MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of the Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, has donated more than $4bn in the past four months to hundreds of charities and aid organisations, including food banks fighting the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Scott, who has a personal net worth of more than $60bn (£44.5bn), pledged to give away much of her wealth after her divorce settlement with Bezos last year.
In July, Scott said she had donated $1.7bn to 116 charities. On Tuesday, the 50-year-old said she had decided to “accelerate” her donations this year, and in the past four months had given a further $4.15bn to 384 organisations across the US and Puerto Rico, taking her total donations this year to $6bn.
“This pandemic has been a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling,” she wrote in a blogpost titled 384 Ways to Help. “Economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, for people of colour, and for people living in poverty. Meanwhile, it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires.”
Bezos, who was married to MacKenzie for 26 years, is the world’s wealthiest person, with a fortune estimated at $185bn, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, up from $113bn before the pandemic.
MacKenzie said she took a “data-driven” approach to selecting the recipients of donations. However, her team paid “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”.
She added that some of her donations aimed to fulfil basic needs, such as food banks, emergency relief funds and support for the most vulnerable. Others focused on long-term issues that the pandemic has exacerbated, such as debt relief, employment training and education for “historically marginalised and underserved people”, as well as civil rights groups and legal defence funds.
In total, her team looked at 6,490 organisations and put 822 into “deeper research”. Scott published the list of organisations to receive funds, which includes the YMCA, Meals on Wheels, the Global Fund for Women and the civil rights organisation the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Scott’s $60bn net worth makes her the 18th richest person in the world.
Last year, she committed to the Giving Pledge Initiative, set up by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates, which encourages the world’s richest people to donate a large portion of their wealth to charitable causes.
Other major donations made during the pandemic include $1bn by Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of Twitter. In April, Dorsey announced he was moving $1bn of his assets into a fund to support pandemic relief efforts and other causes.
The Gates have committed $305m relating to Covid-19 vaccines and diagnostic development.
In June, the former basketball star Michael Jordan announced he was going to donate $100m to Black Lives Matter and other social causes over the next decade. In the same month, the UK musician Stormzy announced he would donate £10m to black British causes over the next 10 years. In August, he donated £500,000 to fund educational scholarships for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
This year, Bezos has committed $10bn to issues related to climate change. In November, he announced the first of those grants, handing out almost $800m to 16 groups.