MacKenzie Scott invites nonprofits to apply for $250 million in funding — the first time she’s asked groups to approach her
By: Leslie Albrecht
The billionaire philanthropist has handed out more than $14 billion since her 2019 divorce from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos
The normally secretive billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott has issued her first-ever “open call,” inviting 250 nonprofits to apply for funding.
Scott says she’s looking to give $1 million each to small community-focused nonprofits “whose explicit purpose is to advance the voices and opportunities of individuals and families of meager or modest means, and groups who have met with discrimination and other systemic obstacles,” according to a description of the initiative released by Lever for Change, an organization that will manage the open-call competition.
The approach marks a shift for Scott, who has never publicly explained how she decides which nonprofits receive gifts from her, and has sometimes left it up to the recipients to disclose her gifts. Now worth an estimated $27 billion according to Forbes, Scott has become one of the most closely watched U.S. philanthropists since her 2019 divorce from Amazon AMZN, -1.90% founder Jeff Bezos. Since then, she’s handed out more than $14 billion to more than 1,600 nonprofits. Many of the recipients have said they were approached out of the blue by Scott’s philanthropic operation.
Nonprofits must have annual budgets between $1 million and $5 million to apply for the open-call initiative. The deadline to register to apply is May 5; winners will be announced in early 2024. Applicants will be scored by five fellow applicants, and up to 1,000 finalists will be evaluated by a panel. Schools aren’t allowed to enter the competition; neither are organizations that have previously received funding from Scott, according to the competition rules.
Scott has focused much of her giving on grassroots groups working with marginalized communities. She has also given what are often described as “transformational” gifts to well-established national nonprofits such as Habitat for Humanity ($436 million), Boys & Girls Clubs of America ($281 million), Planned Parenthood ($275 million), and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America ($123 million).
Scott is known for what’s called a “trust-based” approach to her giving, meaning that she donates money with no strings attached, and doesn’t tell the organization it must spend the money in a certain way.
Scott walked away from her marriage to Bezos with a 4% stake in Amazon, making her the fourth-richest woman in the world at the time.
Amazon shares are up 19% for the year to date, compared to a 1.8% decline for the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -1.63% and a 4.3% increase for the S&P 500 index SPX, -1.65%.