Jeff Bezos said he plans to give away most of his estimated $121 billion fortune during his lifetime but added that it’s “really hard” to donate money effectively.
“When you look at your net worth, it’s too much money to even spend in a lifetime. Do you plan to give away the majority of your wealth in your lifetime?” asked CNN entertainment reporter Chloe Melas.
“Yeah, I do,” Bezos said. “The hard part is figuring out how to do it in a levered way. It’s not easy.”
Bezos also noted that building Amazon “was not easy,” and that he and Lauren Sanchez, his partner and the vice chair of the Bezos Earth Fund, have experienced a similar learning curve in creating a charity organization.
“I’m finding, and I think Lauren is finding the same thing, that philanthropy is very similar,” he continued. “It’s not easy. It’s really hard. And there are a bunch of ways that I think you could do ineffective things, too. So we’re building the capacity to be able give away this money.”
Bezos made the announcement hours before reports emerged that Amazon is poised to lay off about 10,000 workers. Bezos’s former wife MacKenzie Scott also announced some philanthropic news of her own on Monday, saying she had donated nearly $2 billion to 343 nonprofits over the past seven months.
Bezos’s latest philanthropic move was to award country-music legend Dolly Parton with his Courage and Civility Award, a $100 million prize that Parton can spend on her favorite causes. Parton has long been an active philanthropist focused on issues ranging from childhood literacy in her native Tennessee to helping to fund research on a COVID-19 vaccine.
Bezos, currently the fourth-richest person in the world according to Forbes, was relatively quiet about his philanthropy until a few years ago. His main causes are climate change, homelessness and preschool education. He said in 2021 that he would spend $10 billion over 10 years to address the climate crisis through his Bezos Earth Fund.
He’s previously given his $100 million Courage and Civility Award to Van Jones, a CNN
commentator and racial-justice activist, and José Andrés, the chef and founder of World Central Kitchen.
When Bezos was still married to Scott — who is now one of the country’s most prominent philanthropists — the couple announced a $2 billion philanthropic pledge. That money is still being used to fund groups serving families who are experiencing homelessness and to build a nationwide network of free preschools for low-income children called the Bezos Academy schools.
Bezos, unlike Scott, has not signed on to the Giving Pledge, the initiative started by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet to encourage billionaires to give away most of their money either in their lifetimes or in their wills.