Mackenzie Bezos says smaller donors deserve more praise than billionaire philanthropists

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MacKenzie Scott – formerly Mrs. Bezos – has pushed back on perceptions of philanthropy, saying it’s about more than "wealthy people who believed they knew best." 

Scott detailed her thoughts in a lengthy post on Medium, making the argument that while big name donors and titanic dollar amounts grab the headlines, a lot of good work happens on a smaller scale. 

The article, ranging between an essay on the philosophy of language and an essay on survey reporting, tries to make the argument that a person who gives $100 from a $50,000 salary deserves more praise than a multi-millionaire dropped $100,000. 

FILE – In this March 4, 2018 file photo, Jeff Bezos and wife MacKenzie Bezos arrive at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, Calif. MacKenzie Bezos is pledging half her fortune to charity, following in the footsteps of billionaires Warren Buf

"Even by the traditional yardstick – money – contributions to the welfare of others by financially wealthy people don’t merit disproportionate attention," Scott wrote, noting that one-third of the $471 billion donated to U.S. charities in 2020 occurred in increments under $5,000. 

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Scott’s ex-husband, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, accounted for $10.1 billion to launch his own environmental non-profit, the Bezos Earth Fund, Fortune reported. He topped the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s annual list of top donations, but the article noted that – outside of Bezo’s massive donation – the top 10 donations totaled a 10-year low of $2.6 billion. 

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA – FEBRUARY 26: (L-R) CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos and writer MacKenzie Bezos attend the Amazon Studios Oscar Celebration at Delilah on February 26, 2017 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images)

Scott herself provided large donations near the end of the year, but she did not publicize them: She provided a $12 million grant to Global Citizen Year and $10 million to Public Allies. Scott told both groups they could announce the donations after she published her blog post, a spokesperson from Public Allies told Bloomberg. 

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She discussed "many forms generous action," such as "person-to-person" giving and "voices," citing the protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder as an example of "millions" who used their "voices spontaneously." 

"The multiplier effect on the social and economic value of both of these forms of giving is gigantic," Scott argued. 

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"The historical omission of so many forms of generous action from our economic calculations of philanthropic value may be understandable. But their exclusion from a durable cultural concept of collective humanitarian contribution is baffling to me," she continued, ultimately declaring "this is all philanthropy."

The article, which went live on Wednesday, has generated over 1000 "claps." 

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Scott boasts around 18,700 followers on Medium and a net worth of roughly $59.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire's Index. 

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