MacKenzie Scott’s donations were the largest ever for many HBCUs and charities

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MacKenzie Scott is the 18th richest person in the world after getting a $36 billion settlement in her 2019 divorce from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. She got even richer when Amazon stock went up due to the pandemic. MacKenzie has pledged to give away at least half of her wealth in her lifetime and she’s well on her way to doing that. Earlier in the summer we heard that she had given away $1.7 billion. This week she published a moving essay detailing the process of donating another $4.2 billion, spread among 384 charities. MacKenzie had the help of a team of people to vet organizations, and instead of having them apply for money her team conducted interviews and gave it away with no stipulations. It’s so generous and thoughtful, and we got a small idea of the difference she made in her description of the recipients’ reactions. The NY Times has interviews with people who work in some of the educational organizations she donated to, which include small historically Black colleges and universities. In at least one case she doubled their endowment.

The money came after weeks or months of hush-hush conversations in which Ms. Scott’s representatives reached out to college presidents to interview them about their missions, several of the presidents said on Wednesday. When they learned who was behind the effort, it was a surprise to them, too. But it could not have come at a better time — when the pandemic was hitting their student bodies hard, they said.

“I was stunned,” Ruth Simmons, president of Prairie View A&M University, a historically Black college in Prairie View, Texas, said of learning that Ms. Scott was giving $50 million, the biggest gift the university had ever received. She thought she had misheard and the caller had to repeat the number: “five-zero.”

It is common for billionaire philanthropists to give to Ivy League and elite private schools that are already wealthy and where they often have a personal connection. Such donations support their passions, and also bring prestige and recognition…

So it was telling to experts on philanthropy to see Ms. Scott associate herself with institutions that were much more humble and, indeed, needy. To these institutions, a $20 million donation was the equivalent of several times that to a Harvard or Yale, and could have a disproportionate impact.

“One of the things that’s so incredible about this massive grouping of gifts is that she does not have a personal connection to most, if any, of these universities,” said Kestrel Linder, chief executive of GiveCampus, a fund-raising platform that works with colleges and universities.

Ms. Scott made gifts to more than a dozen historically Black colleges and universities, as well as community and technical colleges and schools serving Native Americans, women, urban and rural students…

Some of the college presidents said Ms. Scott had put no restrictions on the funds, allowing them to determine how to use them. The funds were delivered to Prairie View on Oct. 20, and Dr. Simmons said she had been permitted to start disbursing money immediately to students affected by the pandemic.

Dr. Simmons said she was initially asked to keep word of the gift confidential, yet argued that making it public knowledge would send an important message.

“I used to be the president of one of those big colleges — Brown University — and there of course, it was quite routine to be in conversations with people about gifts of this size,” Dr. Simmons said. “But it rarely happens in institutions like Prairie View, and it rarely happens especially for the kinds of students that we serve.”

Tony Munroe, president of Borough of Manhattan Community College, a predominantly Black and Hispanic institution in Lower Manhattan, which received $30 million from Ms. Scott, recalled that there was no application to submit for the grant. He was simply contacted out of the blue by a representative of Ms. Scott’s, who engaged him in probing conversations about the college’s mission.

“When it was shared with me who the donor is and how much, I had a moment, I literally began to cry,” Dr. Munroe said…

Morgan State University, a historically Black university in Baltimore, said Ms. Scott’s gift of $40 million, the largest single private donation in its history, would double its endowment.

[From The NY Times]

I got choked up reading this for the first time, and I’m teary reading it again. I especially liked the part about how billionaires typically give to Ivy League schools that they have a connection to, but MacKenzie is not a typical billionaire and she figured out where she could help the most. This money is going to make an enormous difference to students at an incredibly difficult time.

We’re also getting stories from other organizations about the incredible no strings attached donations she’s given. There were stipulations that it be kept confidential, but now that MacKenzie’s essay has come out the charities want to thank her. Florida First Coast YMCA president Eric Mann said that her donation will help generations of people and that he was overwhelmed when he heard the news. “My hands shook I was on the phone. And then I just looked up and said, ‘Thank you God’ and that was it. I hate to say this, no I don’t hate to say this, but I probably cried a little bit as well.” The Vermont Food Bank also received their largest single donation in history, $9 million, which they called “transformational.”

