At the birth of their daughter, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan announced Dec. 1 that they would put 99 percent of their Facebook shares into a limited liability company that, over their lifetime, will fund investments in nonprofit, for-profit and public-sector initiatives in health, education and technology. Those shares are currently valued at $45 billion, they said.
The announcement of what the couple is calling the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative came in the form of a letter written to the couple's newborn daughter, Max, posted on Mr. Zuckerberg's Facebook page.
Both a warm parental epistle to Max and a bold manifesto outlining the couple's philanthropic priorities, the letter is framed by what the new parents called a "great responsibility to leave the world a better place for you (Max) and all children."
The couple's tenets for giving, the letter outlined, will lean toward long-term investment, risk-taking and direct engagement with communities. The initiative also seeks to influence public policy and advocacy, engage top leaders in various fields, and support technology built for social change.
The areas of health, education and technology align with the pair's previous philanthropy. Among their largest gifts are donations of $100 million to Newark schools, $120 million committed to Bay Area schools, and $75 million to the trauma center at San Francisco General Hospital.
The couple is also committed to local hands-on giving. Ms. Chan announced in October that she will serve as CEO of The Primary School, a free private, pre-K through eighth grade school that will combine education and health care services for underserved Belle Haven and East Palo Alto families. The school is set to launch its first pre-K class in August 2016.
Mr. Zuckerberg's initial post generated hundreds of thousands of "likes" within hours. Soon after, some asked with skepticism why the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative would be structured as an LLC, or limited liability company, rather than a family foundation or other tax-exempt 501(c)(3) structure. As an LLC, the initiative does not have to play by the usual rules that family foundations and tax-exempt organizations must follow. For instance, some pointed out with concern, they will not face restrictions on lobbying spending, be tied to minimum requirements for annual spending, or have to publicly disclose tax documents; and they will be free to pursue private investments.
In a follow-up post on Dec. 4, Mr. Zuckerberg wrote the structure is designed to enable funding for "problems that will truly take decades of investment before we see any major return." On that front, he said, "We are dramatically underinvested."