The successful entrepreneur casts doubt over the perception that philanthropy is making a lot of progress.
Mark Cuban is sad.
And the reason for this sadness can be found in something that may come back into fashion with the coming recession.
It’s about philanthropy.
The covid-19 pandemic has contributed to the widening of socio-economic inequalities. The gap between the haves and have-nots has grown enormously during the pandemic.
The richest 10% of the world population owns 76% of the wealth, according to World Inequality Lab. Global economic inequalities are now as extreme as they were at the peak of Western imperialism in the early 20th century.
These disparities could not be offset by federal government stimulus packages to avert economic disaster. This is one of the reasons which led billionaire Mackenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Jeff Bezos, to turn philanthropy upside down with a new way to help the most vulnerable: by making donations without asking for accountability or setting a special agenda for the nonprofits she donates to.
“When our giving team focuses on any system in which people are struggling, we don’t assume that we, or any other single group, can know how to fix it,” Scott wrote in a Medium blog last March. “We don’t advocate for particular policies or reforms. Instead, we seek a portfolio of organizations that supports the ability of all people to participate in solutions.”
“This means a focus on the needs of those whose voices have been underrepresented.”
‘Too Many Charities’ But ‘Not Enough Charity’
Scott, 52, has thus far given away more than $12 billion of her personal wealth to organizations across the U.S., helping children, women, minorities and refugees, and enabling rural health access, according to Forbes.
After 25 years of marriage, the Bezos announced an amicable divorce in 2019, marked by the transfer of 4% of Amazon to Scott. She promised, through The Giving Pledge, to distribute her wealth during her lifetime, without holding organizations to account.
Scott’s unusual outpouring of generosity was one of many initiatives since 2020, to help communities weakened and impoverished by the pandemic. Americans gave $484.85 billion in 2021, which is a 4% increase from 2020, according to the National Philanthropic Trust (NPT), a public charity dedicated to providing philanthropic expertise to donors, foundations and financial institutions.
Corporate giving in 2021 increased to $21.08 billion, a 23.8% increase from 2020, while foundation giving increased to $90.88 billion, a 3.4% year-over-year increase, the NPT said.
“86 percent of affluent households maintained or increased their giving despite uncertainty about further spread of covid-19,” the organization said.
While Cuban welcomes this unprecedented outpouring of generosity in the country, he nevertheless believes that the intention to help, and the desire to make a difference and change things by doing good, are not proportional to the size of the nonprofits.
This is what he has just lamented on the social network Twitter.
“There are too many charities and not enough charity,” the owner of the Dallas Mavericks posted on Nov. 1.
The star of the hit TV show Shark Tank didn’t add anything else. It is difficult to know what prompted him to make this comment.
He let Twitter users respond on what appears to be a comment out of the blue. Is this a dialogue that Cuban, known for his many donations, is trying to start? Does he want to shake things up?
The Dallas Mavericks owner seems to suggest that people give for reasons other than the genuine desire to help. These reasons can span from financial, to take advantage of a tax break, to social, as it is always seen favorably to organize a gala or an event to raise funds for a given cause. It adds to the social status and public image of donors, the billionaire seems to say.
Nearly 1.54 million nonprofit organizations were registered with the IRS in 2016, an increase of 4.5 percent from 2006, according to National Center for Charitable Statistics. There are around 10 million nonprofits worldwide. So, about 15% of the world’s nonprofits are based in the United States.
About 30% of nonprofits will cease to exist after ten years, the NCCS said.
While Cuban is an outspoken individual, the billionaire prefers to keep his donations private. It is very rare to hear him talk about his charitable actions. Yet, he is a big donor. According to the Dallas Morning News, he and the Dallas Mavericks supported more than 100 organizations in 2020.
Cuban helped organize daily meal donations to Dallas-area hospitals, and gave a $75,000 donation to Bonton Farms, an urban farm that “transforms lives by disrupting systems of inequity” in South Dallas. Cuban’s giving triggered donations from other people to the farm.
“I’ve tried to be supportive of people that I care about and respect,” Cuban told the newspaper in 2021 about his donations.