Jeff Bezos has historically been one of the holdouts in the billionaire philanthropy craze. He’s one of the richest and most high-profile billionaires who has not added his name to Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge, a public promise for the ultra-wealthy to give away the majority of their fortunes to the causes of their choice. And, prior to today, he was easily surpassed in the philanthropy game by his ex-wife MacKenzie Scott. Thankfully for humanity, the Amazon founder is changing his tune. On Monday Jeff Bezos announced he now intends to give away most of his $127 billion fortune to various world-benefitting causes.
In a follow-up question, Bezos was asked whether he intends to give away this money during his actual lifetime. Jeff gave a short but sweet answer: “Yeah, I do.”
Bezos made the pledge with his partner Lauren Sánchez, and says he is currently working on “building the capacity to be able to give away this money,” a process that is probably more complicated than it sounds. But Bezos said he’s looking to maximize the amount of good his money can do, comparing that process to the one that went into building Amazon into such a massive, globe-spanning retailer:
“The hard part is figuring out how to do it in a levered way…It’s not easy. Building Amazon was not easy. It took a lot of hard work, a bunch of very smart teammates, hard-working teammates, and I’m finding — and I think Lauren is finding the same thing — that charity, philanthropy, is very similar…There are a bunch of ways that I think you could do ineffective things, too…So you have to think about it carefully and you have to have brilliant people on the team.”
What Bezos didn’t do during the interview is specify exactly what organizations or causes will be the recipient of his fortune. But it’s possible that the environment will be one of the chief focuses of Bezos’s new philanthropic passion, given that he’s already pledged $10 billion to his own Bezos Earth Fund over the course of ten years. And Bezos and Sánchez recently awarded a grant of $100 million to music legend Dolly Parton as part of a Courage and Civility Award, an award they’ve also given to chef Jose Andrés and CNN’s Van Jones.