Mark Zuckerberg, the
26-year-old chief executive
of Facebook, has announced
that he is giving $100-million to
improve the public school system in
The money, which will come from Mr.
Zuckerberg’s Facebook stock
holdings, will go into a foundation he
is establishing to support the effort.
This is the first such publicized
charitable donation from the young
entrepreneur, who is worth at least
$6.9-billion according to Forbes
magazine. He ranks No. 35 on the
magazine’s list of the 400 wealthiest
Americans, released today.
The donation is also significant for
being the first donation of
$100-million or more from an
American of Mr. Zuckerberg's
generation. To see how his pledge
compares to those of other major
donors, see The Chronicle's annual
Philanthropy 50, a ranking of the
country's most-generous donors.
The pledge did not come through any
personal connection to Newark. Mr.
Zuckerberg, who lives in California,
grew up in Westchester County, N.Y.,
and attended high school in Ardsley,
N.Y., and in Exeter, N.H. But after a
year of discussions with education
experts and meeting Cory Booker,
Newark’s mayor, in July, Mr.
Zuckerberg seems to have found his
In a conference call announcing the
donation, Mr. Zuckerberg described
how his girlfriend's experience as a
teacher, as well as his gratitude for
his schooling, led him to think about
devoting some of his fortune to
education issues. He soon realized
he did not want to postpone his
"I really wanted to get started giving
back at a young age," he said. "I look
at other folks who give back later in
their career, and I thought, why
Giving now, while he's still at the
helm at Facebook, means he won't
be a hands-on donor. Mr. Zuckerberg
said his foundation, Startup:
Education, will have a professional
staff, but that it will be small, and will
remain focused on this single project
How the money will be spent in
Newark will be left entirely up to the
city and state leadership, he said.
"I'm not going to be involved a huge
amount on a day-to-day role except
where it's helpful and to make sure
we're all getting the results we all signed up for," said Mr. Zuckerberg.
"My goal is to give these guys the
flexibility they need."
But Mr. Zuckerberg's gift did
precipitate a change in who has
authority over Newark schools, which
came under state control in 1995.
Under the new agreement, New
Jersey’s Governor, Chris Christie, will
give some control to Mr. Booker,
allowing the mayor a prominent voice
in choosing a new school
superintendent and redeveloping the
school system. The plan also leaves
room for the governor to regain
control if the system fails again, as it
did 15 years ago.
Mr. Booker said the gift did not come
with any "formal contingency" that he
regain authority over the Newark
schools. But local leadership is very
much part of Mr. Zuckerberg's vision.
In making the grant, he challenged
Mr. Booker and the city of Newark to
match the $100-million contribution.
Details about how Mr. Booker will
use the gift are still being worked out,
though Mr. Booker said he would
seek to empower teachers and hold
The pledge comes at a time when
Mr. Zuckerberg has found himself in
the limelight both for a new, rather
unflattering film depicting his storied
creation of Facebook, and for
comments Mr. Zuckerberg made on
a Facebook blog in June on which he
said companies are better equipped
to solve society’s problems than
nonprofit groups. Mr. Zuckerberg was
roundly criticized by nonprofit leaders
and many others for those remarks.
Many bloggers have suggested his
seemingly sudden embrace of charity
is a publicity stunt to deflect criticism.
Mr. Zuckerberg said he recognized
that might be the case and even
thought about giving the donation
anonymously to avoid such a
But Mr. Booker and Mr. Christie
thought it would be best to move
quickly despite the movie's timing,
the mayor and Mr. Zuckerberg said.
"I think an anonymous grant would
raise a lot more questions than
anything," said Mr. Booker, who also
said that Mr. Zuckerberg's identity
and Facebook ties would add
"momentum" to the
With this gift, Mr. Zuckerberg joins
the ranks of major donors seeking to
improve the schools.
It’s significant that with his first big gift, he's
giving to change, not charity," says Jason Franklin,
the 30-year-old director of Bolder Giving, a New York
group that promotes philanthropy.
Mr. Franklin says the gift reflects the greater emphasis
that people in their 20s are placing on social change.
"There is the increasing expectation among those in
Generation Y that part of their success will be that
they give back actively.