Five. Million. Dollars.
It’s a drop in the bucket for the most elite among us, the billionaires whose bank account balances end in more zeroes than most of us can fathom. And parked in investment accounts and bank vaults, that overflowing wealth is about as useful to society as the a piece of bubblegum stuck to the sidewalk.
But put to work, poured into nonprofits and service organizations that know where it’s most needed, that money makes a difference. A big difference.
That’s why we can’t help but find ourselves in awe following MacKenzie Scott’s announcement Tuesday afternoon that she will send no-strings-attached cash infusions totaling $4.158 billion to 384 nonprofits spread across the U.S. The author, philanthropist and ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos signed a pledge in May 2019 to give away at least half of her fortune during her lifetime or after she dies.
Scott isn’t off to a bad start considering she gave away 500 grants worth more than $5.8 billion this year alone — just shy of 10 percent of her wealth, according to Forbes Magazine.
The number and pace alone are impressive when compared to many other billionaires who have signed onto the same “Giving Pledge” — an agreement supported by more than 200 of the world’s wealthiest people to engage in real financial sacrifice to support others. But almost more impressive than Scott’s swift spending is where she decided to send those dollars.
The grant recipients are a laundry list of cornerstone community nonprofits that serve some of the most important safety net roles in our society.
Goodwill Northern Michigan is among the recipients — granted $5 million from Scott — for good reason. The nonprofit organization’s good works permeate the Grand Traverse region, providing aid to thousands of individuals and families each year.
And there is no doubt Goodwill Northern Michigan will put such a transformational contribution to work in our region.
Prior to the pandemic, more than 40 percent of families struggled to pay basic bills throughout the year. There is no doubt that number has grown during the past 10 months.
Yet, as need has grown in our region, so has the outpouring of support from donors and volunteers. It’s a surge of conscience and empathy for which we all should be proud.
“This pandemic has been a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling,” Scott wrote in a blog post announcing her latest grants. “Economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, for people of color, and for people living in poverty. Meanwhile, it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires.”
Scott said she was inspired by widespread efforts by ordinary people and community organizations to lift their neighbors during the raging economic storm that swept our nation along with the pandemic. Scott’s choice of Goodwill and our community for such a transformational grant speaks volumes about the organization, the need in our region and the fabric that holds us together.
Many things have given us hope as this difficult year draws to a close, and atop that list today are Goodwill Northern Michigan and MacKenzie Scott.
We are inspired.