MacKenzie Scott, the author, philanthropist and former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has announced she has given away $4.1 billion (€3.36 billion) in the past four months to hundreds of organisations.
The announcement comes after a giving pledge she made last year.
Scott described the coronavirus pandemic as “a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling” and said it has been worse for women, people of colour and those living in poverty.
“Meanwhile, it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires,” she wrote.
After donating $1.68 billion to 116 non-profit organisations, universities, community development groups and legal firms last July, Scott asked a team of advisers to help her “accelerate” her 2020 giving with immediate help to those hit financially by the pandemic.
She said the team used a data-driven approach, identifying organisations with strong leadership and results, specifically in communities with high food insecurity, racial inequity, poverty rates “and low access to philanthropic capital”.
Scott and her team started with 6,490 organisations, researched 822 and put 438 “on hold for now”, waiting for more details about their impact, management and how they treat employees or community members.
In total, 384 organisations in 50 states will share the $4.1 billion in gifts, including food banks, emergency relief funds “and support services for those most vulnerable”.
Other organisations address “long-term systemic inequities that have been deepened by the crisis”, such as debt relief, employment training, credit and financial services for under-resourced communities and education for historically marginalized and underserved people.
The money will also support legal defence funds “that take on institutional discrimination”.
Washington state organisation Craft3, a community development financial institution (CDFI) focused on investing in businesses owned by people of colour, including black and Indigenous owners, received $10 million.
It is one of several CDFIs nationally to receive an investment from Scott.
Adam Zimmerman, president and chief executive of Craft3, said in a statement: “We are incredibly honoured by the recognition that comes with this unprecedented gift.
“Community development financial institutions are the front line of inclusive, equitable finance in the United States.”
Scott said she is “far from completing” her giving pledge and urged others to follow her lead in whatever way they can – time, a voice or money.