Saving Face on Zuckerberg’s charitable trust

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan — on the birth of their child Tuesday — pledged to give away 99 percent of their wealth to their charitable trust.

“In philanthropy, 30 is the new 70,” as Mike Bloomberg said yesterday.

There is a long history of ultra-rich Americans giving back to charity upon their death or soon before.

But Microsoft founder Bill Gates turned that on its head 15 years ago by setting up his foundation with his wife Melinda. He not only pledge his vast wealth, but talked other billionaires to do the same. His sometime bridge-playing partner Warren Buffett signed on, though he is closer to the traditional age of giving it away.

So the question is what do you get from  younger hands-on entrepreneurs having a seat at the charity table?

The Gates foundation has focused on health initiatives in Africa, and has said it is on its way to eradicating malaria by 2040. That seems a far way off, with very few people alive today ever seeing that occur including the benefactors.

Gates has committed $1.6 billion to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in Africa, which provides about 50 percent of international funding for malaria control worldwide.

I think, if you have a brash new organization coming in to help solve a problem, with plenty of resources and different ideas on how to solve it, you could get faster results.

But that doesn’t seem to happen. There are too many living off of the problem they wish to solve, including other aid providers to provide quicker results.

Zuckerberg should already be aware of the pitfalls of thinking that throwing millions at a problem can solve it. He donated $100M to the failing school system in Newark, NJ in 2010 funding a 5-year turn around.

His thought was to reward better teachers with higher pay, but he ran into an entrenched teachers union, which would have no part in “liking” his proposal and so Newark still has a failing school system and $200M, with matching donations,  went down the rabbit hole.

So when these brash, young ideologues think they can change the world, because of some code they “acquired or tweaked” 10-20 years ago that made them filthy rich, well welcome to the real world where vested interests have more to say about your cause célèbre.

I don’t mean to sound cynical, but seeing the possibilities of what DOS can do for personal computing before IBM did, does not make you a visionary in all things going on in the world.

Carnegie, Mellon, Morgan and Vanderbilt built things, so in their philanthropy they built things. They knew were the money went and built lasting organizations that have endured over a century.

Hoping to solve one problem in a century, does not mean endurance.

Perhaps the Zuckerberg Foundation can look at providing the world with the access tools for a free digital network with a platform, where the citizens can decide what needs to be done in their own neighborhoods.

Oh yeah, and that platform should not host cat videos.


As I wrote yesterday off of the lackluster retail sales over the Thanksgiving weekend shopathon, Main Street America is in recession and Washington is ignoring its plight.

Tuesday morning after my post, the manufacturing number came out and it was bad. The number says we are not making enough things here and the level says the manufacturing sector is in decline.

Let’s see what Friday’s Nov. jobs number has to say. It’s the last piece of the puzzle, before the Fed meets in two weeks.

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