Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced his intentions to donate 99 per cent of his wealth, approximately US$45 billion worth in Facebook shares, to a number of global charitable initiatives.
The commitment was made in a Facebook post on Tuesday, which was written as an open letter from both Mark and his wife, Priscilla, to his newborn daughter Max Chan Zuckerberg.
“You’ve already given us a reason to reflect on the world we hope you live in,” Zuckerberg wrote. “Like all parents, we want you to grow up in a world better than ours today.”
“Our society has an obligation to invest now to improve the lives of all those coming into this world, not just those already here. For your generation to live in a better world, there is so much more our generation can do. Today your mother and I are committing to spend our lives doing our small part to help solve these challenges.”
The post highlighted the numerous challenges and issues that face society, from finding cures for diseases to promoting human equality and advancing human potential. Access to technology is emphasized as the key to improving education and equality.
“We must make long term investments over 25, 50 or even 100 years,” the letter continues. “The greatest challenges require very long time horizons and cannot be solved by short term thinking.”
The couple’s immense wealth will be distributed to charitable initiatives through the creation of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which will focus on personalized learning, curing disease, connecting people, and building strong communities.
The initiative seemingly mirrors the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a global philanthropic organization founded by Bill and Melinda Gates that is fuelled by a US$41.3 billion endowment from the value of Microsoft stock. Melinda praised the couple in a comment on the open letter.
“For your decision to give back so generously, and to deepen your commitment now, the first word that comes to mind is: Wow,” she wrote. “The example you’re setting today is an inspiration to us and the world.”
“We can be confident of this: Max and every child born today will grow up in a world that is better than the one we know now. As you say, ‘seeds planted now will grow.’ Your work will bear fruit for many decades to come.
But it could be many years before the bulk of the charitable commitments are fulfilled. Zuckerberg is only 31 years old and has previously stated that he has no plans to leave the position of CEO of Facebook anytime soon. As well, Facebook is still a thriving business that is striving to expand to new markets and services.
In contrast, Bill Gates was 45 years old when he left the CEO position at Microsoft. He began focusing his time entirely on his foundation in 2006 and stepped down from Chairman last year.
It is far too early to say whether any of Zuckerberg’s charitable initiatives could directly benefit Canadians. More details will be released after Mark returns from paternity leave, in about two months.
Over the years, the Gates Foundation has partnered with levels of Canadian government and non-governmental organizations to fund HIV/AIDS research. Libraries across Canada have also benefited from millions of dollars in donations towards funding computer and internet access. This includes $2.5 million for libraries in British Columbia.