Last June, MacKenzie Bezos (now MacKenzie Scott)’s $37 billion divorce settlement made headlines — as did her signing of the Giving Pledge, committing to give away at least 50% of her wealth while still alive.
This $18.5 billion commitment bodes well for philanthropy (although the true 50-50 split that was rumored would have boosted that number to something like $69 billion for MacKenzie and $34.5 billion for philanthropy). To date, MacKenzie appears to be putting her money where her mouth is when it comes to fulfilling the Giving Pledge.
On July 28, MacKenzie published a list of her contributions to 116 nonprofits around the world. This list is exciting not only because of her deep-set and clear commitment to feminist philanthropy, but because a number of the nonprofits and NGOs on MacKenzie’s list are organizations we’ve worked with here at Philanthropy Women.
“I began work to complete my pledge with the belief that my life had yielded two assets that could be of particular value to others: the money these systems helped deliver to me, and a conviction that people who have experience with inequities are the ones best equipped to design solutions,” she wrote in her July update. “…Though this work is ongoing and will last for years, I’m posting an update today because my own reflection after recent events revealed a dividend of privilege I’d been overlooking: the attention I can call to organizations and leaders driving change.”
Some of the most encouraging factors in MacKenzie Scott’s philanthropy are her informed commitment when it comes to supporting grassroots organization, and the flexibility of the funds she distributes.
As she mentioned in her update, “Unless organization leadership requested otherwise, all commitments were paid up front and left unrestricted to provide them with maximum flexibility.” This flexibility is critical in times of change, particularly when the demands of COVID-19 force organizations to stretch already-thin dollars as far as they can go, as they pivot to meet the needs of their communities.
According to MacKenzie’s Medium post, she’s given approximately $1.7 billion since signing the Giving Pledge. Her philanthropic contributions can be broken down as follows:
- Racial Equity: $586,700,000
- LGBTQ+ Equity: $46,000,000
- Gender Equity: $133,000,000
- Economic Mobility: $399,500,000
- Empathy & Bridging Divides: $55,000,000
- Functional Democracy: $72,000,000
- Public Health: $128,300,000
- Global Development: $130,000,000
- Climate Change: $125,000,000
You can view the full list of 116 organizations here. According to MacKenzie’s Medium post, “On this list, 91% of the racial equity organizations are run by leaders of color, 100% of the LGBTQ+ equity organizations are run by LGBTQ+ leaders, and 83% of the gender equity organizations are run by women, bringing lived experience to solutions for imbalanced social systems.”
All 116 organizations are doing noble, important work, and we are delighted to highlight a few organizations we have covered here at Philanthropy Women.
Equality Can’t Wait
MacKenzie Scott and Melinda Gates have both been very vocal about their commitment to philanthropy through the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge. A program launched by Pivotal Ventures, the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge will provide $30 million in funding to accelerate progress for women in the United States by 2030. Stay tuned for a liveblog from our team, as we’ll be attending the August 4th Q&A webinar about the challenge!
Based on a banking model pioneered in Bangladesh in the 1970s, Grameen America has provided micro-loans to an estimated 16 million women since 2008. Studies on the Grameen America model have proven the versatility and efficacy of these micro-loans, and MacKenzie Scott’s commitment to the organization offers exciting new opportunities for economic advancement for low-wage women in America (particularly in light of the COVID-19 crisis).
Groundswell Fund (Catalyst Fund)
The Oakland, California-based Catalyst Fund/Groundswell Fund is a major funder of initiatives and research surrounding reproductive justice and health, including birth justice with an emphasis on women of color. Catalyst Fund/Groundswell Fund has supported projects in 39 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, including initiatives of Black Women for Wellness (Los Angeles), and COLOR, a Denver-based Latina-led and Latina-serving grassroots nonprofit, among many. MacKenzie’s commitment to Groundswell underscores her commitment to reaching the people who understand the world’s problems the best: Groundswell is committed to intersectional grassroots organizing, with a focus on women of color.
National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA)
The National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) recently appeared on the PW radar with the launch of their Coronavirus Care Fund, a $4 million enterprise devoted to protecting low-wage domestic workers during the COVID-19 crisis. Domestic workers–overwhelmingly made up of women, immigrants, and people of color–often do not have safety nets like savings and health insurance to fall back on. They’re often on the front lines of critical moments like the COVID-19 pandemic, and also the first and hardest hit by national crises. As Ai-jen Poo, NDWA’s Executive Director, pointed out, domestic workers put themselves in danger by taking care of those at highest risk of contracting COVID-19 (for example, children and the elderly), but do not have the option of taking time off work or relying on savings to take care of sick family members. MacKenzie Scott’s contributions to NDWA will help support initiatives like the Coronavirus Care Fund, as well as NDWA’s domestic workers’ Bill of Rights and pro-worker legislation lobbying efforts.
We talked about Co-Impact’s bold new commitment to gender equality back in March, when they announced an “Open Call for Systems Change Grants” with a particular emphasis on gender equity.
Grantmakers for Girls of Color
Another important initiative MacKenzie is supporting is one we have been talking about here at Philanthropy Women for several years: Grantmakers for Girls of Color.
We noticed a decided turn in the direction of gender equality for the Obama Foundation, and we are glad to see MacKenzie is jumping in to support this fledgling presidential foundation that is primed to do some of the most impactful philanthropy the world has ever seen.
Tip of the Iceberg for MacKenzie
As MacKenzie herself points out, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to her commitment to philanthropy. She may no longer carry the Bezos name, but she carries the media attention and the large platform that comes with her wealth and her commitment to redistribute it. By utilizing that platform to highlight organizations doing critical work in the gender equity field, MacKenzie Scott is reaffirming her commitment to philanthropy and giving these organizations an opportunity to step into the spotlight.
I’ll leave you with my favorite quote from her July 2020 update:
“Like many, I watched the first half of 2020 with a mixture of heartbreak and horror. Life will never stop finding fresh ways to expose inequities in our systems; or waking us up to the fact that a civilization this imbalanced is not only unjust, but also unstable. What fills me with hope is the thought of what will come if each of us reflects on what we can offer. Opportunities that flowed from the mere chance of skin color, sexual orientation, gender, or zip code may have yielded resources that can be powerful levers for change. People troubled by recent events can make new connections between privileges they’ve enjoyed and benefits they’ve taken for granted. From there, many will choose to share some of what they have with people whose equal participation is essential to the construction of a better world.”
New connections are the whole point of what we do here at Philanthropy Women. By putting our platform to use, we hope to shine a light on organizations like MacKenzie’s 116, and promote the construction of our better world.
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