The Zuckerberg’s (Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan) announced in December their commitment to donate 99 percent of their Facebook fortunes to philanthropic causes.
In simple terms, the promise had entailed him creating a new class of shares which would enable him to continue running Facebook while being able to sell off shares, the proceeds of which he would then donate to charity.
When Facebook hit a milestone mark of Facebook users in April, the Zuckerberg’s or more specifically Mark Zuckerberg in a Facebook post had again shared his intention to eradicate all diseases in the world by the year 2100.
All in all, the portion of their fortune that the Zuckerberg’s have promised to charity amount to a whopping $45 billion, a laudable goal. In fact, no other billionaire has made promises of that magnitude. Even Bill Gates own charity efforts funneled through the Bill and Melinda Gate’s foundation looks less inspiring when put next to the Zuckerberg’s plans if only because so much of their own personal money is involved.
Earlier this month, Mark Zuckerberg sold a chunk of his personal shares in Facebook worth about $95 million before taxes and the money was to be the designated first round of funding for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
To date, however, Zuckerberg and Chan haven’t actually distributed these funds or even announced how they hope to do so. Rob Reich, co-director of the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society who spoke to Wired about it insists that;
“Covering a public announcement of do-gooding, with no follow-up on how he actually allocates the millions of dollars, just burnishes his reputation…Don’t call this do-gooding yet. Call for more transparency.”
On where the money will go, the pair has actually said before that they want to focus on; personalized learning, curing disease, connecting people and building strong communities and prior to this recent sale, they had already announced their first investment in Andela, a tech startup in Africa. That aside, the public knows nothing of the disbursement of the funds.
Most of the skepticism towards the charity initiative lies in the fact that Zuckerberg reaps many positive benefits from having the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
According to Santa Clara University School of Law corporate finance professor Stephen Diamond, “Foundations are one way to generate tax benefits from wealth, as well as social and political influence,” and Rob Reich also points out that the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative was registered as a limited liability corporation or LLC rather than a non-profit.
There are ready defenses for all these questions. For instance, Zuckerberg has said that setting the organization up as an LLC gives them more flexibility when it comes to funding specific causes and at the end of the day, it is still their money to do whatever they want with but the world is ready to crown them as heroes for these philanthropic causes and most people want to know what their heroes are actually doing.