Facebook’s $100-million Donation: Amazing Generosity or Wasted Opportunity?

Are donations more productive when they're used to finance change-or when they are used to motivate it?

Unless you’ve been on vacation for the past two weeks, you’ve no doubt heard about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation to the city of Newark, New Jersey’s school system. To say that the do-gooder water cooler has been abuzz would be an understatement. And I think that’s appropriate. No matter your feelings on Facebook (essential tool? colossal waste of time?), $100 million is a staggering sum of money, one that is surely worth our attention—and our discussion.

Zuckerberg has built an empire worth roughly $25 billion and, for now at least, he appears to be putting some of it to good use. The guy took out his checkbook, wrote down a bunch of zeros, then went and hung out with Oprah on national television. When the story first broke, there was speculation about his motivation. Maybe he was trying to make up for Facebook’s recent privacy-related scandals. Perhaps it was a preemptive strike against The Social Network, which casts him as power-hungry and petulant. As interesting as these theories are, you know who doesn’t give a damn about his motivations? Newark.

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