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How Zuckerberg and Chan just changed big charitable giving

Following the birth of their daughter Max, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have announced they will donate 99 percent of their wealth to charity. The money will be managed by a limited liability corporation called the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and will focus on health and education. Gwen Ifill discusses the move with Stacy Palmer of The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    It's a very different kind of baby gift. Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced yesterday the birth of his daughter with a most unusual letter.

    He and his wife, Priscilla Chan, will donate 99 percent of their shares in the social media giant, an estimated $45 billion as of today, to charity. The couple created the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a limited liability corporation, on personalized learning, curing diseases and building strong communities.

    They released a short video on Facebook explaining their decision.

  • MARK ZUCKERBERG, Founder, Facebook:

    Having this child has made us think about all the things that should be improved in the world for her whole generation. The only way that we reach our full human potential is if we're able to unlock the gift of every person around the world.

  • PRISCILLA CHAN, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative:

    We want to make sure we invest in programs that ensure that the future isn't going to be like today; the future is going to be better than today.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    We get more insight into this decision and the larger context from Stacy Palmer, editor of "The Chronicle of Philanthropy."

    Welcome.

    STACY PALMER, The Chronicle of Philanthropy: Happy to join you.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Explain to us what the difference is between — you noticed I mentioned that it was a limited liability corporation — between that and a normal nonprofit that we have heard — we have heard of people with money creating foundations before, but this seemed different.

  • STACY PALMER:

    This is quite different. This isn't like the Gates Foundation.

    And I think that Mark Zuckerberg is saying that philanthropy, the way it works now isn't working so well and we need a different kind of model.

    So, this limited liability corporation, we don't know a lot of details about how it will work, but what is different is, it doesn't have the same kinds of limits on lobbying that foundations have right now. It can do more investing. It doesn't have to disclose as much information as a foundation does. It doesn't face the requirement that you give at least 5 percent of grants each year.

    So there are some good things in terms of the flexibility it gives to the donor. There are some concerns as well though about the public interest, and I think we're going to hear a lot more about that in the coming days.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    So, how big a player has Silicon Valley now become in philanthropy overall? We keep hearing about this. And we know that almost every name we recognize in that area of the country in the tech world seems to have their own foundation.

  • STACY PALMER:

    It's huge. It's amazing.

    Among the biggest philanthropists now, the tech industry is more dominant than the financial industry, which we never saw in the world of philanthropy. So, clearly, lots and lots of people in tech are giving. And I think will be an important symbol for those who haven't given or are thinking about giving bigger, that they want to follow in the steps that Mark and Priscilla have set.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    So, this is different from the days of the Mellons, the Carnegie, the Fords, the Rockefellers?

  • STACY PALMER:

    Very, very different. They're very activist. They want to do philanthropy differently.

    And I think that they're frustrated. There are all these problems that haven't been solved and they look out and they say, why hasn't philanthropy done more? And they want to make a difference. So, I'm sure they sought the counsel of a lot of people in philanthropy as they thought about doing this and decided, we need a new approach.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    If you were running a charitable institution and you were looking for deep pockets, does this change the way you approach people like Facebook founders?

  • STACY PALMER:

    It absolutely does.

    It's very challenging for nonprofit people in general to be able to get access to folks in Silicon Valley. And one of the things they really complain about is that it's very hard to get their views, their ideas, to really sort of get them to think about things in new ways.

    And this process of setting off this limited liability company isn't going to help that process any more. But I think what is hopeful is that the Newark gift that got so much criticism by Mark Zuckerberg, I think he learned a lot of lessons from that.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    He gave $100 million.

  • STACY PALMER:

    Dollars to Newark schools to improve them, and he got roundly criticized as a failure. And I think you saw signs in the letter that he wrote yesterday that he's really learned some lessons from that.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Does it make a big difference when people start giving young? These are not people who are old. These are not end-of-life bequests.

  • STACY PALMER:

    That's the huge part.

    They have all of this time to learn, to think, to do things differently. In the past, we used to see people giving money in their 70s or 80s. They gave it, they didn't think much about it, and then we had these perpetual foundations like Rockefeller and Ford exist forever and ever without those lessons.

    So, what is fabulous is that these people, during their lives, can change their minds about what they're giving and really learn from their mistakes, at least we hope they will.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    But as you pointed out earlier, they obviously will be open to some criticism. And part of that criticism is that they're not accountable to any public either elected officials or the public at all.

    They can decide what's important and, by definition, what's not important.

  • STACY PALMER:

    That's the biggest concern that people have.

    It just feels to a lot of people like a lot of injection of more money into politics and rich people deciding things without being elected.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    To be clear, they're talking about politics as part of these goals, their goals.

  • STACY PALMER:

    Absolutely.

    The fact that they wanted to have this set up so that they could do more lobbying and be involved in advocacy is a sign that they intend to influence public policy. We've already seen that with the Gates Foundation certainly trying to influence education and health. And that's in the old-style foundation. So I think we are going to see a lot of controversy because of that.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Stacy Palmer at "The Chronicle of Philanthropy," thank you very much.

  • STACY PALMER:

    Thank you.

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