The Amazon founder announced Thursday the Bezos Day One Fund, a $2 billion philanthropic effort focused on helping young families and children in need. In a statement published to Twitter, the founder suggested the money would be split between two funds dubbed Day 1 Families Fund and Day 1 Academies Fund.
The news comes more than a year after Bezos requested ideas to expand his philanthropic activity from long-term projects--supporting vets running for Congress, for example--to the here and now. The entrepreneur has been criticized for not signing on to the Giving Pledge, a campaign started in 2010 by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in which wealthy people commit to donate a majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes.
The Day 1 Families Fund will focus on granting annual leadership awards to organizations and civic groups doing "compassionate, needle-moving work" like providing shelter and food to families in need. The Day 1 Academies Fund will be tasked with creating and running a network of "high-quality, full-scholarship, Montessori-inspired preschools in underserved communities."
Bezos said the preschools would have the same set of principles that drive Amazon, with a special emphasis on "customer obsession." In this case, "the child will be the customer," he said.
"'Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lightning of a fire'," Bezos wrote, quoting Yeats. "And lighting that fire early is a giant leg up for any child."