A recent philanthropic deed was announced on Oprah Winfrey’s show by the 26-year-old billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Mark announced his donation of $100 million to the Newark public school system. According to the Wall Street Journal, the gift represented an intentional decision by Zuckerberg to not wait until the end of his career to focus on philanthropy.
Zuckerberg admitted that he did not have a strong connection to Newark. Yet he intends to help the 45,000 students, because Newark is one of the lowest performing school districts in the country.
Despite the generous gesture, Zuckerberg’s giving is surrounded by controversy. While some critics are unhappy about Zuckerberg’s unwillingness to directly visit the school and be involved with the authorities, other industry experts wonder if Zuckerberg’s announcement is genuine philanthropy or image control considering it came ahead of the opening of The Social Network, an unflattering film about Zuckerberg’s rapid rise.
Besides dwelling on the social media mogul’s intent, the focus should be on how the $100 million can be used. As the New York Times reports that “the gift is .. an extraordinary sum not only for a district with an $800 million annual operating budget, but also for any publicly financed government agency.” The NYT notes that it is not yet clear how the money will be used, or over what period. The buzz around Zuckerberg’s philanthropic gesture may have a larger impact than his actual donation.