Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan announced their intention to give away $45 billion in Facebook shares in their lifetime.
The billionaire couple made the announcement on 1/1/2015 in an open letter to their newborn daughter Max.
The $45 billion is an estimate based on today’s value of the couple’s Facebook shares. By the time the money is actually donated, it could be worth far more.
The money will be donated in ways that “advance human potential and promote equality” for the coming generation. The funds will initially be slated to cure disease, foster personalized learning, build strong communities and connect people. Zuckerberg and Chan call this “a small contribution.”
The short version is that the charitable gift will help the next generation live in a better world.
Mark Zuckerberg Charitable Contributions
Zuckerberg and wife Chan are no strangers to philanthropy. The two donated $100 million in 2010 to the Newark Public School system. They donated a further $120 million in 2014 to San Francisco’s public schools. The money then was intended to single out and reward teachers who stood above the rest. Zuckerberg and Chan’s 2015 donation is slated to go far beyond that level. The current donation as announced will be over 200 times larger than the previous two mammoth donations combined.
|Zuckerberg/Chan Donations||Amount||To Benefit|
|2010||$100,000,000||Newark Public Schools|
|2012||$1,000,000,000||Silicon Valley Community Foundation|
|2013||$1,500,000,000||Silicon Valley Community Foundation|
|2014||$120,000,000||San Francisco Public Schools|
|2015||$45,000,000,000||A better world|
A Better World
How does one create a better world? $45 billion dollars can probably make a decent start. Zuckerberg and Chan intend to focus the money in a couple of directed areas. They are “advancing human potential” and “promoting equality.
Also see: 5 Super Rich People Who Aren’t Jerks
Charity to Advance Human Potential
Zuckerberg and Chan define advancing human potential as “pushing the boundaries on how great a human life can be.” To them, that means learning and experiencing far more, curing disease, giving people access to all resources through greater connectivity, harnessing clean energy on a global scale and cultivating entrepreneurship to solve problems in peace and prosperity.
Charity to Promote Equality
To Zuckerberg and Chan, promoting equality means making sure everyone can access all opportunities possible. That would mean eliminating poverty and hunger, providing all with basic healthcare, building communities that are both inclusive and welcoming and nurturing peace.
Those are certainly lofty goals. Is $45 billion enough to accomplish them? Considering that the sum is 1/84th the size of the 2015 U.S. annual budget, the answer is “probably not.” But $45 billion spent in just the right way could certainly have an effect that tips the ball rolling in the right direction. This seems to be the spirit in which Zuckerberg and Chan are pledging the money. They admit in their letter that the mission will require a new approach.
A New Approach
The new approach referenced by Zuckerberg and Chan in their charity manifesto speaks of long term investments of 25 to 100 years. Long term investments do tend to work better than short term for solving big problems. Think what $1,000 invested wisely 100 years ago could accomplish today.
Their “new approach” calls for five central actions:
- Engaging directly with the people they serve. Zuckerberg and Chan want their charity to be used in ways that listen to people’s needs. How they’ll make sure that happens is unclear at this time. They do say in the letter that they’ll share more details as the plan develops.
- Creating technology that brings about change. Zuckerberg and Chan make the point that giving money to charity is great, but real change comes through innovation. $1 million charity dollars spent on feeding people is fantastic. $1 million spent on inventing a new way that feeds everyone for free every day is a lot more effective.
- Participating in advocacy and public policy. Zuckerberg and Chan say they must “participate in policy” and “shape debates.” This sounds a lot like getting deeply involved in politics. They admit in the letter that many organizations shy away from this kind of meddling. However they add that progress has to be “supported by movements to be sustainable.” No doubt the pundits and blogs will debate heavily whether Zuckerberg should have the power to influence government. This part of the Zuckerberg Chan Initiative will likely ruffle some feathers.
- Backing leaders and experts. To make sure their donated money is spent wisely, Zuckerberg and Chan want to make sure the money is spent with the guidance of experts and leaders in each field. People who are already doing the work, who know what the problems are and who have the ideas will be more likely to see that the charity has the greatest effect.
- Taking risks. This is a nod to the plain fact that the Zuckerberg/Chan Initiative is bound to fall on its face, possibly over and over again. Mistakes will be made and no doubt publicly flaunted. The $100 million Zuckerberg gave to the New Jersey Public School system was heavily criticized as “wasted.” While the money may not have been spent in the best way possible, there’s no arguing that there was nothing wrong with the effort. There’s also no arguing that it was Zuckerberg’s money to waste. As to the criticisms that New Jersey would’ve been better off without the Facebook founder’s meddling, throwing money at a problem isn’t the best way to solve it, but it’s not guaranteed to hurt either.
Other Zuckerberg Charity Money
Aside from the $45 billion in Facebook stock pledged by Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, the couple has donated at least another $2.7 billion. Zuckerberg donated $100 million to the New Jersey Public School system in 2010 and $120 million to the San Francisco Public School system in 2014. Those donations were intended to reward “highly effective” teachers with grants of $12,500 each. The idea was that exemplary teachers would be rewarded and would stick around longer. As a side benefit, other teachers would try harder in an effort to get a grant.
Zuckerberg and Chan donated $2.5 billion in 2012 and 2013 to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. At the time of those donations, they were worth only $1.5 billion, but the value of the shares of Facebook stock donated has since grown.
Zuckerberg vs Gates
Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan have now pledged or donated some $48 billion to charity. Bill and Melinda Gates have pledged $80 billion to charity. Though Zuckerberg’s pledge is smaller than Gates’, let’s not split hairs. $48 billion is nearly unprecedented in the world of philanthropy.