Some of you have commented that the rich should be taxed more, which is absolutely true, as should corporations. I would add that public schools should not have to have fundraisers for basic supplies while police forces are given enough military gear to outfit an army. Military spending should be cut and secondary education and healthcare should be free. Teachers should make wages and overtime that are similar to police officers. You know where I’m going with this. This is the sh-tty system we have, and MacKenzie Scott just worked within it, doing her best, to distribute her massive wealth. She had an entire team helping her and she has changed so many people’s lives. I’m so glad her ex husband is a cheating a-hole.

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50 Responses to “MacKenzie Scott’s donations were the largest ever for many HBCUs and charities”

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  1. Pusspants says:

    This is truly wonderful! And it begs the question of why hasn’t Bezos donated more? What’s stopping him? Oh right, being a douchebag.

    • coolspray says:

      Hahahahaha love your comment – so true. Being a billionaire should be a total an utter embarrassment, not something to be proud of. Hoarding more money than you, your kids, your kids’ kids and their kids can ever spend while people starve is atrocious!

      • Oandlomom says:

        It’s obscene. Besides being utterly depraved to be a billionaire, especially one like Bezos, it’s just completely gauche.

  2. Jessie says:

    I was thinking the same, thank God for his being an asshole to the point where she is now in a position to do what she wants with her money. I bet they had quite a few fights over their values and what to do with their wealth because CLEARLY their opinions differ wildly. He “pledged” to give away, she stayed quiet and followed through on actually giving it away.

  3. Snuffles says:

    God bless her, seriously! And maybe Bezos and other billionaires will be shamed into doing the same.

    • Ainsley7 says:

      Billionaires typically don’t have shame. That’s how they got to be billionaires.

    • Mignionette says:

      It’s so clear why they drifted apart. She must have seen him do some real awful / shady things to compel her to make such a hefty donation. It will be interesting to see in years to come how many palms Bezos greased to avoid tax so aggressively. I have always been interested to understand why he and Trump despise each other so much. I don;t necessarily think it comes down to political ideology.

  4. Sayrah says:

    This made me tear up too. What a thoughtful person she is ❤️

  5. OriginalLala says:

    I love that she is doing this! but man, our society shouldn’t have to rely on charitable billionaires to fund important organizations and initiatives…..

    • HoofRat says:

      Agreed! In the early-90s recession, our scumbag Conservative provincial government started slashing public services to the sick and the poor, and directing them to community agencies instead. I worked in a non-profit then; we were already struggling to stretch our dollars, then got swamped by demand we couldn’t begin to meet. It was a massive abdication of governmental responsibility that continues with the current a-hole Premier.
      That being said, God bless Mackenzie Scott for doing the research up front and not requiring grant applications, which take a huge amount of time and energy to complete. I can totally understand why the recipients cried.

  6. Darla says:

    She’s so much better than the man she married, and I’m happy for her that she’s free. She’s killing it and that will continue. I hope she has an amazingly fulfilled life without that ahole.

  7. FHMom says:

    She is amazing. It’s wonderful when someone with tons of money puts it to good use.

  8. Bettyrose says:

    Makes me feel a little better about continuing to support Amazon. I feel like at this point asking me to boycott Amazon is like asking me to boycott a utility. It’s a huge sacrifice. Can we instead demand that as a privately owned public service Amazon adopt better personnel practices? Appeal to Mackenzie? Pass legislation? I hate Bezos so much but I love Whole Foods and Audible and Amazon Studios.

    • Mignionette says:

      ^^ This is actually not a bad idea. The pandemic has really shown up the fragility of the retail sector and the need for a back-up systems. Some businesses will never recover bc their business model was customer facing only or they didn’t get on-line fast enough. I saw this first hand myself with local restaurants who were quick to get onto food apps to survive. The ones who didn’t for whatever reason have since closed down or really struggled. It’s a mess.

      Services like AMAZON enjoy a monopoly as we see with their surge pricing. That kind of market power requires greater regulation.

      • lucy2 says:

        I agree. I got take out last night from a local place that immediately set up online ordering, including some groceries, and has a great drive through system so people don’t even have to go in.
        The delicious Italian place down the street from them is a disorganizes mess, never answers their phone, and took 2 hours to get my order last time (I ordered well before the dinner rush too).

