Mark Zuckerberg always makes headlines, and few were as stunning as the ones he made in the fall of 2010 when he donated $100 million to the Newark, NJ school system − a system with which he has no personal connections whatsoever. His generosity was intended to help right the ship of one of the statistically worst school districts in the nation. But the shock of such a huge gift was met with as much skepticism as thanks, and within a year parents groups and the ACLU sued the city of Newark to open up its correspondence with the founder of Facebook so they could trace what launched the donation and what the city had been doing with the money.
Mayor Cory Booker and state officials continue to state that no email trail exists (a dangerous defense to mount in this day-and-age if untrue), and the money is being plowed back into the schools. Zuckerberg, though, has felt no qualms about giving other big gifts. Last fall he gave a stunning $500 million to the Silicon Valley Foundation. Two such gifts suggests a pattern, but what kind?
In some ways, Mark Zuckerberg is following in the footsteps of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: Mark and his wife Priscilla have pledged to give most of their earnings from their wildly successful tech company to charity. But unlike Gates, Buffet, and other members of the 2% who have pledged to give away a good deal of their wealth to charity, Mark and Priscilla are doing it early in their lives and while they are still engaged in the business of making the business wealthier still.
Concerns in education clearly grab his attention, but what seems to set him apart is his willingness to give away so much while still young:
Rather than waiting until later in life to focus on giving back, I’ve spent a lot of the last year researching and looking for the most impactful ways to improve education starting in America.
‘Impactful’? Well, he did drop out of Harvard.
Ariel Schwartz has an interesting story at FastCoexist.com about how Mark seems to be only the best-known of a slew of young philanthropists who want to start early, take risks, and follow the development of their ‘impactful’ gifts.
Anecdotally, [foundation members Ariel interviewed] believe young donors like to take big risks (again, as they’ve done as entrepreneurs in their professional lives) and they’re more interested in creating partnerships and being actively involved in their giving than older philanthropists. And in general, the world of philanthropy has started to skew younger.
And the Silicon Valley Community Foundation seems rather more connected to Mark, Priscilla, their peers, and their company, a quality that Ms. Schwartz believes highlights younger philanthropists’ efforts to stay engaged throughout their careers.
It’s early days to see what king of impact these millions will have on the school system or the community foundation, much less the people they serve. But the trend toward younger donors investing big money in long-term projects seems to be gathering steam.