Renton Technical College, Oregon Arts and Culture Recovery Program and the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience are among the 286 organizations that received funds in billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott’s latest round of donations.
Scott gifted $2.7 billion to organizations in categories and communities she described as having been historically underfunded and overlooked.
Scott, the former wife of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, has pledged to give away the majority of her wealth during her lifetime.
On her blog Tuesday, Scott urged readers to focus on the groups she had supported and the work that they do, rather than her philanthropy.
“People struggling against inequities deserve center stage in stories about change they are creating,” she wrote. “This is equally — perhaps especially — true when their work is funded by wealth. Any wealth is a product of a collective effort that included them. The social structures that inflate wealth present obstacles to them. And despite those obstacles, they are providing solutions that benefit us all.”
Among the recipients was the Oregon Arts and Culture Recovery Program, formed last year to support Oregon-based artists and nonprofits affected by disruption from COVID-19.
“There’s so much need for folks to come together to try to create meaning out of this, to heal as a community,” program officer Jerry Tischleder said. “Hopefully this will encourage other people to see the need and maybe make a contribution as well.”
The program received a $4 million donation — almost doubling the $5.3 million it has been able to distribute to nonprofits and individual artists so far.
“I was surprised that they’d even heard of what we’re doing here … and then [that they] were so generous,” Tischleder said. “It’s really inspiring.”
In a statement posted Tuesday on the school’s website, Renton Technical College President Kevin McCarthy said he plans to talk with students and faculty on campus about how best to invest the money.
RTC offers short- and long-term career training programs, applied bachelor’s degrees, and courses for English language learners, among other programs. Nearly 70% of students identify as students of color, according to the school.
“With college budgets notoriously tight, this gift will allow us the flexibility to reimagine our approach to serving our diverse student population,” McCarthy said.
At the end of 2020, Scott announced she had given away $4.1 billion to 384 organizations in the span of four months, as part of a giving pledge she announced last year.
Among them were five Washington state organizations: Craft3, a Community Development Financial Institution focused on investing in minority-owned businesses; The Pride Foundation; Easterseals Washington, one of 22 child-centered affiliates from around the country; Walla Walla Community College; and the YMCA of Greater Seattle.
Cathy Bisaillon, the president and CEO of Easterseals Washington, said Tuesday the money her organization received in December was “transformational.”
She’s planning to use a third of the grant to sustain services and maintain employment in the event of unexpected circumstances, like the pandemic. Another third will be used for investing in an adult day program in Bremerton, restoring a camping facility and making spaces more accessible. The rest of the money will be used for growing programs statewide.
Scott said on her blog that she and her team chose to make relatively large gifts to the organizations to enable their work and “as a signal of trust and encouragement, to them and to others.”
This is her first time announcing donations since she married Dan Jewett, a Seattle science teacher.
“Me, Dan, a constellation of researchers and administrators and advisors — we are all attempting to give away a fortune that was enabled by systems in need of change,” Scott, who is worth almost $60 billion, wrote in the post. “We are governed by a humbling belief that it would be better if disproportionate wealth were not concentrated in a small number of hands, and that the solutions are best designed and implemented by others.”
Scott, who ended up with a 4% stake in Amazon.com Inc. after her divorce, has quickly become one of the most consequential philanthropists in the world and last year set a record for the largest annual distribution by a living person. Scott has been lauded by experts and philanthropy critics alike not only for the speed and scope of her gifts, but also for the organizations she’s giving to — smaller ones typically overlooked by big donors — and her dedication to making charitable gifts with no strings attached.
Seattle Times staff reporter Daniel Wu contributed to this story. Information from Bloomberg News is included in this report.