Mark Zuckerberg's donation of 99% his Facebook shares, currently worth about $45bn (£30bn), to a new philanthropy project has been described as "phenomenal" by the editor of The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Stacy Palmer.

"The amount of money is almost record setting. It's one of the biggest gifts ever made to philanthropy, assuming that all that money ends up going to philanthropy. We don't know the value of his shares will be over time so we think it's a really substantial commitment. It's a really generous gesture," Palmer said.

The plan, which was posted on the Facebook founder's page, attracted more than 570,000 likes, including from singer Shakira, former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Melinda Gates, wife of Microsoft founder Bill Gates. The Gates and other high-profile billionaires such as Warren Buffett have set up foundations of their own to dedicate their massive fortunes to philanthropic endeavours.

Zuckerberg, 31, who will control the new initiative jointly with his wife, Priscilla Chan, while remaining in charge of the world's largest online social network, said he would sell or give up to $1bn (£0.66bn) in shares in each of the next three years. Palmer said the way Zuckerberg is setting up the foundation and what he intends to do with the money may be as important as the size of the gift.

"Instead of just putting money into a charitable foundation and making grants to charities, he's set it up in a structure that allows him to do investing, to do more lobbying and advocacy work. So he's clearly signalling that he thinks the old way of philanthropy doesn't work so well, so I don't think it's just about the dollars that's so important, but about the structure he's setting up that will allow him to make more of a difference."

Zuckerberg's move could inspire others

About $350bn (£232bn) is given away each year in the United States by charities, Palmer said. She says that this announcement from Zuckerberg may inspire others to follow suit.

"It could send a signal to everybody who has earned money in various ways, be it in the financial industry or what else, that we really need to think about giving back and committing to the social good. So it for sure sends a signal to everybody in Silicon Valley - whether it goes beyond that is one of the open questions, but now it's going to be a status symbol to say, you know, I gave my money away," Palmer said.

In welcoming the birth of his first child on his Facebook page, Zuckerberg posted a photo of himself, his wife and their daughter, Maxima, along with a post entitled A letter To Our Daughter. In the 2,220-word letter, Zuckerberg and Chan, a pediatrician, touched on issues including health, education, internet access and learning before announcing the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which aims to "advance human potential and promote equality."