    • schmootc says:

      The Feds have already come for Google and Facebook. And it’s one of the only things that Dems and the GOP seem to agree on. I’d guess Amazon is on their to-do list as well, it’s just probably a bigger lift.

  9. lucy2 says:

    I really love the way she and her team have selected the organizations. Those smaller schools, food banks, etc…these donations are life changing for them and the people they serve.

  10. Kay Hendricks says:

    She gave an eight-figure donation To Palo Alto College in San Antonio, Texas, which serves one of the most disadvantaged areas of the city and mostly low-income students. This is so wonderful of her and what everyone with that kind of money should do. Also, I wish they would quit using photos with her ex or cut him out. He didn’t give the money and treated her badly.

  11. Cafecito says:

    This is so perfect, a lot of people in need are being helped. As a bonus it is done in a way that highlights what a kind, wonderful, intelligent woman she is and what a POS he is.

    And perhaps another billionaire might start getting ideas….

  12. GoldenGirl14 says:

    This is a great story. BMCC serves so many low income students of color and immigrants. Many of family members including my parents went there after coming to this country to get their associates before completing their degrees at Brooklyn College, or LIU.

  13. Amelie says:

    Oh my gosh, I got emotional reading that article! I looked up where she went to college because I was curious and she graduated from Princeton, an Ivy League. I feel like these gifts coming to HBCUs and other small universities mostly serving minorities mean that much more. Also apparently Toni Morrison was her professor at Princeton according to Scott’s Wikipedia! She is really making her cheating ex-husband look bad and I’m absolutely loving it. I doubt this will motivate Jeff to be more charitable with his money but if it does… what a perfect ex-wife’s revenge. What a class-act example to other billionaires.

    • Mignionette says:

      Her whole modus operandii during the divorce was top class. She could have asked for much more given that she set the company up with Geoff. Instead she very cleverly retained shares and took a lump sum. That way she continues to siphon off profits and distribute them in this way.

      I am guessing she specifically targeted HBCU’s for a few reasons;
      - COVID devastated black and brown communities more than any other due to structural inequalities
      - BLM and the deaths in custody this year

      Also if Toni Morrison was her tutor then she’d understand very quickly that the only way to level up the inequalities is to assist in getting more black and brown bodies into positions of power. One huge way to do that is to increase access to education.

  14. Myra says:

    I can’t believe he let her go for that other woman but it was obviously for the best. I’m happy with her method of giving. She hasn’t created a complex system where applicants have to compete for limited resources. Sure the recipients have less accountability, but they also have more flexibility to make rapid changes.

  15. olliesmom says:

    That’s some mighty fine “forget you” revenge on scumbag Bezos.

    I’m hoping that he’s kicking himself right now for losing her. She’s gorgeous and is a decent human being. Is he still with that tacky, plastic surgery mess gold digger? What’s her name again?

    • Jaded says:

      Lauren Sanchez. She’s had a long career in entertainment and sports television and now runs Black Ops Aviation, the first female-owned aerial film and production company. She’s a licensed pilot and Black Ops is pretty much what she’s concentrating on since she and Bezos dumped their respective spouses.

      Mackenzie is soooooo much more than Sanchez will ever be.

      • Chanteloup says:

        @ Jaded, you’re awesome! but I don’t think olliesmom really cares what her name is. I don’t. You’re the best tho’

  16. little earthquakes says:

    “Ms. Scott made gifts to more than a dozen historically Black colleges and universities, as well as community and technical colleges and schools serving Native Americans, women, urban and rural students…“

    The bright spots this year have been few and far between, but this is definitely one of the best.

    • schmootc says:

      It totally is. She picked places that can help BIPOC the most and that can really make a difference. The Ivies don’t need more money. And the people who will benefit will get better jobs, have a better standard of living, etc. That money will literally change lives.

