Impact In the News

Week of August 29th

“Overheard on the internet”

“One of the biggest challenges running a large philanthropic initiative is measuring results and deciding how to invest capital across different disciplines”- Mark Zuckerberg announcing the hire of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s first CFO.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

What’s the social impact story: The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the philanthropic fund the founder of Facebook and his wife created in 2015 to give away their fortune, just hired their first CFO- a former VP from PayPal.

What issues will she be working on?
With Zuckerberg, she’ll be working on the challenge of knowing where and how to spend money to achieve the greatest impact. As a philanthropic organization their biggest challenges will be looking at measuring results and deciding where to give.

Wait, how much money are they giving?
Zuckerberg and Chan pledged to give away 99% of their Facebook shares- which was valued at $45B- to advance the mission of their initiative. When they originally announced, many assumed all funds were going to charity. Legally however, it was clarified that they set up the organization as an LLC (limited liability company) and NOT a charity.

Was that a big deal?
Some assumed that they did this to avoid taxes or be less transparent, but others were talking about the changing nature of philanthropy. They believed an LLC was a good organizational structure which would not limit the future creation of charitable entities but could also allow for impact investing in for-profit organizations. And that seems to be the case. Last September, they announced a $3B investment to cure diseases and this past June $5M to keep Silicon Valley teachers from being homeless.

As a leader, manager & impact pro what does this mean for me?
This story has two interesting things to think about. The first is the changing nature of philanthropy and the idea of investing vs. donating (thinking about why they created an LLC). It’s the idea that when you invest, you get a return. Whereas the emphasis on donating is about giving. Impact investing is on the rise, the question remains will it disrupt traditional charity?

The second interesting issue is related to recruitment and HR with the hiring a former business executive to work on philanthropic issues. And they’re growing fast- like a tech startup. By the end of the year they’ll have 200 employees. It’s clear the Zuckerberg Chan Initiative is changing the way philanthropy is done, what’s exciting is it also appears they’re also changing the way philanthropic organizations can think about hiring. Hiring for the challenges of the role, regardless of sector background.


When someone turns down your offer for help…
Black Girls Code turned down $125,000 from Uber. The founder explained “it appears to be more PR driven than actually focused on real change. So we turned it down.”

When a colleague’s watching a YouTube video at work…

After 44 years, Patagonia releases its first commercial which has nothing to do with it’s products. They spent $700K on a commercial about the importance of protecting America’s public land.

When you’re caught in a lie…

Exxon appears to have purposely misled the public on climate change. A recent study found 80% of company research and internal communications acknowledged climate change was real, but 81% of Exxon’s statements to the broader public expressed doubt.

When you’re getting in trouble for trying to do good…

Energy Transfer Partners sued Greenpeace this past week, accusing them of ‘eco-terrorism’ blocking access to Dakota Access Pipeline.

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