Wednesday, 2 December 2015

A letter that could (have) change(d) the world

Update: 7/12/15 - Oh, I should have been more sceptical...I still believe that there are positives here, but this is not philanthropy in the traditional form at all. A for profit limited liability company (LLC) is not exactly the massive charitable gift we were led to believe it was initially... How this will unfold in the future, who knows, but hopefully many will still be able to benefit from the funds and it will still inspire the rich to give away their fortunes. 


Mark Zuckerberg’s letter has been all over social media, (and the old school kind) for the last 24 hours and it has made me very happy (I'm ignoring any scepticism on this one, I'm an eternal optimist).

Mark Zuckerberg, his wife Priscilla and their baby girl called Max

Not only have Mark Zuckerberg, and his wife Priscilla Chan, made a huge financial promise to invest in the future generations, but they have done this in the most public way possible. It is fabulous. 

They are raising the profile of the world issues that they have decided are important (and they are important “advancing human potential and promoting equality”), but they have also brought philanthropy to the fore in a positive way. This is exactly what we philanthropy enablers need more than ever right now, with the current media fury over fundraising. I am sure I am not the only fundraiser out there that celebrated with a muffled cheer.

I am also sure that I’m not the only mother out there that breathed a sigh of relief that someone else out there has recognised that the world is a difficult place, and it needs innovative projects, and funding to enable them. It made me happy that another individual out there has the money, and the power, but most importantly the vision, and the inclination to help the next generation in this wonderful way.

Reading the open letter, I was also slightly smug to see that we have the fundraising theory that we often preach totally nailed. We know philanthropists want to make a difference to the future “We must make long term investments over 25, 50 or even 100 years”, make an impact and are driven by finding solutions to problems “We must build technology to make change”, connect with those that are able to find the solutions but also those that are benefiting from support “We must engage directly with the people we serve”. These individuals want to be involved “We must participate in policy and advocacy to shape debates”. Interesting though, that the letter also indicates that they are happy to take a gamble on new and innovative ideas “We must take risks today to learn lessons for tomorrow” although perhaps not that strange considering his entrepreneurial background and his youth.

I am delighted that they are going to lead the way and that they are making their pledge in this open, warm and friendly way. I am sure that there are many young wealthy individuals across the world taking note and thinking about how they too can make an impact. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but in future years, when they have thought more about the very real positive impact they can make on the world. Perhaps there will now be a tsunami (or a small but welcome wave) of pledgers, like when Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet first conceived of  The Giving Pledge (the elite club of which, as of today, Mark and Priscilla are the newest members).

I only hope that there is a substantial team ready for the influx of funding applications they are about to receive.

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