    • Chanteloup says:

      This is how I see it:
      Dear douchebag Jeff:
      Your ex is giving away billions of dollars so our youth can get a decent education, have a good life and not have to work for a greedy, heartless bastard like you.
      We applaud her!
      Sincerely,
      All of Us

  17. Mina_Esq says:

    Beautiful. When you Google her name, you get countless articles from different parts of the country that talk about local impacts of her donations. Truly a blessing. People are in disbelief, especially local non-profits whose fundraising efforts took a real hit this year due to the pandemic. What a decent human being.

  18. Blanster says:

    What she is doing is wonderful. I wish she had a way to give some of that future money to current and former Amazon employees, to pay them a living wage for their work that enabled her wealth. Imagine the message that would send to Bezos. His ex-wife is paying his employees what HE should have been paying them all along.

    • Mignionette says:

      ^^ This is exactly the point. I wonder if that was one of the factors that led to the breakdown of their marriage.

  19. Gotcha says:

    Amazing woman with an amazing purpose. Sometimes God blesses the right people at the right time. I’m sure if just simple millionaires whom are known for their philanthropy were blessed with this much money they would do the same. But doesn’t expect Jeff to do the same he is too busy buying spaceships. Bill and Linda Gates do a lot of great work. Fates is determined that he will get clean water to the villages in Africa and I pray he does!

  20. Bella says:

    There are good people who walk this planet.

  21. qtpi says:

    This also put that money back into our communities instead of sitting in offshore accounts. This will have a huge ripple effect. I’m guessing she has pushed him to do this in the past and he obviously resisted. Now she is showering it all down. Good for her. And his loss.

  22. Mignionette says:

    This is FANTASTIC. I hope that a solid scheme is set up and that none of this money goes to waste. This money can do so much good for black / minority students who otherwise would not be able to pay for college tuition.

  23. Delphine says:

    I love her so much! The white cloud on the wall behind her in the top pic looks like an angel wing. Perfect.

  24. Liz version 700 says:

    She is amazing. I am glad she has intentions of doing something with this money besides hoarding it. And man I just have to say he downgraded big time with his jump off. This woman is class.

  25. CJ says:

    I’m just really enjoying hearing about her giving – and in a really nerdy way all the ‘show your work’ness of how she went about it, practicalities – I work in fundraising in a charity and honestly this kind of strategic philanthropy is just so interesting (albeit I dont work in the philanthropy team as at my very core I believe in taxes not philanthropy!).

    What is really brilliant to see is how she’s also promoting that she made the gifts unrestricted. So much energy and administration goes into the restrictions and reporting around restricted gifts. I do see why restrictions are wanted, so donors can know on what their gifts are being spent, but honestly the trust that comes with an unrestricted gift is beautiful and so so needed in this year, when charities have had to respond in unexpected ways. We were lucky to have many of our donors unrestrict their gifts when the pandemic hit, which has allowed us to carry on, but we’re still looking at a £8m defecit between income and expenditure next year so tough decisions are having to be made, and the struggle is that some restricted gifting is pushing us to continue with activities that are less of a priority (or accept losing the activity and the gift). Unrestricted gifts really are the dream in these times.

  26. april says:

    She’s an absolute angel! I’m not going to judge Jeff Bezos, however. Without Amazon services, my quality of life would suffer.

  27. WanderingWonderer says:

    What a class act! Love how she is staying true to herself and creating her own legacy by lifting others up and not letting her ex or divorce define who she is. She proves the saying that behind a successful man is a formidable woman.

  28. Seeker542 says:

    She donated to United Way & Goodwill branches in my area, and it makes such a huge impact when donations go to smaller, underserved organizations. I love what she’s doing, it speaks of her character.

    • another Nina says:

      @Seeker542 Some unrelated questions – How’s Goodwill doing these days? I started buying from them in 2002 in CT. Then moved overseas later and kept being their customer via eBay. I was thinking that their business is up since it’s become so popular among hipsters and all to buy used stuff. So, I am sort of surprised that they’re underserved… Perhaps it depends upon location?

  29. BearcatLawyer says:

    Please stop using photos of Mackenzie alongside Jeff Bezos if possible. He does not deserve any more attention. She deserves the spotlight all to herself for a change, although I sincerely doubt she cares about it!

    • Celebitchy says:

      There are literally no other photos of her in any photo agency and she doesn’t have an instagram or personal photos available anywhere. I really tried to find photos of her alone.