Will Sheryl Sandberg and David Goldberg be the Next Tech Philanthropy Power Couple?

Facebook's COO Sheryl Sandberg has zoomed to fame with Lean In, but she's not the only tech heavyweight in the family. Her husband David Goldberg is the founder of Survey Monkey and earlier built a company called LAUNCH Media. Sandberg's net worth currently stands around $1 billion, while Goldberg’s net worth is up for debate. Clearly, though, there is plenty of money here, and the couple have signed the Giving Pledge. 

So we’re wondering where Sheryl Sandberg and David Goldberg will focus their philanthropy. At the end of 2012, Sheryl Sandberg gave 429,184 shares of Facebook, worth approximately $11.8 million at the time, to an undisclosed recipient, as reported here. Many assumed that the millions would go toward endowing her non-profit, LeanIn.org, founded in 2013. But so far there is no evidence of that. (Read Sheryl Sandberg’s IP Profile

The Giving Pledge, the mystery $11.8 million donation and this tech power couple’s individual interests pose a few salient questions: How will the ‘Bergs choose to give away their fortune? Will they give jointly? Individually? How much influence will one have on the other’s decisions, if any?

Let's take a look at what we know:

First, the couple does have a track record of disclosed giving. Here are some of the joint gifts we've seen:

  • $50,000 in 2008 to Leadership Public Schools, a nonprofit that operates and helps open public charter high schools throughout California, with additional small gifts in subsequent years. 
  • $50,000 in 2011 to Miami's Children Health Systems. (Sandberg grew up in Miami.)
  • $50,000 to the Blake School, the private school in Minnesota that David Goldberg attended.

There are probably other major gifts we haven't seen in addition to these.

Beyond that track record, we know that Sandberg is a champion for women's empowerment. The Harvard grad penned her senior thesis on domestic violence and its relationship to income or, as she puts it, "the economics of spousal abuse." Sandberg has also touched on the high cost of daycare. The expense of daycare for two children, she states, “is greater than the annual median rent payment in every state in the country,” but finding a way to pay for daycare, she says, could be viewed as “investing in their families’ future.”

Sandberg’s website, Lean In.org, describes itself as a private operating foundation, receiving all of the profits from Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work & the Will to Lead. What's not known is how much this organization will expand or what activities it might take on, including any grantmaking. Lean In did give away $35,000 last year to the Clayman Institute at Stanford for gender research. Outside of that, radio silence.

For all that’s known about Sheryl Sandberg, less is known about her husband David Goldberg. We do know that he's a tech veteran who started out super-young in the industry. Goldberg founded LAUNCH Media in 1994, which was an online music and music-related website, and sold it to Yahoo! when he was 26 for $12 million. Like his wife, Goldberg is a Harvard grad, and he earned his BA in history and government.

Goldberg's interests include education, and he sits on the board of directors of the New Schools Venture Fund, Silicon Valley's favorite ed group. He also has a serious interest in music. From 2001 to 2007, Goldberg served as the head of global music operations at Yahoo! He was a member of the advisory board of music-related companies Viagogo Limited and GarageBand.com (both now defunct) and is also a member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.   

The safe bet is that Sandberg will continue to support women’s issues, including domestic violence, the subject of her senior thesis. Given both Sandberg and Goldberg’s interests and their past giving, there's a strong possibility that this duo will join forces to further support education. Finally, arts programs in the country’s public schools, music in particular, may stand to benefit from this couple’s philanthropic largesse sometime in the future.

But for now, this is all just conjecture until the ‘Bergs step up their giving game or at the very least, are a bit more outspoken when giving away their millions.