(Bloomberg) — Mackenzie Scott has transformed American philanthropy over the past three years by donating record amounts of money to often-overlooked causes. She is now expanding her charity outside the US, where her billions could have an even greater impact.
According to data compiled by Bloomberg, Scott’s latest giving spree — $3.9 billion — involves nearly 60 nonprofits based outside the U.S., out of a total of 465 that have received grantees since last June.
They serve causes on five continents, from the small Pacific island nation of Micronesia to the slums of Rio de Janeiro. There was also an increase in donations made to US-based organizations distributing money globally, including Ukraine relief efforts.
Scott, 51, has given away nearly $12.4 billion in 1,257 grants since signing the Giving Pledge in 2019, a promise to donate his vast fortune to help solve social issues.
Read more: Here’s how billionaire Mackenzie Scott is making a fortune out of his
The most recent grants nearly double Scott’s previous gifts to internationally based groups. Before the March 23 announcement, less than three dozen of their nearly 800 grant recipients were based internationally, mainly in India and Kenya, according to data collected by Bloomberg.
What remains unchanged is Scott’s penchant for mystery and dropping transformational money bombs on organizations that didn’t see him coming.
‘Once in a Lifetime’
“Never in our wildest dreams did we think it was Mackenzie Scott, who received a $15 million grant, this is what we did not know,” said Katherine Kyobutungi, executive director of the African Population and Health Research Center, a Nairobi, Kenya-based non-profit. Largest personal donation ever.
Established two decades ago, the APHRC supports promising researchers working on African development issues. It often receives requests for information from people representing anonymous wealthy individuals, Kyobutungi said, but it’s still trying to figure out which contacts led to Scott’s donation.
“This kind of unrestricted donation is a once in a lifetime opportunity that will last us a long time,” she said. “We’ve never seen anything like this.”
Scott, who did not respond to multiple messages seeking comment, said in a March 23 blog post that he and his team “look for a portfolio of organizations that supports the ability of all people to participate in the solution.” ” Their focus “covers some new areas, but as always our aim has been to support the needs of the underrepresented.”
The ex-wife of Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos is worth $53 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Like her American charity, Scott’s Global Goals covers a wide variety of causes. Her fortune now funds efforts as diverse as improving public health in India, advancing young feminists in Latin America, and protecting the Amazon rainforest. It also gave a $6 million gift to the Micronesia Conservation Trust, which manages biodiversity conservation efforts in places such as the Republic of Palau and the US territory of Guam.
“We still don’t know how we got on his radar,” said Lisa Andone, deputy executive director at MCT.
Of the donations made to non-US-based nonprofits, nearly a quarter went to Brazilian organizations. In Brazil, like other emerging markets with weaker currencies, its dollar-denominated grants carry an added punch.
Vera Cordeiro, 71, is a doctor who started a project in the 1990s to improve health care for Rio de Janeiro’s poorest families, in addition to a medicine cabinet and some food. His institute Dara received a $1 million grant from Scott.
Scott’s first contact came through Bridgespan Group, Cordeiro said, a nonprofit consultancy that advises philanthropists and receives grants from Scott himself. He said the entire due diligence process took about four months.
Cordeiro hopes Scott’s donation will inspire wealthy Brazilians to become more involved in philanthropy. According to the World Inequality Database, the country has the largest economy in Latin America, but also one of the most unequal, with the richest 1% holding almost half of the country’s total wealth. He has only one signer for the Giving Pledge.
“If our organization was created in America, I wouldn’t have to beg for money year after year,” she said. “Mackenzie Scott’s charity is a milestone, but where are all the billionaires in Brazil?”
—With assistance from Luana Rees, Guilherme Naldis and Sophie Alexander.
To contact the author of this story:
Felipe Marx in Sao Paulo [email protected]