Women are changing the face of philanthropy

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“The king is in the counting house counting his money. The queen is in the living room eating bread and honey, ”says the old rhyme.

“Not anymore,” says philanthropist Helen Hunt. “The Queen is in the counting house giving away her money, and she has brought many of her friends with her.”

Over the past four decades, women have come together to form women’s funds across the country. The Charlotte Women’s Impact Fund, formed in 2003, has pre-COVID-19 photos on its website of women of different ages and skin tones in sleeveless shantung changes while sipping white wine. Regardless, the Fund has invested over $ 6.8 million in 96 grants to 90 nonprofit organizations in its county.

In t-shirts and clippings, members of the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis immediately responded to COVID-19 with food and water in an outdoor market-like setting.

Atlanta, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville all have women’s funds that are vital to their communities, although COVID-19 has slowed fundraising.

We probably all know women from Oak Ridge who have established one or more scholarships at community colleges in Roane or Pellissippi State and who make other significant charitable contributions.

Yes, things have changed since a woman made a donation on her husband’s behalf to his alma mater business school. And, things have changed since women were sometimes ridiculed for giving of their time to charity.

Bill and Melinda Gates, now known as French Gates since their divorce, founded the Gates Foundation.

Yet it was the rise of the ultra-rich that really changed the face of philanthropy. Bill and Melinda Gates, who have now been known as French Gates since their divorce, founded the Gates Foundation in 2000. French Gates is credited with spurring the couple’s philanthropic efforts.

Today, the Gates Foundation has its own large Modernist building with 1,763 employees and an endowment of $ 49.8 billion. For the year ending December 31, 2020, it awarded $ 5.8 billion in 2,136 grants to 1,357 recipients. According to its website, it has 41 program strategies and its mission statement says, “We are a non-profit organization fighting against poverty, disease and inequality in the world.”

Yet it is MacKenzie Scott, former wife of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who confuses the philanthropic world. She has no basis, and no one seems to know who her advisers are. As an individual, she can talk as much or as little about her gifts and her philosophy of giving as she wants. So far, she hasn’t brought in much.

MacKenzie Scott, former wife of Amazon's Jeff Bezos.

According to Bloomberg, she is the fourth richest woman in the world and “increasingly, the most powerful and mysterious force in philanthropy today”.

So the queen can really be in the counting house giving her money if the king misbehaved and the queen got a divorce.

When Scott divorced Bezos in 2019, she received 4% of Amazon’s stock, valued at around $ 36 million. She then swore to give her fortune. Thanks to the soaring stock market, by June 2021, Scott had amassed $ 60 billion in wealth when she had already given $ 8 billion. Indeed, as of August 12, 2021, Bloomberg had identified 786 gifts totaling $ 8.6 billion in 12 months.

United Way of Greater Knoxville received $ 10 million from Scott in December 2020.

Scott has given education to historically black nonprofits, colleges, universities, and institutions. She has donated to organizations that feed, house and support those in need. She has given to arts and culture, philanthropy and grant-making infrastructure, the environment and religion.

Most of the grants go to organizations in the United States. Many of the recipients are small organizations, and according to Bloomberg, Scott’s grants are the largest many organizations have ever received.

Scott communicates by email, not by formal letter or phone. Some organizations thought their bulletins were spam and did not open them immediately.

There is no known formal method of applying for a grant, and some nonprofits seem desperate, of course, to get Scott’s attention.

Although Scott mentioned that great wealth shouldn’t be amassed in the hands of a few, The New York Times says it has shown little interest in the think tanks and research institutes that often shape politics in Washington and in state houses across the country.

The debate continues in the United States, of course, over wealth and taxes. Should the very rich even have that much money to give?

A third billionaire has now shot himself into space (they have all returned). Facebook says, “If we were to boldly send billionaires where no billionaires have gone before, we could just send them to the tax office. “

What a story

Sue Byrne tells a wonderful story of crossing Tanzania by bus in September 2008 with bright young employees and interns from the Gates Foundation. Sue is the tireless volunteer who retired to Oak Ridge after working in Europe.

When Sue worked for a pharmaceutical company in Switzerland, the company sold its antimalarial drug at cost for use in Africa and delivered 75 million doses.

The company turned to the Gates Foundation to formulate distribution strategies to ensure success. A handful of pharmaceutical executives, including Sue, were included in a surveillance and remediation tour.

Wanting to make sure the drug got to the people who needed it, the Foundation sent young staff with their laptops and spreadsheets to check the results in East Africa.

“In Dar es Salaam, 700 mothers and children lined up behind ropes, queuing in the scorching sun to see a doctor for malaria treatment from the main hospital. There was almost complete silence. The only sound I heard was a crying kitten. Then I realized it wasn’t a kitten; he was a very sick baby, ”says Sue.

“We visited remote villages. We drove on dusty red clay roads from village to village in a small bus to check the distribution of medicines and to get feedback on the packaging and illustrated instructions from the women in the village, ”says Sue. .

Malaria is often fatal for infants unless they receive treatment within 24 hours of illness. The pharmaceutical company has delivered its drugs to public hospitals, but some villages are at least 160 km from a hospital. A mother would try to walk her coiled baby against her body or, if she was lucky, find a ride by hanging from the back of a school bus standing on the running boards.

The Gates Foundation designed a distribution system that brought the drug to remote villages by finding the most respected woman in the village and loading her with the stockpile of antimalarial drugs. She didn’t have to read or write. She received packaged doses for a baby, child or adult. Each dose had an image of the sun or moon for daytime and nighttime use. The woman also had a cell phone. When she ran out of drugs, she pressed a single button on the phone and got new drug supplies and a new cell phone.

Martha Moore Hobson was one of the region’s first certified financial planners. Although she is retired, she is an active volunteer in the Oak Ridge community.


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