Jeff Bezos and His Company Foundation Give Millions to Charity Ahead of Space Launch
Jeff Bezos will donate $200 million to the Smithsonian—its largest donation since James Smithson’s founding gift in 1846. Meanwhile, a Bezos company foundation awarded $1 million grants to 19 nonprofits. All gifts were announced July 14–just six days ahead of Bezos’ trip to space aboard the New Shepard, which is scheduled to take its first trip with a crew that will include Bezos and three others on board tomorrow morning.
The Smithsonian donation from Bezos — the founder and executive chair of Amazon, and founder of aerospace and space flight company Blue Origin — will be split, with $130 million going toward the creation of the Bezos Learning Center and the remaining $70 million portion helping to renovate the National Air and Space Museum—both located in Washington, D.C.
“The Smithsonian plays a vital role in igniting the imaginations of our future builders and dreamers,” Bezos said in a statement. “Every child is born with great potential, and it’s inspiration that unlocks that potential. My love affair with science, invention and space did that for me, and I hope this gift does that for others.”
But Bezos didn’t stop there. In order to inspire future generations to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and help invent the future of life in space, Blue Origin's foundation, Club for the Future, used a portion of funds from its recent fundraiser to help 19 nonprofits.
“Our recent auction for the first seat on New Shepard resulted in a donation of $28 million to our nonprofit foundation, Club for the Future,” Bob Smith, Blue Origin CEO, said in a statement. “This donation is enabling Club for the Future to rapidly expand its reach by partnering with 19 organizations to develop and inspire the next generation of space professionals. Our generation will build the road to space and these efforts will ensure the next generation is ready to go even further.”
The 19 organizations include:
- The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Foundation
- The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation
- The Brooke Owens Fellowship
- Challenger Center
- Higher Orbits
- International Astronautical Federation
- The Mars Society
- The National Space Society
- The Planetary Society
- SciArt Exchange
- Space Camp
- Space Center Houston
- The Space For Art Foundation
- Space For Humanity
- The Space Frontier Foundation
- Space Generation Advisory Council
- Students for the Exploration and Development of Space
- Teachers in Space
The remaining $9 million will go toward Club for the Future's Postcards to Space program that supports the development of space-focused curriculum.
As for the Smithsonian, the Bezos Learning Center will be located inside a new facility planned on the east side of the museum's flagship location as part of its ongoing renovations. That education center will aim to inspire students to pursue innovation and explore careers in STEM fields with programs and activities that will help teachers better utilize the Smithsonian’s collections. The gift also will help enable a technological transformation of the museum’s galleries and public spaces, including the creation of new interactive experiences.
“Since its inception, the Smithsonian has benefited from both federal funding and the generosity of visionary donors,” Lonnie Bunch, the Smithsonian's secretary, said in a statement. “Almost 175 years ago, Mr. Smithson’s inaugural gift laid the groundwork for this innovative approach, bringing together private philanthropy and public funding. Today, as we emerge from a pivotal moment in history, Jeff’s donation builds on that original tradition and will help us reimagine and transform the Smithsonian. This historic gift will help the Smithsonian achieve its goal of reaching every classroom in America by creating a world-class learning center with access and inspiration at its heart. We are grateful to Jeff for his generosity and for his passion and commitment to education, innovation and technology. This donation will fuel our nation’s future leaders and innovators.”
“At this moment, the first human to set foot on Mars might be in elementary school,” Ellen Stofan, the Smithsonian’s under secretary for science and research and former director of the National Air and Space Museum said in a statement. “As the largest and most visited aerospace museum in the world, the museum wants to spark that passion and enrich the imagination and ingenuity of every student who visits the Smithsonian. For many years, Jeff has been an avid supporter of the Smithsonian and the museum’s mission to ignite tomorrow. With this gift, we will be able to continue our transformation and further expand the National Air and Space Museum’s ability to reveal the possibilities of space exploration.”
Bezos has been involved in various aspects of the Smithsonian's network of 19 museums. He was a founding donor to the National Museum of African American History and Culture and has contributed to the National Air and Space Museum previously. Bezos also was awarded a Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award for Technology and the James Smithson Bicentennial Award from the National Museum of American History in 2016.