Ten Things You Should Know About Celebrity Philanthropy

+ enlarge

1. Many celebrities become synonymous with the charitable causes they are most passionate about. Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert Redford, Daryl Hannah, Richard Branson, and Sting are known for their activism for environmental issues. Pamela Anderson, Alicia Silverstone, Paul McCartney and Ellen DeGeneres are celebrity voices for animal rights. On the health front, Sheryl Crow, Melissa Etheridge, Michael J. Fox, Magic Johnson, and Lance Armstrong all campaign consistently for various health causes. Public figures like Don Cheadle, Mia Farrow, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Clinton, and Ben Affleck regularly speak out about humanitarian causes.

2. Musicians are generally a philanthropic bunch, often aligning themselves with global issues and campaigning consistently to establish greater awareness. For British super group Coldplay, finding lasting solutions to poverty, suffering, and injustice via Fair Trade has been a focus for years.

3. Alicia Keys has established herself as a dedicated champion against AIDS by founding the Keep a Child Alive organization, which supplies antiretroviral medications to HIV positive children.

4. The Shriners Hospital for Children, a medical care facility that has offered free treatment to thousands of pediatric patients since 1922, has benefited significantly thanks to singer Justin Timberlake’s endorsement and fundraising support. According to the Daily Beast’s Celebrity Impact Ratings, he delivered $9,262,381 in philanthropic value to the organization in 2009. Another music powerhouse, Madonna, has raised an estimated $5,540,068 for her nonprofit Raising Malawi, working to provide for orphans in the small African nation.

5. Of Forbes’ top 100 powerful celebrities in 2009, Angelina Jolie tops the list with a paycheck of $27 million and an annual charitable impact of $3,015,070. A goodwill ambassador for the United Nation’s refugee agency UNHCR since 2001, she has visited refugee camps in well over 20 countries and this year alone has personally donated more than $13 million to non-profit organizations, including $1 million to Human Rights Watch.

6. In 2009, the top five earning actors in Hollywood were Harrison Ford, Adam Sandler, Will Smith, Eddie Murphy, and Nicholas Cage.

In terms of philanthropic efforts, Ford serves as executive committee member of Conservation International, one of the leading environmental research groups in the world, patrols the Hudson River in his helicopter as an airborne watchdog on behalf of the environmental group Riverkeeper, and generates an annual charitable impact of $526,000. Sandler has been credited with contributing $1 million to his hometown Boys and Girls Club, helping to raise $2 million in the second annual “Ante Up for Africa” poker event for Darfur charities and donating 400 Sony Playstations to Israeli victims of 2006’s month-long war with Lebanon. The Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation offers financial support to inner-city communities via educational and developmental resources, while Cage has offered a total of $3 million to Hurricane Katrina victims and rehabilitation for child soldiers. Last but not least, Murphy has supported a wide variety of charitable causes from health, creative arts, family, cancer and homeless charities to the Martin Luther King Jr. Center, which keeps the legacy and teachings of the civil rights movement activist alive.

7. Among the charitable endeavors that are believed to have the most questionable business practices, the Wyclef Jean Foundation, which is dedicated to offering educational, environmental and emergency relief in Haiti, hasn’t filed a U.S. tax form since 2000 and its founder owes $183,172 in personal income tax to the state of New Jersey. In 2006, Tyra Banks’ TZONE Foundation for disadvantaged teenage girls spent $34,611 on operational and payroll costs as opposed to the $31,900 it dispensed to community groups.

8. On the slightly odd charitable side of things, Michael Jackson’s big sister La Toya collaborated on a decadent cream, caramel, and chocolate topped strawberry-raspberry milkshake earlier this year with an L.A. milkshake shop on behalf of an AIDS charity. The limited edition beverage was launched with the hopes of raising at least $1 million.

9. Comedian Drew Carey takes top honors for generating quirky yet creative charitable buzz with his social networking campaign on behalf of the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Carey has pledged to donate $1 million if he reaches one million Twitter followers by the end of the year.

10. This year, Global Network and UNICEF ambassador Alyssa Milano chose to donate her birthday for public contributions of up $50,000 to charity: water, an organization that provides water around the world. In her own words, Milano explained, “I believe it is innately within us, as warriors of the human spirit, to give to those less fortunate.”

By Elizah Leigh for

Photo courtesy of Photo by Airman 1st Class Tabitha M. Mans, Wikimedia Commons


Loading comments...