MacKenzie Scott Gives $436 Million to Habitat for Humanity

MacKenzie Scott, who promised in 2019 that she would give away her fortune “until the safe is empty,” has donated $436 million to Habitat for Humanity International and its 84 affiliates, the organization said Tuesday.

The gift is designed to help alleviate the global housing shortage and promote “equitable access to affordable housing,” Habitat for Humanity said in a statement.

The organization said that it would use $25 million of the donation over the next three to four years to create more affordable housing and help “the millions of individuals increasingly shut out of the housing market.”

“With this donation, Habitat is well positioned to meaningfully advocate for the systemic and societal changes needed to improve equitable access to affordable housing,” Jonathan Reckford, chief executive of Habitat for Humanity, said in the statement.

Ms. Scott, an author and philanthropist, pledged in 2019 to give away as much of her wealth as possible, after her divorce from Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon. At the time, her portion of the divorce settlement, some 4 percent of Amazon shares, was valued at around $36 billion.

But the soaring value of that stock has meant that Ms. Scott is accumulating wealth faster than she can give it away.

The Amazon shares that Ms. Scott received in her divorce from Jeff Bezos were valued at $36 billion in 2019. Forbes estimates that she is now worth nearly $50 billion.Credit…Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

By February, she had donated $8.8 billion, and today she is worth nearly $50 billion, according to Forbes.

In 2020, Ms. Scott gave $1.7 billion to a long list of institutions and causes, including historically Black colleges and universities, organizations that support women’s rights and L.G.B.T.Q. equality, and efforts to fight climate change and racial inequity.

Last year, she gave money to organizations such as the Apollo Theater and Ballet Hispánico, though she did not disclose the amounts. Dance Theater of Harlem, which received $10 million from Ms. Scott in 2021, said the gift was the largest in its history.

Updated 

March 23, 2022, 8:56 a.m. ET

Ms. Scott, 51, could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday. She has struggled with the portrayals of her philanthropy, bemoaning what she described as the focus by the news media on the amounts of money she gives away rather than on the work of the organizations that receive her gifts.

“People struggling against inequities deserve center stage in stories about change they are creating,” she wrote in a post on Medium in 2021, when she announced that she was donating more than $2.7 billion to 286 organizations.

In December 2021, she said she would no longer announce the names of the organizations that had received donations.

“I want to let each of these incredible teams speak for themselves first if they choose to, with the hope that when they do, media focuses on their contributions instead of mine,” she said in another Medium post.

Ms. Scott graduated from Princeton, where she studied creative writing under Toni Morrison.

She pursued a career as a writer even as she helped Mr. Bezos start his business. They were married for 25 years. Soon after their divorce, Ms. Scott, still using her married name, signed the Giving Pledge, noting that she had “a disproportionate amount of money to share.”

Other wealthy people, including Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, have also signed the pledge, promising to give away at least half of their wealth before they die.

But observers of such philanthropy have noted that the Giving Pledge does little to a reduce overall wealth because large fortunes keep growing, often faster than philanthropists can reduce them through donations.

And Ms. Scott’s recent decision not to announce the recipients of her gifts has led to calls for her to be more transparent.

Ms. Scott appeared to address that criticism in December, saying on Twitter that she “appreciated seeing interest in understanding” how her wealth was distributed and that she was in the process of “sharing details about our first 2+ years of work, including recent gifts.”

“Information, too,” she said, “is an important form of giving.”

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