The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

I wrote about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to take 2 months of parental leave in an earlier post.

Following this announcement, Mark and his wife Priscilla Chan shared that they will be giving 99% of their shares in Facebook (currently worth $45 billion) throughout their lives to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. This is an organization they’ve set up “to advance human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation”. The organization will initially focus on the areas of “personalized learning, curing disease, connecting people and building strong communities”.

I’ve read criticisms of the pledge which describe it as a way of evading taxes and point out that it isn’t being given to charity, but rather will be deployed by Mark and Priscilla themselves. I believe that these criticisms miss the point.

Mark has no obligation to use his wealth for non-personal ends. Any choice to do so is better than none. And contributing 99% of your wealth is a much bigger choice than none. And if there are tax benefits which make this contribution even larger over time (I haven’t verified this), that’s even better.

Mark has done a great job running Facebook, and he believes that he’ll put the money to better use with the flexibility of running his own organization rather than by giving to charity. Given his track record, I respect that decision.

There will always be criticism. The bottom line is that this is a very important commitment not only in terms of its magnitude but also in terms of the age at which Mark and Priscilla decided to make the commitment. Mark is 31 and Priscilla is 30. I deeply respect their decision to make such an important commitment at such a young age.