Today, it was announced that Facebook CEO and wunderkind Mark Zuckerberg has pleged to donate half of his multi billion-dollar fortune (story via Business Week) to charities, as part of the Giving Pledge project. Giving Pledge is an initiative for billionaires started by the grandaddy of tech billionaires, Bill Gates, and the general grandaddy of ALL billionaires, Warren Buffett.
Zuckerberg, along with AOL honcho Steve Case, became the 16th and 17th American billionaires to make this pledge.
“People wait until late in their career to give back,” said Zuckerberg, who is worth $6.9 billion according to Forbes magazine. “But why wait when there is so much to be done?” (quote also via Business Week)
I have no doubt that Zuckerberg wants to help untold numbers of people with his pledge, however, as a publicist, I have to think about the media motives behind a move like this. Zuckerberg, during his meteoric rise to fame and fortune, has come off as prickly and combative in the past (see: the plot of The Social Network) – an emotionless automaton hell-bent on world domination through the considerable power of Facebook. Though Zuckerberg has donated generously in the past, including a large chunk to the Newark school system, this move is by far the most visible of his charitable efforts. It’s a move in a direction to make him seem warmer, cuddlier, nicer.
So today instead of discussing the various merits of yet another probably pointless Facebook redesign, we’re talking about Zuckerberg’s generosity. As they say on Mad Men, he “changed the conversation”. And kudos to him.