A year ago, the world listened as Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, 32, announced through an open letter to their daughter Max that he and his wife would give 99 percent of their Facebook shares to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Mark’s philanthropy is widely known, yet the mega billionaire entrepreneur ranks among the most misunderstood.
Mark’s donation of 99 percent of their wealth to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative drew adulation and scorn. Lots of parents all over the world identified with what he posted on Facebook as he addressed his daughter that “we have a moral responsibility to all children in the next generation (and) society has an obligation to invest now to improve the lives of all those coming into this world, not just those already here.”
Fast forward to December 2016. Those who scoffed at Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement last year, and remained ill-informed, may sneer at his latest decision to divest of another $95 million in Facebook stock. It is said to be another step towards his goal of donating 99 percent of his Facebook stake to improve the world within his lifetime.
Where the Controversy Lay
To the extent that Mark and his wife Priscilla Chan may use their wealth for lobbying or for-profit initiatives, they will get no charitable tax break for such activities, whether or not their wealth is held in a limited liability company or L.L.C.
The huge tax break has been the main contention that led many people to pass judgment on Mark Zuckerberg’s act of philanthropy. The fact is that people will really have to wait and see what the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative does, and how it works, before making sour comments on the charity plan.
Nowadays, there are lots of companies brandishing platitudes about social responsibility. In the case of Mark Zuckerberg and his wife’s investment and philanthropic vehicle, the term L.L.C. requires some understanding. A limited liability company can invest in for-profit companies, make political donations, and lobby for changes in the law. The Zuckerbergs are free to do as they wish with their money.
Look to the Stars for Generous Donations
Facebook’s chief executive has often drawn sharp criticism, mostly from journalists, for some of the mega donations he has made in the past. They opined that Zuckerberg’s altruism helps himself. As some people noted, generosity is not always well-received. The phrase “advancing human potential” is also open to various interpretations.
In any case, most of the targeted causes or beneficiaries deserve serious attention, notably fighting a disease that includes Ebola. Mark’s donations have so far been channeled to education (or through those who espouse it), healthcare and fight against Ebola. Pledges for affordable housing and job training to communities near the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California have also been made.
Another American business magnate who had also run into criticism is Warren Buffett. He gave sizable donations to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has focused on lending support not only to medical research and education, but also to helping alleviate poverty, and providing emergency relief. Forming a formidable trio with Mark and Warren was Bill Gates, who gave special focus to his philanthropic projects after leaving the day-to-day grind at Microsoft.
In early December of 2010, Buffett, Gates, and Zuckerberg inked a deal called the “Giving Pledge”whereby they will donate at least half of their wealth during their life for the social good. Such strategic generosity acts may be what the world needs at this point in time.
Simple Generous Acts You Can Do Today
For all other people in the world with limited means to help others, the holidays is a good a time as any to share blessings with others. A gift for the underprivileged need not mean a huge monetary amount. Whether you are contemplating a company or an individual donation, what is important is that it is given wholeheartedly. Knowing that the gift will have the intended positive impact can be doubly fulfilling.
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