Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan

NET WORTH: $70  billion

SOURCE OF WEALTH: Facebook

FUNDING AREAS: Education, Health, Technology, Immigration Reform, and more.

OVERVIEW: Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan have emerged as major philanthropists in recent years. In 2015, via a Facebook post, the couple pledged to give away 99 percent of their wealth to public interest causes. At the same time, they launched the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), which describes its mission as “advancing human potential and promoting equal opportunity.” Chan runs the day-to-day operations of CZI, which is managing an expanding set of initiatives.

ISSUES

EDUCATION: Zuckerberg's first major philanthropic venture was in 2010, when he made a $100 million donation to improve the Newark, New Jersey, school system—backing a reform effort that produced enormous controversy. Zuckerberg and Chan subsequently made an even larger education to improve schools in Silicon Valley, but took a more hands-on approach after learning important lessons from the Newark experience. Personalized learning is now the central focus of Chan and Zuckerberg’s education giving.

HEALTH AND LIFE SCIENCE: Priscilla Chan is a pediatrician and the couple’s interest in health has been demonstrated through many donations, including $75 million to the San Francisco General Hospital and $25 million in 2014 to help combat the Ebola epidemic. Most significantly, in September 2016, Chan and Zuckerberg pledged to spend $3 billion over the next decade on an initiative aimed at “helping cure, prevent or manage all diseases in our children’s lifetime.” Zuckerberg has written that "most people die from five things—heart disease, cancer, stroke, neurodegenerative and infectious diseases—and we can make faster progress on these and other problems." This effort is managed by Chan Zuckerberg Science, an initiative of CZI. Another element of this work is the Chan Zuckerberg Bio Hub, an independent research center.

Zuckerberg and Chan are also among the tech luminaries who have backed the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, which rewards researchers with $3 million grants and “honors transformative advances toward understanding living systems and extending human life.”  

TECHNOLOGY AND DATA: Chan and Zuckerberg are investing heavily in technology to help advance their philanthropic goals. CZI’s website states: “We believe engineers can help turbocharge and scale solutions to facilitate social change.” The organization has built its own large and in-house engineering team to ‘design, build and scale software systems to help educators and scientists already working on humanity’s greatest challenges.” In addition, CZI has made various grants related to technology and data. The organization has also made impact investments in for-profit companies seeking to solve social problems both in the U.S. and overseas. Its first investment was in Andela, a startup that trains African engineers for jobs in the tech industry. Zuckerberg is also an investor in Bridge International Academies, which runs low-cost private schools in developing countries.

IMMIGRATION REFORM: In April 2013, Zuckerberg launched FWD.US, an effort to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform, which has quickly become a leading organization in the field, due in large part to Zuckerberg's funding. After the 2016 elections, FWD.US undertoo new work to challenge the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

OTHER ISSUES: The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has also backed work on criminal justice reform and affordable housing.

LOOKING FORWARD: Drawing on a historic fortune, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan may well come to rank as among the most consequential philanthropists of the 21st century. Their giving is likely to keep expanding and evolving over time, perhaps in dramatic ways.