Jeff Bezos, the 4th richest man in the world, just pledged to give most of his $124 billion fortune to charity. Speaking to CNN, the billionaire said that he is “figuring out how to do it in a levered way,” so that he can maximize his return.
Bezos Just Gave Dolly Parton the $100 Million Courage and Civility Award
The announcement comes right after Bezos and his girlfriend, Lauren Sánchez, gifted country singer Dolly Parton a $100 million Bezos Courage and Civility Award. Previous grantees are Van Jones and José Andrés. The award recognizes “leaders who aim high, find solutions and who always do it with civility,” according to Sánchez. The idea is that recipients will redirect the money to other charities that they “see fit.”
Bezos and Sánchez told CNN’s Chloe Melas that the Courage and Civility Award is meant to amplify the voices of people who bring others together instead of divide them. Bezos said that this was likely a key to upholding the American Dream, which to many, feels out of reach.
“I’m an optimist,” the Amazon founder said.
I think the American Dream is… will be more attainable in the future. Look, one of the things that I don’t like about the current environment is that I think there is a lot of division. I think that people use conflict as a tool to achieve their own ends. I don’t think it’s a good tool. And we see sometimes, in our political sphere, certain politicians criticize other politicians. They criticize their motives, their character. They call them names. Once you’ve done that, it’s hard to work with somebody.
And these problems we have are big. We need to be able to work together. And that’s why we created the Courage and Civility Award. Because we want to highlight people who don’t do that… We want to bring a little bit of light, a little bit of amplification, to these people who use unity instead of conflict.Jeff Bezos to CNN
Jeff Bezos and Girlfriend Lauren Sánchez Building a Team, Assessing Options
Apart from the Courage and Civility Award, Bezos intends on giving away most of his $124 billion fortune through other charities and devices. However, he said that, while it’s easy to just give away money, he wants to make sure that he utilizes his charitable donations in the best way possible.
“It’s not easy,” Bezos said of figuring out how to give away the money. “You know, building Amazon was not easy. It took a lot of hard work, a bunch of very smart teammates. And I’m finding, and I think Lauren’s finding the same thing, that philanthropy is very similar. It’s not easy. It’s really hard. And there are a bunch of ways, I think, that you could do ineffective things, too. So, we’re building the capacity to be able to give away this money.”
Bezos then added that he thinks it’s important to keep two different time frames in mind: the “urgent” and the “long-term.” He then elaborated on what’s already on the front burner for philanthropic donations, giving an example of two urgent issues. One of these addresses longer-term problems (climate change) and the other addresses immediate problems (severe poverty, homelessness, etc.).
- The Bezos Earth Fund: A 10-Year, $10 billion commitment to work on sustainability, conservation, and restoration in an attempt to combat climate change.
- The Day One Fund: Bezos referred to this as a “here and now” project. The fund is described as a $2 billion commitment” that “[funds] existing non-profits that help families experiencing homelessness, and [creates] a network of new, non-profit tier-one preschools in low-income communities.”
Bezos’ Previous Philanthropic Donations Usually Came in $100 Million Increments
Bezos has given away $100 million each to the following organizations in the past: The Environmental Defense Fund, Feeding America, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Nature Conservancy, World Resources Institute, and World Wildlife Fund. He also established the Bezos Academy, which established a group of tuition-free preschools for low-income families.
It seems that when you have so many billions of dollars on hand, $100 million donations make sense. It would be like if I had $100 in my wallet and needed to feed my child and eight dogs — each one would get $10 worth of food. The rest would go towards beer, obviously. Or something like that.
Warnings of a Doomed Economy
Notably, Bezos’ pledge to donate his $124 billion fortune comes shortly after a disturbing tweet that he posted in October. It was a CNBC video of Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon talking about an impending recession. Bezos captioned the tweet, “Yep, the probabilities in this economy tell you to batten down the hatches.”
In the video, Solomon was warning those who run risk-based businesses to “expect that there’s more volatility on the horizon” and “think more cautiously.” Needless to say, for the average member of the proletariat, it was the kind of message that sent chills down your spine. Many are still trying to pull themselves up from their bootstraps in the wake of the COVID-10 pandemic-turned-epidemic. Inflation has skyrocketed and the housing bubble seems to be bursting.
Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see what Bezos decides to do to help others. He’s previously come under fire for not yet signing The Giving Pledge. The Giving Pledge is a pledge for the world’s wealthiest people and families to give away a majority of their wealth to charity. It was founded by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.
Bezos has also been seriously ripped apart on social media for acting like he cares about working class people. But so far, it seems like he really wants to help.