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For Young Tech Billionaires, the Time to Donate is Now

December 30, 2015

Warren Buffet made a splash in 2006 when he announced plans to start giving away the bulk of his fortune. An impressive philanthropic move, to be sure, but when he made the decision he was already 76 years old. And that’s the way it’s almost always been: the WWII generation and the baby boomers have generally been tight-fisted with their money, only donating it once they’ve reached their golden years or, more often, after they’ve kicked the bucket.

But a new trend in the world of philanthropy is upon us, one that sees younger billionaires, mostly from Silicon Valley, giving sooner rather than later. Here’s what you need to know about the donation habits of today’s industry titans.

Zuckerberg is leading the charge

At only 31 years old and with a reported net worth of around $45 billion, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is America’s richest man under 40. And he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have recently announced plans to give 99% of their Facebook stock away to charity over time. This isn’t the first time Zuckerberg has cut a big check—he and his wife have given away well over a billion dollars to various charities up to this point.

Others with deep pockets are joining in

The beginnings of this spirit of giving have their roots in the Buffet announcement as well as the Giving Pledge, of which Zuckerberg is a signatory. This is a commitment from the world’s wealthiest people, including Microsoft’s Paul Allen, Oracle’s Larry Ellison, and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, to give away the majority of their wealth. And most of these folks are starting sooner rather than later.

Tech vets are catching the giving fever too

What got as much ink as Buffet’s 2006 announcement that he was giving away his cash, was just who would receive all that wealth: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Through this foundation, Bill Gates has been funding a number of initiatives, be it clean-energy technology, agricultural development, HIV research and more. But even Gates himself has admitted that he didn’t really hop on the give-back train until he was in his 40s. Looks like today’s tech billionaires have got him beat on that front.

Zuckerberg, via an open Facebook post to his newborn daughter Max, suggests that his decision to give away his fortune is for her sake. He wants his kids to grow up in a better world than he did. But maybe there are selfish reasons too; by giving away his cash now, he will live long enough to see the positive effects it will have on our world. Win-win.


Image courtesy of Marketplace.org