The young philanthropist: FB CEO Zuckerberg’s gifts to charity

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Dec 02, 2015 15:07 IST
Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, with wife Priscilla Chan. (Reuters Photo)

Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan’s pledge committing 99% of their shares in Facebook, worth $45 billion, to charity, is remarkable not just because of the size of the contribution but because of their ages.

Unlike other billionaire philanthropists, 31-year old Zuckerberg started giving at a relatively young age.

Microsoft Corp co-founder Bill Gates was 45 in 2000, the year he and his wife founded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Buffett was 76 in 2006 when he committed to give away all of his Berkshire Hathaway stock to philanthropic organisations.

“Our lists of the top donors are usually dominated by people in their 70s or 80s. This is a message to other young people who are deciding what to do with their great wealth.”said Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

In this undated photo provided by Mark Zuckerberg, Max Chan Zuckerberg is held by her parents, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan Zuckerberg. (AP Photo)

But the Facebook CEO’s latest project, named the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, is not his first in the world of philanthropy.

Five years ago he founded the Start-up: Education Foundation to provide high-quality education for all students, especially those in “historically underserved communities”.

In September 2010, Zuckerberg reportedly donated $100 million to Newark Public Schools, the public school system of Newark. But critics suggested it was timed to offset the release of the film ‘The Social Network’ which showed him in a somewhat negative light.

When Zuckerberg was 26, he along with Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, signed the Giving Pledge, which invites the world’s wealthiest to commit more than half of their wealth to charitable causes over their lifetime.

As of now, more than 135 billionaire or former billionaires have signed the pledge; a significant majority are, like Zuckerberg, Buffett and Gates, American citizens.

In December 2013, Zuckerberg announced a donation of 18 million Facebook shares to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. The shares totalled $990 million in value, and was recognised as the largest gift on public record for the year.

In October 2014, Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan donated $25 million to combat the ebola virus epidemic in West Africa.

Zuckerberg’s latest pledge excited the world with his post on Facebook getting nearly 750 thousand likes by Wednesdsay morning and rich praise from fellow philanthropists.

“Mark and Priscilla are breaking the mold with this breathtaking commitment,” Buffett said on Facebook. “A combination of brains, passion and resources on this scale will change the lives of millions. On behalf of future generations, I thank them.”

Melinda Gates chimed in, “The first word that comes to mind is: Wow. The example you’re setting today is an inspiration to us and the world.”

Buffett had pledged shares of his Berkshire Hathaway Inc worth $31 billion to Gates’ foundation in 2006, which at the time was ranked as the largest single gift.

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