Chan Zuckerberg Initiative: Advancing Human Potential and Promoting Equality

Profile: Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

 IMPORTANT: The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is not likely to offer any funding opportunities to NGOs at this time. It is not a grant giving foundation but a company that also invests in social enterprises.

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 Founded on: 1 December 2015

 Location: Menlo Park, CA, United States


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 Mission: The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative seeks to advance human potential and promote equality.

 Thematic areas:

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  • Personalized learning
  • curing disease
  • connecting people and
  • building strong communities

Geographic areas: US and global

 Applications: Does not seem to currently be accepting applications

 Top people:

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  • Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook Founder);
  • Priscilla Chan (working pediatrician);
  • Jim Shelton (former U.S. Department of Education deputy secretary);
  • Cori Bargmann (neuroscientist at Rockefeller University)

Assets: Unknown

Do to the LLC designation, the Initiative is not required to publish total assets. However, the Founders have stated:

  •  There will be a maximum budget of $1 billion per year for the first three years;
  • $3 billion will be spent over the next decade specifically towards curing diseases;
  • They have pledged to give away 99% of their Facebook shares, currently valued at $45 billion, within their lifetime.

Grant sizes: Unknown

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Currently seems to favor large (likely in the tens to hundreds of million in size) social impact investments instead of traditional grants.

Previously funded:

  • Andela–Andelarecruits the most talented developers on the African continent, shapes them into technical leaders, and places them as full-time distributed team members with companies that range from Microsoft and IBM to dozens of high-growth startups.
  • Bridge International Academies – Bridge International Academies is the world’s largest education innovation company serving the 700 million families who live on less than $2 USD per day.
  • BYJU’S– BYJU’s has become India’s largest Education Technology (Learning) company, that is reinventing how students learn, through its learning app. Since its launch in 2015, the learning app has gained over 3.5 million students on its platform.
  • Startup:Education– Startup:Education is a not-for-profit grantmaking organization established in 2010 by Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan to improve access to high-quality education for all students. Startup:Educationis now part of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
  • Zuckerberg Education Ventures – Zuckerberg Education Ventures makes investments in innovative education companies in the US and internationally to improve student learning and prepare learners for meaningful careers and lifelong success. Ventures makes investments in innovative education companies in the US and is now part of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.


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  • The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is unlikely to be a good opportunity for NGOs. The Initiative has a very small staff with limited capacity to assess applications. It is registered as a for-profit Limited Liability Company (LLC) which limits the opportunity to give grants to non-US NGOs. As a US-based LLC it can claim a tax deduction for donations to US-based NGOs, however it has and will likely continue to focus its investments in SMEs and social enterprises.
  • Some controversy surrounds the Initiative. While all have lauded the Zuckerberg’s potential generosity, many have questioned the intent behind forming an LLC instead of a traditional foundation. Some skeptics suggest that the overriding motive is to maintain control over Facebook, while limiting transparency. Regardless, the Zuckerberg couple have signed the Giving Pledge and have been very generous individual donors.This is likely to continue even outside of the Initiative. Additionally, Startup:Education is a possible source of future grant funding.
  • In recent years, new terms such as “impact investing” and “philanthrocapitalism” have circulated the development field as modern and “new” forms of philanthropy. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is clearly a part of this trend, but the net benefit to NGOs, especially those outside of the US, is not yet clear.
  • The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative will be a large player in development over the next few decades. FundsforNGOs will continue to monitor the Initiative for further developments and recommendsother NGOs with available capacity do the same.

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