When MacKenzie Scott announced recently that she’d given nearly $4.2 billion to charitable organizations in the United States, one of the 384 recipients on her list was Direct Relief, the Santa Barbara-based nonprofit that distributes medical aid all over the world.
Direct Relief plans to disclose both the exact amount of the gift and the specific program it will fund in the coming weeks. Tony Morain, the nonprofit’s vice president of communications, said it represents “a historic amount for Direct Relief,” one of the biggest single cash donations in the organization’s history.
Direct Relief learned of Scott’s gift the way the rest of the world did, Morain said, when the Amazon billionaire posted “384 Ways to Help” on Medium.
“It was a surprise, and we were grateful and humbled,” Morain said. “She did her due diligence; she researched each of the organizations independently. For Direct Relief, it was a welcome surprise in a difficult year. … The manner in which she made the gift was inspiring, that someone would choose to give away an unprecedented about of philanthropic dollars at a pace that’s never been done before, without asking for anything in return.”
Since she divorced Amazon founder Jeff Bezos last year, Scott has become one of the world’s leading philanthropists. The new round of $4.2 billion comes on top of $1.7 billion she donated in July to 116 organizations, including major gifts to historically black colleges and universities.
Scott’s new round of giving is focused on helping people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and by “long-term systemic inequities that have been deepened by the crisis,” she wrote on Medium. The recipients include health care providers, food banks, civil rights and legal defense funds, and groups that provide debt relief, education, employment training and financial services for underserved communities.
Scott wrote that she used a team of advisors this time around, and they took “a data-drive approach to identifying organizations with strong leadership teams and results, with special attention to those operating in communities facing high projected food insecurity, high measures of racial inequity, high local poverty rates, and low access to philanthropic capital.”
Direct Relief is the biggest nonprofit in the tri-county region and one of the biggest in the country. A recent report in Forbes placed it third nationally with $2 billion in private donations, behind only United Way and Feeding America.
The bulk of that revenue comes from donated medicines and other supplies. Cash donations like Scott’s accounted for $171 million in the 2019-20 fiscal year, while goods and services donated to Direct Relief were worth $1.82 billion.