Giving Billions Fast, MacKenzie Scott Upends Philanthropy

Giving Billions Fast, MacKenzie Scott Upends Philanthropy

Giving Billions Fast, MacKenzie Scott Upends Philanthropy

Giving Billions Fast, MacKenzie Scott Upends Philanthropy

A spokeswoman for Bridgespan said that the group was “not in a position to share details about our client’s processes,” adding, “What we can say is that we feel very privileged to get to do this work.”

Ms. Scott described in her Medium post how her team used hundreds of emails and phone interviews and thousands of pages of data analysis to sift through 6,490 potential gift recipients. After “deeper research” into 822 of them, she and her advisers selected 384 groups to receive nearly $4.2 billion in funds.

“Usually you don’t have very large philanthropists wandering the landscape looking to drop millions of dollars very quietly into organizations that they care about,” said Adam Zimmerman, president and chief executive of Craft3, which gives loans to small businesses in Oregon and Washington and which received a $10 million gift from Ms. Scott. “The first email literally got stuck in my junk mail.”

Ms. Scott announced the names of groups that got gifts, but she didn’t disclose how much each received. And although Ms. Scott offered a list of nearly 400 organizations, she could well have given gifts to other groups.

If Ms. Scott was making her donations through a foundation, she would be required to publicly disclose the amounts and recipients of all gifts. But she is not using a foundation. Instead, at least some of her donations — including the gift to the Chicago Y.W.C.A. — were made through a Fidelity donor-advised fund. That fund will eventually disclose the groups that received money, but is not required to say who is behind each gift. Ms. Scott is under no obligation to publicly disclose anything about her giving.

“She has not been transparent either about the vehicles being used for philanthropy or about the process,” said Mr. Reich of Stanford’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. “Power deserves scrutiny.”

But the criticism of Ms. Scott has tended to be more constructive than pointed.

“We’re in this very polarized time where there is tremendous, you could say obscene, wealth held among these very elite individuals,” said Elizabeth Dale, a professor specializing in philanthropy at Seattle University. “If their choice is to hold onto that wealth or give it away, I’m going to come down on the side of giving it away every time.”

Gillian Friedman contributed reporting.


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