Giving Billions Quick, MacKenzie Scott Upends Philanthropy

A Bridgespan spokeswoman said the group was “unable to share details about our clients’ processes,” adding, “We can say that we feel very privileged to be doing this job.”

Ms. Scott, in her Medium post, described how her team used hundreds of emails and phone interviews and thousands of pages of data analysis to screen 6,490 potential gift recipients. After “digging deeper” into 822 of them, she and her advisors selected 384 groups to raise nearly $ 4.2 billion in funding.

“Typically, you don’t have very big philanthropists roaming the countryside very quietly pouring millions of dollars into organizations that matter to them,” said Adam Zimmerman, president and general manager of Craft3, which provides loans to small businesses in Oregon and Washington and who received a $ 10 million gift from Ms. Scott. “The first email literally got stuck in my junk mail.”

Ms. Scott disclosed the names of the groups that received gifts, but did not disclose how much each received. And although Ms. Scott offered a list of nearly 400 organizations, she could have given gifts to other groups as well.

When Ms. Scott donates through a charity, she must publicly disclose the amounts and recipients of all gifts. But it doesn’t use a foundation. Instead, at least some of their donations – including the gift to the Chicago YWCA – were made through a fund advised by Fidelity donors. This fund will eventually reveal the groups that received money, but does not need to disclose who is behind each gift. Ms. Scott is under no obligation to publicly announce anything about her donation.

“It was not transparent about the vehicles used for philanthropy or the process,” said Reich of the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. “Power deserves control.”

But the criticism of Ms. Scott was more constructive than pointed.

“We are in a very polarized age where there is tremendous, obscene, wealth among these elite individuals,” said Elizabeth Dale, a philanthropy professor at Seattle University. “If you choose to hold onto that wealth or give it away, I’ll come to the giving away side every time.”

Gillian Friedman contributed to the coverage.

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