What Does The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Do?

by April Siese

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan welcomed their first child on Tuesday. The couple made the announcement via a Facebook note addressed to their daughter, Max. In addition to celebrating Max's birth, the proud parents also revealed that they would be donating 99 percent of their Facebook shares to a charity program which they started in 2009. That's almost $45 billion going toward important causes. What does the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative do? The charity provides funding to a myriad of organizations dedicated to the advancement of "human potential ... promoting equality in areas such as health, education, scientific research, and energy."

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative launched on Nov. 26, 2009, with the couple donating $5 million to the University of California San Francisco Children's Hospital to help build and operate their new Mission Bay hospital, which opened Feb. 1 of this year. The couple would go on to donate $75 million more to help complete necessary improvements and advancements to the UCSF General Hospital, located in the Potrero Hill neighborhood. Chan did her residency at UCSF, thus the school and hospital's future is incredibly important to her. Education has continually been a priority in Chan's life as well. In a 2014 interview on The Today Show, she described the importance of having good teachers who presented her with opportunities she would have otherwise missed:

It was really my teachers that got me these opportunities to attend college, to go to medical school, and to be able to give back as a doctor today ... And then when I got to Harvard, it was even more opportunities that I didn't know existed. So their effects have only compounded over time.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has consistently donated to school systems, as well as innovative programs for providing equal opportunities to students around the country. Their $20 million gift to Education Superhighway will help the ambitious nonprofit provide reliable, fast internet in all public schools in the nation. As of this writing, 77 percent of schools are meeting Education Superhighway's connectivity goals. A majority of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative's donations this year have gone to nonprofits and organizations committed to helping public schools and K-12 students.

Fighting climate change has also been a consistent goal of the Initiative. Along with other tech heavy hitters, like Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Zuckerberg and even more philanthropists joined forces to launch the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, which aims to "invest in early-stage energy companies to get innovation out of the lab and into the marketplace with scalable technologies." The establishment of the coalition came just as the COP21 conference commenced in Paris.


Basically, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative allocates money to organizations around the country — and eventually, the world — in order to make it a better place for everyone. The charitable efforts of Zuckerberg and Chan echo the sentiments of the letter they wrote Max, which speaks of a better world for her, and for generations to come.