MacKenzie Scott, the billionaire philanthropist known for her impromptu multi-billion dollar donations to charities and racial equity causes, announced Tuesday that she has given $2.7 billion to 286 organizations, including two in Maine. It is the third round of major philanthropic gifts Scott has made, which together rival the charitable contributions made by the largest foundations.

Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, wrote in a Medium post that she and her husband, Dan Jewett, made the donations to enable the recipients to continue their work and as a “signal of trust and encouragement” to them and others. Jewett is a 1994 graduate of Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris.

The Maine Expansion Arts Fund of the Maine Community Foundation received $2.5 million, and 317 Main Community Center in Yarmouth received $1.5 million. Both organizations expressed elation at the gift.

“We are thrilled to be the recipient of such a wonderful gift,” John Williams, executive director of 317 Main, said in a statement. The gift is unrestricted, meaning 317 Main can use it as it wishes. In his statement, Williams said the regional center for music education and community outreach is committed to providing accessible and inclusive music education opportunities.

“This gift will more than double our annual grant budget,” said Leslie Goode, who manages the Maine Expansion Arts Fund through her role as Maine Community Foundation senior program officer. “In recent years, we have been able to award grants to about half of the deserving proposals, so this will be a boost to those organizations whose good work and ideas would otherwise go unfunded.”

Goode said the money would be used to expand outreach to organizations led by Black, Indigenous and other people of color. Last year, the fund awarded 13 grants totaling $59,250. The deadline for the next round of grants is Sept. 15. For details visit, mainecf.org.

Scott made clear in her announcement that she is troubled by the increasing concentration of vast wealth among a small proportion of individuals. She and Jewett worked with a team of researchers and philanthropy advisers “to give away a fortune that was enabled by systems in need of change.”

MacKenzie Scott, MacKenzie Bezos

Then-MacKenzie Bezos arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, Calif. in 2018. Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File

“In this effort,” she said, “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.”

In 2020, Scott made two similar surprise announcements in which she donated a combined $6 billion to COVID-19 relief, gender equity, historically Black colleges and universities and other schools. Similar to the organizations she picked as recipients last year, Scott said the 286 organizations chosen for Tuesday’s announcement were selected through a rigorous process of research and analysis. That effort included “equity-oriented” nonprofits working in long-neglected areas.

“Because we believe that teams with experience on the front lines of challenges will know best how to put the money to good use, we encouraged them to spend it however they choose,” she wrote.

The latest recipients range from universities to refugee resettlement groups to arts and culture organizations that have suffered from a drop in giving as donors focused on more urgent needs brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

The donations also went to nonprofits that focus on minority communities. The group Native Americans in Philanthropy, a recipient that connects philanthropic organizations to Native American-led nonprofits, said in a statement that the multi-million dollar contribution will help them in their efforts to increase funding to tribal communities.

“MacKenzie Scott has recommitted to transformative work, the organizations that undertake it and the leaders whose ideas are often under-funded and overlooked,” Erik Stegman, the executive director of the group, said in a statement. “It’s important to note that she has also just written checks to these organizations, leaving her own interests to the side and giving up power to the organizations she’s funding.”

Portland Press Herald Staff Writer Bob Keyes contributed to this report.


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