Jeff Bezos. Picture: REUTERS
Jeff Bezos. Picture: REUTERS

Washington — Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has announced he is launching a philanthropic fund with a $2bn initial commitment to help homeless families and launch pre-schools in low-income communities.

The world’s richest individual made the announcement on Twitter a year after asking for ideas on how he could use his personal fortune — now estimated at some $163bn — for charitable efforts.

The "Bezos Day One Fund" will contribute to "existing non-profits that help homeless families" and also fund "a network of new, non-profit, tier-one pre-schools in low-income communities," he wrote.

Grants will be given to organisations "doing compassionate, needle-moving work to provide shelter and hunger support to address the needs of young families".

The fund will also seek to launch and operate "a network of high-quality, full-scholarship, Montessori-inspired pre-schools in under-served communities," he wrote. "We will build an organisation to directly operate these schools."

The $2bn 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% of his shares in the social media giant to an organisation 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.