Why I’m a Fan of The Chan Zuckerberg Gift and The Spirit Behind It

Mark Zuckerberg Priscilla Chan daughter max

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan with their daughter, Max. (Photo from Facebook)

“Our daughter and everyone in her generation should be able to live much better lives… The only way to reach our full human potential is if we are able to unlock the gifts of every person around the world… We have a basic moral responsibility to tilt our investments somewhat more to make that happen.” Mark Zuckerberg

If you haven’t yet done so, I encourage you to watch this two-minute video of Mark Zuckerberg, 31, and his wife, Priscilla Chan, 30, explaining why they launched the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (“Initiative”) with 99 percent of their Facebook stock (worth about $45 billion before last week’s market pull-back) in honor of the birth of their daughter, Max. Their goal is to “tilt investments faster” toward strategies that will ensure better education, healthcare and communities for all children in their daughter’s generation.

Big goals. Great goals.

In the video, Zuckerberg and Chan look and sound not like billionaires, but rather like quintessential millennials. They’re given the greatest gift of all—a child. In return, they want her and all other children in her generation to inherit a better world. Therefore, they “gift” 99 percent of their wealth in order to lift up 100 percent of the world.

Unfortunately, Zuckerberg is a target just by being his young, visible, uber-successful self. Of course, the world quickly responded with polarizing positions. The Guardian’s Michele Hanson quipped, “Could they not have given their money away without the sloppy letter to their daughter and the rest of us? Wasn’t that a bit show-offy? Isn’t $45bn rather too much for one family to have in the first place? And wasn’t it a bit measly of Facebook to pay only £4,327 UK corporation tax last year?”

Criticism also flowed off the system that allows vast wealth to vest in entrepreneurs like Zuckerberg, thereby giving them far greater power over philanthropic decisions and policy-making too. As Inside Philanthropy’s David Cameron writes, “While there are plenty of good people emerging at the highest levels of philanthropy like Zuckerberg and Chan, there are also less appealing actors. Close your eyes for a moment and imagine that… it was the Koch brothers who had pledged to use their entire fortune (of $85 billion) to shape the direction of U.S. society. The picture would look a bit different, right?”

I put “gift” in parentheses because what the Chan Zuckerberg’s actually did was place their stock in an LLC, with a pledge to reinvest any profits and an implication that they eventually will gift all of it to charity. According to The New York Times, the couple chose an LLC instead of a nonprofit structure because they want the flexibility to try ideas through for-profit businesses and the freedom to lobby on behalf of the most effective policies, as well as directly fund nonprofit best practices.

Confusingly, Forbes heralded their “gift” as an example of stock ownership transfer through a charitable donation that the rest of us can and should emulate. So, experts are confused about whether this “gift” is or isn’t a charitable donation, just as pundits are divided in their assessments of the wisdom of Chan Zuckerberg’s generosity.

I’m neither a charitable gifts expert, nor a pundit. But, as Founder and Publisher of Make It Better Media, I am a bit of an expert on demographics and the behavior of a well-educated, affluent audience.

As a demographic group, millennials expect mission, meaning and social good to be embedded in their work and everyday lives. They want maximum impact with their time and dollars. The Chan Zuckerbergs are a shining example of this.

But it’s not just millennials who are inclined to do good with their everyday lives. We’ve built a successful media company on proof that most people want to and will support good values if you make it easy for them to do so.

Zuckerberg was smart and lucky enough to launch a transformation in the way our world connects and communicates. I love that he and Chan can apply those insights and their billions to finding and supporting the most effective and efficient ways to educate every child, and provide them with good healthcare and safe, diverse communities. Hopefully, their LLC will allow them to skirt many of the traditional bureaucratic roadblocks to success.

As a society, we shouldn’t be bickering about methodology, rather we should appreciate all authentic efforts to move the needle forward for humanity and facilitate collaboration among all interested parties who bring expertise or resources to the table.

