Zuckerberg giving $1 billion to US projects

By Matt Little, CNN • Updated 20th March 2021

When billionaire Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan announced in January that they would be giving away 99% of their Facebook shares — a total of $45 billion in cash and stock — in their lifetime, they promised they would share some of it with the world.

And now, the couple has broken its promise and released a list of 15 charitable projects it will fund with their fortune.

Zuckerberg’s donation of $1 billion to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation makes it the top such gift ever, the foundation said Wednesday.

The foundation said all of the projects on the list — all of which were vetted by a committee of 14 people with a range of backgrounds — will receive a cash infusion of $500 million each over the next five years.

Since Priscilla Chan’s graduation from medical school in 2011, the couple has made a series of smaller donations that generally total between $20 million and $75 million, the foundation said.

“I’m deeply grateful to the families and individuals who gave up this wealth to change the world for the better,” Zuckerberg said in a statement. “I hope all of the projects you’ve recommended can contribute to the next generation of change.”

Most of the 14-member committee chose the projects based on requests from members of the public who nominated them. The committee then reviewed them against priority criteria, including their potential ability to scale quickly.

Firms Facebook, Qualcomm and PepsiCo, as well as billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates and his wife Melinda Gates, helped the foundation review the proposals.

The groups on the list includes the Yavneh Academy for Girls, the Angel Morstein World Health Organization “Empowerment Initiative,” San Francisco General Hospital Foundation and California Family Institute.

‘Not a startup’

Zuckerberg, a founder of Facebook, set off a furor when he announced in January that he and his wife planned to donate their wealth.

Critics, including others among Silicon Valley’s rich and powerful, were quick to point out that Zuckerberg was allowing himself to become involved in giving away money from the world’s largest social network. The company has received a slew of investor questions during its annual meeting, including from long-time shareholder Ralph Whitworth, the founder of Relational Investors.

Zuckerberg pointed out Wednesday that all of the projects that make up his donation will come from a $45 billion foundation. He also characterized it as a “continuing gift” rather than a one-time distribution.

“This announcement isn’t about a startup … this is about taking what we’ve learned and applying that to a broader goal,” he said.

“If you do the right thing over time, you can earn some pretty big returns.”

If donations are made from Facebook shares at a conversion rate of one share of Facebook for each 10,000 Facebook shares, Zuckerberg’s single $1 billion donation would increase to $3.4 billion when annual inflows are factored in. That comparison is based on Facebook’s price of $166.99 a share at Tuesday’s market close, which was the close on the day of Zuckerberg’s announcement.

On Wednesday, Facebook’s stock closed at $168.22 a share.

While Zuckerberg himself is not on the list of 15, the foundation said others from his staff “volunteered to serve as trustees on a volunteer basis.”

“The project committees agreed that part of their responsibility as trustees is to ensure that the money is making a measurable difference in people’s lives,” the foundation said.

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