This Giving Tuesday, Mark Zuckerberg & his wife Priscilla Chan set the philanthropic sector abuzz by announcing the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a pledge to give away 99% of the shares in Facebook- currently worth $45 billion- to “advance human potential and promote equality.” Since then, our team has been asked to provide our thoughts on the news. The following are two articles that reflect our latest thinking:
Knowledge@Wharton recently interviewed our founding executive director Kat Rosqueta & senior fellow Dick Henriques for the Center’s perspective on the pledge. As K@W notes, many people responded to the couple’s announcement with “deep cynicism.” But is it too soon to judge? As Kat reminds readers, “Lots of people are opining about what it can mean or not mean, but these are very early days… Until the money goes to work, we won’t really know how far they are getting in achieving the goals they say they want to achieve.”
For now, notes Dick, the possibilities created by the pledge are perhaps most exciting. “It has the potential to pull more money explicitly to philanthropy than would otherwise be the case,” he says, as philanthropists more traditionally wait until toward the end of their lives before giving large gifts.
Philanthropy advisor, professor, and friend of the Center Richard Marker makes some thoughtful points about the pledge in a recent blog post. He urges readers to be patient before judging the gift’s effectiveness and also comments on the unorthodox choice of an LLC structure. “The truly systemic challenges of our time defy single sector solutions,” he writes. “They all require some levels of collaborations to even begin to imagine solutions.” Collaborative solutions are part of a bigger trend, he notes- the changing role of philanthropy in a rapidly changing world.
“As we have seen, there are surely many chances for failure in this sphere; the skeptics may well have their day,” he concludes. “But there are also chances for game changing breakthroughs, and we owe it to the Chan Zuckerbergs to see if they succeed.”
It’s premature to judge whether Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg will be effective in achieving the goals they laid out. However, one thing is clear – the very public nature of their pledge, its size, its unorthodox structure, and the couple’s relative youth mean that many people will be watching to see whether they are successful in turning their good intentions into high impact.