In 2010, just before the release of David Fincher’s film The Social Network, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg pledged $100 million to the underfunded Newark, NJ public school system. Many in the media thought that Zuckerberg, who wasn’t portrayed with feverish flattery in the film, was attempting to publicly show people his true self, before most people were introduced to him via a performance in a movie.
At the time, one might’ve been correct to be skeptical of such a grand gesture. Not many companies in Silicon Valley, which were being bought by the millions and billions of dollars, were giving back. In 2005, Google started their charitable arm, Google.org but no other big tech companies jumped into the philanthropic pool with them. Fast-forward nearly a decade, and, as more of the tech giants begin to flex their charitable muscles, their hesitation to give back early on starts to make sense. Firstly, these recent billionaires were, mostly, very young. And money was being transferred faster than it could possibly be minted. And secondly, there was already a tech-bubble burst from previous years.
But if tech companies truly wanted to make the world a better place, eventually they’d have to do more than just open communication and additions to a sharing economy. And while it may seem that it took Zuckerberg and others too long to earmark philanthropic causes, this generation is actually giving back far earlier than previous generations. A lot of that has to do with technology itself; the spread of information has created a larger global consciousness of inequalities and devastation, and thus, the days of waiting to give away money post-retirement are over.
But is philanthropy really different? Are tech CEOs fully engaged with their charity? We take a look at 10 tech CEOs who are changing the face of philanthropy. Instead of just listing the biggest donors, we wanted to highlight different modes of philanthropy among active CEOs. Thus, some of the most ground-breaking donors, such as Quark’s former CEO Tim Gill, an early champion donator to LGBT causes, and those now in-charge of large philanthropic trusts, such as Gordon and Betty Moore and Leonard Bosack and Sandy Lerner—though extremely commendable for their donating spirit—belong on official top-dollar donor lists.
The individuals that are listed here also represent big donations. But some are challenging other Silicon Valley firms to join them, some are on the board of directors of formidable charities, and some are start-ups that have created a built-in model of giving back from the outset.