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Zuckerberg's Millions -- It's the Example That Counts

In a truly modern moment, Oprah Winfrey presented Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on her show back in September so he could tell the world about the $100 million he is gifting to the public school system of Newark, NJ.

Of course this is good news for the kids in Newark (assuming the grownups put the bucks to good use). But the cognoscenti are whispering that the real motivation behind Zuckerberg’s largesse is his desire to counter the unsympathetic portrayal he received in the recently-released film The Social Network, which chronicles Facebook’s rise.

As the Brits would say, that’s as may be. As concerned citizens, we can applaud Zuckerberg’s contribution to New Jersey kids’ futures. And as fundraisers, we can also cheer the philanthropic example he sets – not only as a guy with a lot of money he’s willing to share, but more importantly as a young guy with a lot of money he’s willing to share.

As Pete Cashmore pointed out on CNN.Com, most big-money giving is done by older individuals who have spent their lives earning it in the first place. But the tech boom has turned that model on its head. Now we’ve got kids (almost) richer than Croesus. And you might not expect folks that young to be philanthropically inclined.

So forget the gossip about his motivation: Mark Zuckerberg deserves the thanks of fundraising professionals because he’s pushed the envelope in the right direction by making a major gift at a younger age.

Why is it we so often tend to look for selfish motives in other people’s philanthropy? With Mark’s example, we can try to turn this event into a trend.

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