In June, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, one of the richest women in the world, announced $2.7 billion in donations. But over the course of a few hours in July â€” thanks to Amazon Inc.â€™s ever-rising stock price, which Scottâ€™s fortune is tied to â€” she added $2.9 billion to her net worth, more than replenishing her bank account.
The numbers and the scale are hard to wrap oneâ€™s mind around. Scottâ€™s giving, as well as her gains, show how much power is and will continue to be concentrated in the hands of the very richest among us.
Given the speed and scale of Scottâ€™s giving â€” $8.5 billion in just 12 months â€” she has offered little insight into her process, the vehicles sheâ€™s using, and how much, exactly, sheâ€™s sending individual organizations. â€œShe owes her fellow citizens greater transparency over the power she's wielding,â€ said Rob Reich, a Stanford University professor and author of â€œJust Giving: Why Philanthropy is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better.â€ Scottâ€™s mode of giving is particularly mysterious, but Reich thinks there should be laws requiring more disclosure and transparency around all philanthropic activity.
â€œScrutiny does not mean condemnation,â€ he added. â€œIt just means we deserve to ask questions.â€
This week, my colleagues did just that of Scott, offering a comprehensive view into how she has directed her charitable might. They spent weeks surveying the 786 gifts she has graced nonprofits with in the last year and managed to account for $4.3 billion in donations in 375 grants. They also found that such unprecedented giving has not put any meaningful dent in Scottâ€™s coffers.
So far, the investigation found, educational organizations have been the biggest beneficiaries of Scottâ€™s gifts, reaping $1.6 billion. Religious and environmental organizations have seen the least, at $14 million and $25 million, respectively. Scott still has, at last count, worth $58 billion at last count, still has much to distribute if she intends to follow through with the Giving Pledge, a promise to donate the majority of her wealth in her lifetime or will.
The project is the largest accounting of Scottâ€™s giving to date, and demystifies some of her decisions. But itâ€™s still not a full picture and many of the nonprofits Bloomberg News spoke with say they still have little clarity into the process. Scott did not comment for the story. â€”Fola Akinnibi