to accelerate innovation, expand community outreach programs, advance equity work, and provide an avenue for all in the community to not just speak change, but to truly spark it through YMCA involvement as an Impact Member,” according to a news release about the gift.
Prairie View A&M received a $50 million donation.
Scott announced her pandemic-era philanthropy in a Medium post Tuesday, The Seattle Times reported. She described the coronavirus pandemic as “a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling,” and noted is has been worse for women, people of color and those living in poverty.
“Meanwhile,” she wrote, “it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires."
After donating $1.68 billion to 116 nonprofits, universities, community development groups and legal organizations last July, Scott asked a team of advisers to help her “accelerate” her 2020 giving with immediate help to those financially gutted by the pandemic.
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.”
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 $10 million. 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.