Podcasts | December 12, 2015

Debating Mark Zuckerberg’s Bold Bet on an Un-Foundation

The team at


A couple announcing the creation of a new legal structure a week after the birth of their first child usually does not draw global headlines. But the launch of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, LLC, continues to reverberate.

podcasct-cover_v2-3aIn this week’s Returns on Investment Podcast*, I am joined by Imogen Rose-Smith, senior writer at Institutional Investor, and David Bank, editor and CEO of ImpactAlpha to dissect the debate over the potentially $45 billion pledge made by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.

Is it a tax dodge? No, as Josh Barro points out. Is it a tacit acknowledgement that the foundation structure itself might be in some sense outdated, and that impact can come not just from philanthropic grants to nonprofit organizations, but also from investments in for profit companies and engagement in policy debates? Perhaps.

Here’s Felix Salmon’s take in Fusion:

“[Foundations] generally works a bit like a perpetual-motion machine: you wind it up with some up-front endowment, get it started, and then watch it do whatever it does (teach students, fund charities, whatever) for many decades to come. Zuckerberg’s vision, by contrast, is different. He doesn’t want to create something which just keeps on doing the same thing for hundreds of years. He wants to spend billions of dollars today (or at least within his lifetime) on something transformational, which could help transform the lives of billions of future inhabitants of the planet for the better. Like Rockefeller’s meningitis vaccine, but probably more electronic.”

We try to sort it out on the latest episode of ImpactAlpha’s ROI podcast. Please have a listen.

[seperator style=”style1″]Disclosure[/seperator]

*Regular listeners will realize that we’ve rebranded the podcast series as “Returns on Investment,” or ROI, to reflect the many kinds of returns – environmental, social and financial – that investments can generate. 

The Liquidnet Impact Fund, a donor-advised fund at ImpactAssets, is an investor in ImpactAlpha Inc., publisher of ImpactAlpha.com and producer of the ROI podcast.