Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, is 26 years old, a billionaire, the subject of a new Aaron Sorkin movie and a profile in The New Yorkerhttp://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/09/20/100920fa_fact_vargas, and now (we think) the youngest ever $100 million dollar donor. Mashable reported last night that Zuckerberg is set to announce the gift on Oprah on Friday.
The gift is notable for a couple of reasons. It's one of very few reported 9 figure gifts in America so far this year. Most big giving this year is happening as part of The Giving Pledge. Most of those gifts will go into private foundations and be paid out over time. Other direct gifts this year include George Soros' recent gift to Human Rights Watch and Mark Benioff's gift to UCSF for a children's hospital.
Second, it is to a public school system - one of the most challenged systems in the country. And not one that Zuckerberg attended (Exeter and Harvard are about as far from the Newark Public Schools as you can get). The funds will set up a foundation for the school system and the City's Mayor, Cory Booker, will gain increased control of the State-run system. The gift automatically launches Newark into the ranks of the city's with the richest public education funds.
Third, the timing is interesting, as is often the case with big gifts. Some are speculating that he timed the gift to improve his image in anticipation of the not flattering Sorkin movie, The Social Network. I hope his PR people link the gift to another movie - Waiting for Superman.
The news feeds about the gift are also noting that a possible $100 million match to Zuckerberg's gift from other foundations (we'll find out on Friday, I guess). A 1:1 match for total of $200 million - pretty good philanthropic start I'd say. Let's hope the kids of Newark get $200 million more/better education.
Follow Lucy Bernholz on Twitter: www.twitter.com/p2173