Housing

Jeff Bezos has donated $100m to homelessness causes – here's how much that is in the real world

The Amazon founder’s latest donation to US homelessness causes is a welcome one, but it is less than he earns in 12 hours.

Jeff Bezos charity

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is the world's second richest man. Image: Mathieu Thouvenin

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos will give almost $100m to charities helping homeless families in the US, it was announced this week.

The second richest man in the world’s Bezos Day One Fund will donate $96.2m (£71.5m) to 32 nonprofits across 21 American states with each cause receiving grants between $750,000 and $5m, equal to £557,000 and £3.7m respectively.

It’s the fourth straight year Bezos has donated the cash after setting up the fund with his then-wife MacKenzie Scott in 2018. So far just short of $400m (almost £300m) has been donated through the fund with $2bn set to be paid out across the fund’s lifespan.

Building Changes and Africatown International based in Seattle – the home of Amazon – will share $5m while All Chicago Making Homelessness History in Chicago and Adopt-A-Family of the Palm Beaches in Lake Worth, Florida, will also receive the largest grants.

Reacting to the news, Yalonda Sinde, finance and development director at Africatown International said: “This is an investment in a proven, community-based solution to our region’s homeless crisis. Support for the Centralized Diversion Fund will ensure people move quickly from homelessness into housing.”

But how much of Bezos’s vast fortune is $100m? The Big Issue breaks it down.

How much has Jeff Bezos donated?

According to Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index, Jeff Bezos is the second-richest person in the world, worth an estimated $211bn.

In 2020, Bezos earned $75bn in total. That’s $6.25bn a month, $205m a day, $8.5m an hour, $142,694 a minute and $2,378 a second.

That means the $96.2m he donates every year to homeless families is mere pocket change, working out at less than one per cent of the billions he earns every year and only a tiny fraction of his overall fortune.

To put it another way, he earns that amount in less than 12 hours.

How does Bezos’s donation compare to everyday Brits?

Bezos’s homelessness donation may be small fry in terms of his wider fortune, but how does that stack up against everyday Brits?

According to the Charities Aid Foundation, the long-term median amount that people in the UK give to charity is £20, which is less than Bezos earns in a second. Meanwhile the average weekly pay for full-time employees is £544, working out at around £26,000 per year, the Office for National Statistics has found.

That means Brits on average give around one per cent of their income to charity every month in total. However, this amount relates to charities supporting all causes, not just homelessness and poverty.

As stated, Bezos’s $96.2m donation is equivalent to what he earns in just under 12 hours. By comparison, the average full-time employee earns £174 before tax in that time. 

How much does Jeff Bezos give to charity overall?

Bezos stood down as CEO of Amazon in February to become executive chairman to “focus on other ventures”. Those ventures include donating sizeable amounts to global causes.

Last year Bezos topped the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s list of biggest charitable gifts – ahead of his ex-wife – with his $10bn donation to tackle climate change efforts through the Bezos Earth Fund.

He also donated £100m to Feeding America to fund 200 food banks in the US during the pandemic.

And at COP26 the billionaire pledged £1bn to fund climate change efforts.

Bezos spoke at the climate change summit and detailed how his trip to space in July aboard his New Shepard rocket changed his view of the world.

“I was told that seeing the Earth from space changes the lens from which you view the world but I was not prepared for just how much that would be true,” he said.

“Looking back at Earth from up there, the atmosphere seems so thin, the world so finite and so fragile. Now, in this critical year and what we all know is the decisive decade, we must all stand together to protect our world.”

However, despite his philanthropic efforts, the company he founded in 1994 has faced criticism in recent years over failing to pay tax in the UK and over low wages.

Ahead of Black Friday, Amazon will face protests from over 70 trade unions, civil society organisations,  environmentalists and tax watchdogs around the globe. The Make Amazon Pay coalition is calling on the online retail giant to pay its workers fairly, respect their right to join unions, pay its fair share of taxes and to commit to “real environmental sustainability”. 

Christy Hoffman,the general secretary of global trade union UNI, said: “On global action days like Black Friday, we are seeing how the movement pushing to change the rules of our economy and challenge corporate power is growing bolder and stronger.

“As we are seeing all over the world, workers—whether they are coders, pickers, drivers or UX designers—are marching, striking and raising their voices together to demand the dignity and respect that comes with a union. Solidarity doesn’t scare easily, and Amazon will not break workers’ alliances.”

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