What Mark Zuckerberg’s Big Announcement Tells Us About the New Philanthropy

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Mark Zuckerberg is now the seventh richest person in the world, with a net worth of $46 billion—which is way up from a year ago, thanks to Facebook’s soaring stock (Zuckerberg owns over 20 percent of the company). That same run-up in stock value means that the millions of shares that Zuck has set aside for philanthropy in a donor-advised fund may now be worth over $3 billion, assuming those shares haven’t been sold since they were donated.

Which is to say that at the age of 31, Mark Zuckerberg already controls one of the 25 largest philanthropic stashes in the United States. Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have also signed the Giving Pledge, promising to give away the bulk of their fortune, with a preference for deploying those resources sooner rather than later. If Facebook’s stock climbs higher in coming decades, this fortune could easily exceed that of either Bill Gates or Warren Buffett.

In short, Mark Zuckerberg is well on his way to becoming one of the biggest philanthropists of the 21st century. So when he makes a major public statement about where his giving is headed, as he did recently, it’s worth paying close attention.

Before looking at the details of that statement, though, here’s a question to ponder: Do tech leaders really believe that “their charitable giving is bolder, bigger and more data-driven than anywhere else,” as an essay in the New York Times recently claimed?

That’s not an easy question to answer, actually, since there are a great many philanthropists from the tech sector doing a great many things. At IP, we’ve researched and written profiles of over 100 such tech philanthropists—and, along the way, sketched a picture of an enormously diverse pool of givers.

While some of these folks do claim to be reinventing philanthropy, and a few really are doing things differently, most neither make such grand claims nor are focused on “disrupting” much of anything. Indeed, I’ve observed before “how uncreative many tech philanthropists are, relative to how they’ve earned their fortunes. For instance, Jeff Bezos has reinvented commerce with Amazon, but his philanthropy has largely taken the form of traditional gifts for scientific and medical research.”

Source: Inside Philanthropy (link opens in a new window)

Investing, Technology