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Young Internet entrepreneurs embrace philanthropy

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter's Biz Stone, Craigslist's Craig Newmark, and many others have turned their entrepreneurial skills to solving the world's social problems.

By Cody SwitzerThe Chronicle of Philanthropy / January 24, 2012

Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, set up a charity last year with his wife, Livia, focusing on small, local projects that produce results. 'It feels like we are making an impact,' Mr. Stone says.

Adam Hunger/Reuters/File

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When Mark Zuckerberg, the 27-year-old co-founder of Facebook, announced last year that he was giving $100-million to set up a foundation to help Newark, N.J., public schools, he became one of the highest profile examples of an increasingly common type of big donor: the Internet geek gone good.

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Mr. Zuckerberg follows donors like eBay’s Pierre Omidyar and Jeff Skoll and AOL’s Steve Case down what’s becoming a well-worn path for Internet entrepreneurs.

Those entrepreneurs and company officials listed on this year’s Forbes ranking of the richest Americans – who represent Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Google, Salesforce.com, Yahoo, and others – account for at least $1.54-billion in gifts announced to the public over their lifetimes, according to a Chronicle tally (and that’s not including Bill Gates, who has given more than $28-billion).

Mr. Zuckerberg, Mr. Omidyar, Mr. Skoll, and Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz have also signed the Giving Pledge, devoting themselves to giving away a big share of their combined $29.9 billion.

Many more young Internet entrepreneurs­ are giving big, setting up foundations, building charity into their companies, and serving on boards relatively early in their lives. They give to causes such as education and health care as well as projects designed to create economic opportunity and expand access to technology.

And they aren’t waiting to make a difference.

“Internet entrepreneurs work in real time and see results in real time,” says Marc Benioff, the founder and chief executive of Salesforce.com, who has given at least $101-million to charity. “It’s not a group that’s going to wait until they die to make a difference.”

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