I like that Zuckerberg and Chan give themselves permission to try, fail and learn as they go. “It’s hard to [change complex systems] in the short term,” Zuckerberg states. “Like doing anything well in the world, it takes practice. In the projects that we will do in education, science, health, community building, we will learn lessons over time and hopefully get better and better.” That’s the winning attitude of a successful entrepreneur. And that is the attitude that will transform our world for the better faster, too.

Everyone wants their dollars, time and lives to create impact. The Chan Zuckerberg’s are in an enviable position with respect to impact. But please, let’s not let envy or frustration with current political, social or economic dynamics get in the way of celebrating their decision and its potential impact for all children in the future. Instead, let’s please celebrate the birth of Zuckerberg and Chan’s daughter and Initiative, and rejoice that they embody the millennial spirit.

As Chan says, “We need to ensure that the future is better than today.” This is our basic human yearning. Let’s please hold these idealistic new parents up as examples for all to follow.

 

 

 

Always Dream and Shoot Higher Than You Know To Do

“Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.” – William Faulkner

What could be better than my current life? That’s a question which probably is asked more by women than men or children.

We intuitively use ourselves to help our families and others first. So much so that we often need to check in and make sure that we are making ourselves better too.

It is as important that we dream big and go for it as it is that our children do so.

If You Think You Are Too Small To Be Effective

“If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in the dark with a mosquito.” — Shannon Miller

Thanks to Don Yaeger for this quote.  Every morning Don Yaeger sends out a motivational quote from some of the greatest minds of all time. If you wish to subscribe to the Daily Dose of Greatness, please click here.

Dream More, Learn More, Care More, And Be More

Dolly Parton’s motto is “dream more, learn more, care more, and be more,” as cited in the Vanity Fair Proust Questionnaire.

Photo courtesy of National Geographic

When you dream more, learn more, care more, what do you wish to be in your future?

Success is built by implementing that wish with heart and hard work. Just like Dolly did.

I dream about creating a better world where everyone gets to nurture their passions, talents, and dreams. Imagine how beautiful that society will be! I believe this can be achieved, too–by collaboration, innovation and determination.

Please let me know if we can innovate and work hard towards that better world together.

Thank You League Of Women Voters

“To the wrongs that need resistance, to the right that needs assistance, to the future in the distance, give yourselves.” Carrie Chapman Catt, founder of the League Of Women Voters.

Catt’s quote is as true now as it was when the League of Women Voters was founded in Chicago over 90 years ago. And the League still provides the best source for unbiased analysis of election issues that could help assist rights, resist wrongs, and create a better future for all.

The Illinois League of Women Voters just celebrated 100 years of voting rights for women. We thank them for their continuing good work.

The members of the League of Women Voters take a moment to join with the League Lady for a picture from left to right: Barbara Marsh, Henrietta Saunders, Sheri Latash, Joan Ziegler, Mary Hummel, Janet Kittlaus, Jane Ballengee

Quotes That Remind Me of Our Potential for Greatness

If you are like me, you can use reminding of all that life can be. We each have the ability to become great – as doers or as parents fostering the best in our children.

All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother. 
Abraham Lincoln

Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value. 
Albert Einstein

Great men are they who see that spiritual is stronger than any material force — that thoughts rule the world.
Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.
Mark Twain 

Lives of great men all remind us, we can make our lives sublime, and, departing, leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Brooks On Humility and Leadership

NY Times Columnist David Brooks offered pearls of wisdom in Chicago at the Executives’ Club of Chicago luncheon yesterday:

Humility and success often go hand in hand, he explained, citing Chicago’s Lester Crown as a perfect example. Furthermore, understanding emotional biases and weaknesses in general, and developing strategies to compensate for them, is integral to good leadership. We’re born with inherent biases – how we deal with them makes all the difference.

As Ida Eisenhower taught her 5 Star General and US President son Dwight: “He that conquers his own soul is greater than he who conquers a city.” Eisenhower claimed this quote as his most important life lesson – and one he had to relearn throughout his career.

Eisenhower visiting with his mother, Ida, in 1943, Courtesy of the Eisenhower Library.

Thanks to Stacy Keefe and WBEZ for making my life better by treating me to this luncheon and these lessons.