Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Launches a $2 Billion Philanthropic Fund

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Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, now estimated at some $163 billion is launching a $2 billion fund to help homeless families and create a network of non-profit preschools in low-income communities.

Its vision statement comes from Mary’s Place in Seattle: no child sleeps outside. Until now, Bezos has made only small initial steps into giving. The Bezos Family Foundation, which is best known for its support of children’s education, has been largely funded by his parents from Amazon holdings they acquired as early investors in their son’s enterprise.

The fund will be split between Day One Families Fund and Day One Academies Fund. The Day One Fund will issue annual awards to organizations that are doing “compassionate, needle-moving work” to shelter and support the immediate needs of young families, The Day 1 Academies Fund will launch and operate a network of high-quality, full-scholarship, Montessori-inspired preschools in underserved communities, the billionaire announced.

“We’ll use the same set of principles that have driven Amazon,” Bezos wrote. “Most important among those will be genuine, intense customer obsession. The child will be the customer.”

Amazon has a history of supporting homeless programs in Seattle. In 2016, it renovated a vacant hotel on land designated for its new headquarters so it could be used temporarily by the nonprofit group Mary’s Place to give shelter to 200 homeless families. In a statement, Amazon called the vote “the right decision for the region’s economic prosperity. We are deeply committed to being part of the solution to end homelessness in Seattle and will continue to invest in local nonprofits” that work with the homeless.

The $2 billion initiative, while significant, is far less than the philanthropic efforts of other billionaires including Microsoft’s Bill Gates, who has donated tens of billions to his foundation, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who has pledged to donate 99 percent of his shares in the social media giant to an organization focused on public good. It also falls short of the “giving pledge” initiative launched by Gates and billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who have encouraged wealthy individuals to pledge half their fortunes for philanthropy.