The Giving Pledge is a movement--small in members, but large in funds--that was initiated by Warren Buffet and Bill Gates and asks the world's billionaires, young and old, to do just that: pledge to give half of their wealth away before or after they die.
In September, Zuckerberg made a $100 million donation to Newark's public school system. Critics questioned the timing of that grant, which coincided perfectly with the release of the potentially damaging film The Social Network, a film said to portray Zuckerberg as greedy and friendless. But Newark Mayor Corey Booker defended the entrepreneur, saying that he had to convince Zuckerberg to not give anonymously and that the Facebook team was worried the move would be viewed as a publicity stunt.
"People wait until late in their career to give back. But why wait when there is so much to be done?" said Zuckerberg in a statement quoted by Reuters. "With a generation of younger folks who have thrived on the success of their companies, there is a big opportunity for many of us to give back earlier in our lifetime and see the impact of our philanthropic efforts."
Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz has also joined the campaign, as have private investor Ted Forstmann, Morningstar Chief Executive Joe Mansueto, and businessman Nicolas Berggruen.
The news is perhaps more symbolically relevant than tactical. With so much critique of the aid industry and how charity funds are used, is such a massive donation drive really useful and beneficial to the world or is the relevance in the fact that some of the world's leading players feel so strongly about wanting to make the world a better place?
The Giving Pledge is not only a perfect opportunity for charities and social enterprises to get even more serious about efficiency, but it also highlights the importance of informed donors, should those billions somehow go to waste on inefficient or corrupt NGOs.
Follow me, Jenara Nerenberg, on Twitter.
[Image: Flickr user deneyterrio]