Last year, Mackenzie Scott signed The Giving Pledge, an act where billionaires commit to giving away at least half of their wealth, writing “I will keep at [my philanthropy] until the safe is empty.” Fresh off divorcing the richest man in the world, Lex L— uh, Jeff Bezos, Scott found herself with $38 billion. Much of that is tied to Amazon stock, so it’s grown to about $60 billion this year, $1.7 billion of which she donated to 116 non-profits this summer.
In a Medium post on Tuesday, Scott acknowledged how the pandemic has made billionaires like her richer while others are in dire straits. As a result, she sped up her donation process, giving away roughly $4.2 billion to 384 organizations in the past four months.
The methods behind the giving madness — Scott revealed more about her and her team of advisers’ giving process in this week’s announcement. They looked at 6,490 organizations and selected 822 for further research. Of those, they siphoned out 384 organizations throughout all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington D.C., ranging from nearly $100 million to colleges serving BIPOC communities in Texas to Feeding America’s food banks.
Most notably, Scott has no involvement in how they spend the money, in stark contrast to traditional grant reporting and spending requirements. Instead, Scott and her advisers relied on data analysis combined with suggestions from veterans of the non-profit world and a series of interviews.
“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,” wrote Scott, which makes the inclusion of Goodwill Industries a surprise.
The problem with advisers — Scott’s use of a donor-advised fund (DAF) would be a greater cause for concern if she wasn’t literally putting her money where her mouth is, but these funds are still notorious for their lack of transparency. Recipients’ announcements are the only way we know specific amounts for some gifts.
When it comes to the actual deliberation over which non-profits are worth donations, the benefit of advisers and speed come into question. Scott’s earlier donations felt like the thoughtful philanthropy she set out to do. Donating to Goodwill, famous for rich executives and subminimum-wage pay for people with disabilities, feels more out of step. This second list has more popular names, and It’s unclear just how much vetting was done or how they measure the “unproven management teams” were assessed.
Make no mistake, siphoning off wealth like this is a great thing, but if there isn’t more transparency, Scott will continue to run into the same issues and critiques other, more timid philanthropists face.