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This week, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos gave Van Jones and chef José Andrés $100M each, following his 10-minute space flight.
Both recipients of the $100M run nonprofits — Jones’s Dream Corps is focused on criminal justice reform and tech equity; Andres’s World Central Kitchen has provided emergency food relief across the world (most famously in post-Hurricane María Puerto Rico, but also — quietly— here in Pennsylvania during the pandemic).
While the move has prompted mostly online love for the awardees, the Twitterverse has been critical of Bezos.
Bezos giving $100M in charity is ~1% of the ~$10B in taxes Amazon has avoided paying and ~.1% of the ~$100B in increased wealth Bezos has taken during the pandemic.
Don’t fall for billionaire PR. Tax billionaires & demand they pay their fair share.
— Qasim Rashid, Esq. (@QasimRashid) July 20, 2021
Jeff Bezos could’ve given every one of the million Amazon warehouse employees $100K today & he would still be among the 10 wealthiest people in the world. $100K is >3x their average yearly salary. Instead he gave $100M each to ppl who are already rich as a PR stunt.
— DEFUND & ABOLISH POLICE, REFUND OUR COMMUNITIES (@BreeNewsome) July 20, 2021
🥇for @mackenziescott in making an ex (Jeff Bezos) look tiny by doing great things. She donated $2 BILLION in a groundbreaking way – multi-yr unrestricted grants. Bezos only mustered 10% of that amount and does it by giving $100m each to two cool guys he met.
From our Partners
— Tom Perriello (@tomperriello) July 21, 2021
Still, a windfall like that is the stuff that dreams are made of — for many nonprofits as well as individuals. So we posed this question to our Generocity community yesterday (via our daily newsletter):
If Bezos gave you $100M to help grow or shore up a nonprofit or NGO, which would you choose, and why?
Four community members immediately answered our question. Here are their responses. Mr. Bezos, please take note.
Andrea Johnson, founder of Girl U Can Do It, Inc.:
“Well I would do what I do now and what I have been doing for over 30 years with my grassroots organization, Girl U Can Do It, Inc. I would help to continue to fight for those that have lost their voice either from domestic violence, HIV and AIDS, human trafficking, homelessness or mental illness.
“My org is small but mighty. We advocate around the country with other nonprofit and grassroots to help various communities. I don’t have anything special about me other than the help gift God has given me.
“With a $100M I would stop working my three jobs that helps to support my organization and me, and focus strictly on my organization to reach and help more. I will also fulfill my dream of going to law school to obtain my law degree to help lawfully defend those that I serve. Many people are provided bad faith justice because they don’t have good representation they can afford. So I will do a lot of pro bono work.
Lastly, I would set of my next generation by continuing to teach them about the value of life and the rewards for helping others.”
Sherica Douglas, program manager, Chosen 300 Ministries, Inc.:
“My choice would be Chosen 300. For 25 years, Chosen 300 has stood in the gap by serving over 150,000 meals to those experiencing homelessness and food insecurity across Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Berks and Montgomery County).
“Chosen 300 serves over 150,000 meals and provides other much needed services (i.e. expungement services, job readiness programs, barber and stylist services, transitional housing, etc.) to help those in need move to a state of self sufficiency.
“In addition to services provided in the United States, Chosen 300 provides over 1 million pounds of food around the world to families in need in Haiti, South Africa, Guyana, India, Jamaica, Uganda, Nigeria, Libera.
“Throughout the pandemic, Chosen 300 continues the serve. Our new slogan is ‘Nothing Can Stop Us from Serving.’ The pandemic came with its challenges, but serving others with excellence is what we do and who we are. We have pivoted and adapted to the changes, but our commitment to the poor, homeless, and hungry is still strong.
“Bezos $100 million dollars would help us serve so many more, develop our existing programs and kick start new programs that will help us move more people in to self sufficiency.”
Surprisingly, one of the responses to our newsletter question came from Uganda (yay for community that extends to international nonprofit circles)!
Herman Kizito, founder of Africa Intercultural Development Support Trust (AIDEST):
“As someone running a nonprofit, I would use $100M to prevent violent extremism among youth in Africa through promoting societal leaders and citizens’ collaboration and trust.
“Establishing a well facilitated Youth Production and Incubation Center to integrate and empowering youth to become entrepreneurs through job-skills — hands-on training in order to occupy their mind from doing bad.”
The plan for a healthier Philadelphia
And, finally, one of our community members offered a whole plan for how to use the $100M (and it’s a pretty good roadmap for investment for philanthropists closer to home than Bezos).
(Dr. Ash) Ashvin Vijayakumar, center medical director, Oak Street Health (North Philadelphia):
“Grow grassroots investment and neighborhood level commitments into healthier, safer streets.
“Support bike shops, horse stables, garages, health clinics and other businesses that give kids an opportunity to learn and earn and build their bikes and rides and skills.
“Invest in neighborhood street trees to protect our kids from asthma and protect our seniors from urban heat island death.
“Invest in bike and ride infrastructure all over North Phila and make corners and end lots interesting gathering spaces with art & music & placemaking that gets more people outside and visible on the streets, making it safer for families and seniors to walk, and more people to come out of their homes and connect.
“Social visibility and cohesion prevents gun violence, and trees, narrower roads and bike lanes and locks prevent traffic violence, and all help our health and community development.”
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