The Jeff Bezos approach to charity

…he has done something that even the nonprofits receiving his millions remark is highly unusual: He has given them life-changing money with virtually no restrictions, formal vetting, or oversight, according to Recode’s interviews with eight of those funded by him and others familiar with his donations.

Funders of Bezos’s stature typically cast an open call for proposals, spending months poring over applications from nonprofits and sometimes insisting on site visits, interviews, and reams of financial data. Bezos’s team instead quietly cold-called the nonprofits he was already interested in backing, asked them for a few 500-word answers, and then wired them millions of dollars in cash or Amazon shares within about six weeks of making initial contact.

Funders require nonprofits to fill out reports as often as every quarter, outlining the recipients progress on the funder’s own favorite dozen-plus metrics. Bezos does require an annual report, but he doesn’t even send a rubric; nonprofits can effectively create their own accountability and send him whatever type of update they want.

Funders are also prone to placing copious restrictions on their money to ensure it is spent on whatever it is they care about. What does Bezos do? He’s taken “no strings attached” to the extreme, effectively letting the nonprofits spend the money on anything that offers shelter to homeless families, even if the initiative was nowhere to be found on the original applications or grant agreements.

Here is the full Vox/Recode piece by Theodore Schleifer.


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