Philanthropic agencies last month eagerly anticipated Facebook's initial public stock offering, which tech industry analysts said might create some 850 new millionaires.
They hoped they'd get to "like" some of the newfound wealth, too.
While the early performance of the stock has fallen below expectations, anticipation remains high in the non-profit community.
"There are a lot of people who are philanthropy-watchers who are looking to see what's going to come of all of this money," says Leslie Lenkowsky, professor of philanthropic studies at The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.
In a February guest column in The San Jose Mercury News in California, E. Chris Wilder, executive director of the Valley Medical Center Foundation in San Jose, encouraged any new Facebook millionaires and billionaires to share with non-profits and charities in the community. He noted that compared with other metropolitan areas, California's Silicon Valley "underperforms when it comes to giving."
The numbers support his opinion. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, only two of the 20 most generous individual donors in the USA last year are from the technology world — Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and eBay founder and Chairman Pierre Omidyar and his wife, Pam.
"Their hearts are not here yet," Wilder told USA TODAY. "They are not from Silicon Valley — so many folks are from somewhere else — and that's where their hearts are. They may be giving to their alma mater or the country they were born in."
Giving patterns vary
Mixed approaches to philanthropy in the technology sector are longstanding. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, started by the Microsoft co-founder, is now the largest grant-maker in the USA, its $37.4 billion in assets more than triple those of the Ford Foundation, the next on the list, according to philanthropic analysts at the Foundation Center. Bill Gates also co-founded, with Warren Buffett, The Giving Pledge, encouraging America's wealthiest to pledge to give most of their fortunes to the charities of their choice during their lifetimes or when they die.
By contrast, the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs had virtually no public record of charitable giving, Lenkowsky said.
Internet companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter place strong emphasis on using their technological expertise as a way to give, said Margaret Coady, director of the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, a Wall Street-based non-profit co-founded in 1999 by the late actor and philanthropist Paul Newman.
Google in recent years has touted its search engine's ability to track flu trends around the world. Its Google Person Finder saw more than 600,000 entries as people searched for missing loved ones after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March 2011, said Shona Brown, senior vice president of Google's philanthropic arm, Google.org.
"I love reading about what Google is doing with their search engine. And Facebook can put up a 'donate' button, and suddenly, you've got more people doing organ donations than you've ever had," Coady said.
Google hands out millions