Reporting from last week’s American Philanthropic conference in Orlando, Puck reporter Theodore Schleifer outlined the geo-political shift that is occurring in the donor class from the right side of the political spectrum to the Left Coast, and, as it happens, to the upper Northwest corner of the American linoleum.
The arrival on the scene of the likes of Reid Hoffman, Laurene Powell Jobs, Melinda French Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and most recently, MacKenzie Scott, is changing the game. This coterie, along with a dozen others in the top one percentile, have “ideological instincts that skew more to the Democracy Alliance than the Chamber of Commerce. And they have established their own rival philanthropic program that in some ways outpaces the right.”
“Conservatives may still love the rich in principle, but in practice they now believe that they are losing the money wars. Among the ten wealthiest people in America today, all but one made their fortune in techdom.” As it happens, their orbits revolve around Seattle. “Conservatives are beginning to wonder whether, by being so maximally pro-donor, they might have dug their own political grave,” notes Schleifer.
An author, wife, and mother of four who’d started an anti-bullying group in the 90s, Ms. Scott, (née Tuttle, formerly Bezos; April 7, 1970), has emerged as a transformative figure in the giving world. As a 6% shareholder of Amazon.com (founded by her former husband), Scott was one of Amazon’s first employees, and was heavily involved in Amazon’s early days, working on the company’s name, business plan, accounts and shipping early orders. She also negotiated the company’s first freight contract.
MacKenzie has committed to give at least half of her wealth to charity, as a signatory to the Giving Pledge. Since pledging to donate a significant portion of her fortune, which Forbes magazine estimates at $49.4 billion, MacKenzie has handed out over $12 billion to nonprofits, per a tally of her publicly announced gifts since 2020.
In her latest essay on the website Medium, Ms. Scott described an additional $3.9 billion in gifts to 465 nonprofits in just the last nine months, including funds dedicated to areas she had given to in the past, such as climate and education, as well as newly pressing needs, like Ukraine relief efforts.
“Our team’s focus over these last nine months has included some new areas, but as always our aim has been to support the needs of underrepresented people from groups of all kinds,” Ms. Scott wrote.
The Habitat for Humanity International announced that Ms. Scott had donated $436 million to the group and 84 affiliates. She also gave $275 million to Planned Parenthood’s national office and 21 affiliates around the country, which the group called the largest gift from a single donor in its history.
All told, 1,257 organizations have received donations from Ms. Scott since 2020. Even the amounts she has given to smaller groups are often large by their standards, in many cases equal to an organization’s entire annual budget.
That was the case when Ms. Scott donated $15 million last week to Madre, an aid and human rights organization in New York that supports women’s groups around the world, according to the organization. “This is the single biggest grant we’ve ever received from a donor by orders of magnitude,” said Yifat Susskind, executive director of Madre.
While Ms. Scott has written extensively about her goal of promoting equity and in particular her efforts to prioritize groups led by women, people of color and L.G.B.T.Q. people, she hasn’t shied away from more general direct aid in times of need, as when she gave to food banks and Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A. chapters during the first, acute phase of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.
This time around she listed seven groups working directly on Ukraine, after the Russian invasion there, including the Norwegian Refugee Council, HIAS and CARE.
“Helping any of us,” she concluded, “can help us all.” [24×7]