By Lauren Wachspress || Contributing Writer
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently launched a new philanthropic organization with his wife Priscilla Chan to donate 99 percent of his Facebook shares to charity. They announced this plan formally last week on the occasion of their first child’s birth. The shares total at around $45 billion. The organization was founded with the goal of advancing humanity and promoting equality. This seems a bit vague of course, but Zuckerberg later clarified the direction he plans on taking his charitable work. Many have criticized the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative because Zuckerberg is not donating to a charitable foundation, but rather giving the money to a limited liability company. Protests from some claim this strategic move avoids large taxes on the money by gifting shares and not cash.
Zuckerberg responded to these suspicions, explaining that this foundation allows for more freedom than a charitable non-profit. With this flexibility, Zuckerberg may fund non-profits, private investments, and participate in policy debates. These go along with his original intentions he set out to complete when he started his company. He added, if his goals were simply to avoid taxes, he could have set up a charity and not an LLC. He has since specified some immediate goals of the Initiative to spend money on “personalized learning, curing disease, connecting people, and building strong communities” (http://bit.ly/1ToueXb). These all sound like pretty meaningful philanthropic acts.
The internet has been flooded with negativity following this announcement. The question of the tax break caused many to attack Zuckerberg as money-hungry and only performing a certain image for the media. The Social Network movie, based on the founding of Facebook, probably hasn’t helped Zuckerberg with his image either. The film depicted him as cold and calculating, which he disapproved of and cited as inaccurate in many ways. This film most likely influenced public opinion negatively. Zuckerberg actually lives a fairly modest life despite his billions.
Zuckerberg is known for his average car, nondescript clothing, backyard wedding and rented home. He seems to be living his life not as this billion dollar company CEO, but as a relatable guy. In reality, Zuckerberg appears to be far from this monstrous, money-hungry character depicted in the movie. Instead of the world celebrating such an outstanding donation to charity, everyone jumps to attack Zuckerberg and question his motives.
The amount of money is almost inconceivable. His hard work and years of entrepreneurship have not seemed to corrupt him in the ways that affect many other celebrities today. Instead of excessive lifestyle choices, Zuckerberg chose to donate 99 percent of his company’s shares. It truly is preposterous to fault someone for wanting to give money to worthy causes. Even with this extremely generous gesture, Zuckerberg maintains a great amount of wealth for himself. Hiding a bulk of money from taxes really does not need to be of big concern to him. At his level of wealth, Zuckerberg already could live more than comfortably the rest of his life without a care. Considering all the awful things going on in the world from the Middle East to Paris to violence in our own country, is this really something to get up in arms about? Maybe instead of finding fault, it would do more good to wait and see how the organization’s philanthropy works play out before critiquing Zuckerberg and his wife so harshly.
Senior Lauren Wachspress is a contributing writer. Her email is lwachspr@fandm.