The third-richest person in the world and founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, announced prior to Thanksgiving that he would be donating $118 million to charitable organizations that support homeless families.
The grants this year represent the sixth round of funding from the Bezos Day One Families Fund, which will distribute the money to 38 nonprofit organizations in 23 states, including Florida, where Bezos just relocated, New York, Hawaii, Washington, D.C., California, and Washington.
Grants range from a $150,000 donation to Family Promise in Cheyenne, Wyoming, to almost a dozen grants totaling $5 million given to groups such as BronxWorks in New York and American Indian Community Development Corporation in Minneapolis.
Bezos captioned a video in which his partner Lauren Sánchez commended the fund’s work, writing, “It’s a privilege to support these orgs in their inspiring mission to help families regain stability.” The CEO of Texas-based Family Gateway, a 2019 grantee that runs emergency shelters and links families to housing help, Ellen Magnis, states in the film that Bezos’ financing has “kept 2,200 families from coming into shelter.”
Bezos and his ex-wife MacKenzie Scott committed $2 billion to the founding of the Day One Fund in 2018. To date, the fund has awarded $640 million to 48 state-based organizations. Grants from the Day One Families Fund, which is the Day One Fund’s section dedicated to homelessness, are noted for their “no strings attached” philanthropic approach, which means that there are no limitations on the use of the funds once they are received by the beneficiary NGOs.
Bezos mostly uses the Day One Fund and the Bezos Earth Fund for his charity contributions. The latter is a larger fund with a $10 billion pledge, although both are multi-year, multi-billion commitments. In addition to providing annual grants to fight homelessness through its families-focused fund, the Day One Fund assists underprivileged communities in starting and running tuition-free preschools with a Montessori curriculum.
Bezos has donated $3 billion to charitable organizations overall as a result of his most recent donations. This represents less than 2% of his $166 billion net wealth. Despite leaving his position as CEO of Amazon two years ago, Bezos remains the company’s largest individual stakeholder with slightly less than 10% of the total shares held, in addition to serving as the board chairman. Given the large e-commerce company’s history on labor and environmental issues, some have attacked his gifts, which are centered on homelessness and climate change, as being hollow.
Bezos has never said whether he uses cash gifts, donations of his Amazon shares, or any other source to pay the Bezos Day One pay grants (or any of his other grants, for that matter). However, it seems that he is using Amazon stock, as he occasionally contributes shares. According to Securities and Exchange Commission filings, Bezos gifted 1.67 million shares of Amazon valued at $560 million to “non-profit organizations” last week. An Amazon representative has not yet responded to a request for comment regarding the organizations that got the stock donations.
Since the company’s 1997 IPO, Bezos has sold $27 billion worth of stock and given away roughly $4.7 billion worth of shares. It’s possible that some of the shares he gave away went to donor-advised funds, which are essentially tax-deductible charitable giving accounts.
Bezos owns a bayside property in Hawaii, and earlier this year, he and Sánchez announced the establishment of a $100 million Maui Fund to help with relief efforts following the devastating wildfires that tore through swaths of the island. This year, His Earth Fund has continued to award lesser awards; as of now, contributions to the organization have come close to $2 billion.
In November of last year, Bezos and Sanchez told CNN that the majority of their wealth would be donated during Bezos’ lifespan.
The pair has increased their donation rate recently even though they haven’t joined the Giving Pledge to date.