Forbes.com's List of 10 Generous Celebs
... For your average citizen, charities offer a way to give back to society, feel connected to a common cause and even do some socializing--or, in some cases, social-climbing. For celebrities, philanthropy offers all of the above, plus the potential for major image and career enhancement.
There are, of course, good intentions behind celebrities' relationships with philanthropic causes. And being able to throw your star-studded weight behind a cause you believe in must be gratifying. But it certainly doesn't hurt to have the public think of you not just as a beautiful person but as a nice one, too. ...
: Debt AIDS Trade Africa (DATA)
U2's frontman has campaigned so widely and vehemently against the spread of AIDS and for debt relief in Africa that in February he was among the 191 nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize. But his philanthropic efforts don't start or end with DATA, the organization he co-founded in 2002. He has participated in fundraising concerts including Live 8, Live Aid and Band Aid 20. In 2003, U2 donated €40,000 to One in Four Ireland, a charity that helps survivors of sexual abuse.
: American Red Cross
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Bullock donated $1 million to the American Red Cross. After the tsunami of December 2004, she gave another $1 million to the relief effort.
Cage donated $1 million to the New Orleans relief effort after Hurricane Katrina decimated the city last year. He has also lent his support to Chrysalis, a Los Angeles-based charity for the homeless.
: The Jackie Chan Charitable Foundation
Chan was taken in by the Red Cross as a child after arriving in the U.S. from China. In 1998, he established his own foundation to help youth in Hong Kong, and in December 2004, he donated $64,000 to UNICEF to help tsunami victims in South Asia. He also recently donated $100,000 to Chrysalis, a Los Angeles-based charity that helps the homeless.
: Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Dion has a personal connection to the cause she began supporting in 1982; her own niece died of cystic fibrosis at the age of 16. The singer is now the foundation's Celebrity Patron and has raised money as well as donated fees from various concerts and appearances. After Hurricane Katrina, Dion gave $1 million to the American Red Cross' disaster relief fund. Proceeds from selected performances of her Las Vegas show have also gone to charitable causes.
: UNHCR-The United Nations Refugee Agency
The Academy Award-winning actress was selected to be a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 2001 and has since traveled around the world advocating refugee rights. According to the agency, her contributions to the cause total more than $3 million.
In January 2005, Paul and Heather McCartney donated $1.9 million to tsunami relief efforts. But the pair have another pet cause; the former Beatle was introduced to the Adopt-A-Minefield charity by his wife, who lost part of a leg in a car accident in 1993. McCartney made the original red "No More Land mines" T-shirt famous when he wore it on stage during his 2004 world tour.
: Special Olympics, After-School All-Stars
The former bodybuilder has supported a range of causes over the years. For more than two decades, he has been involved in Special Olympics, founded by his mother-in-law, Eunice Kennedy Shriver. In 2001, Schwarzenegger's charitable donations amounted to $4.1 million, which was divided among the Twin Towers fund, his after-school program, After-School All-Stars, and Nelson Mandela's children's fund, among others.
: Righteous Persons Foundation, Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation
The blockbuster filmmaker established the Righteous Persons Foundation to give away part of his profits from the movie Schindler's List, and beneficiaries have included Jewish causes around the world. In the wake of the film, Spielberg also created the Shoah Foundation (now part of the University of Southern California) to document the experiences of Holocaust survivors and witnesses. His philanthropy doesn't stop there: Spielberg donated $1.5 million to help with Hurricane Katrina recovery, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and gave $1.5 million to tsunami relief efforts.
: The Oprah Winfrey Foundation, Oprah's Angel Network
The beloved talk-show host is generous with her cash: According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, she gave nearly $52 million to charity in 2005 alone. That included $36 million to the Oprah Winfrey Foundation, which supports programs for women and children, and $3.5 million to Oprah's Angel Network, which she founded in 1998 to encourage fans and celebrities to give to charitable causes. She also donated $10 million to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Behind every modern-day celebrity is a roster of important relationships. Each star needs to be connected with an agent, a manager, a personal trainer, a full-time assistant and a significant other, be it a celeb-level husband/wife or a girlfriend/boyfriend.
Then there is the crucial affiliation with a charity.
For your average citizen, charities offer a way to give back to society, feel connected to a common cause and even do some socializing--or, in some cases, social-climbing. For celebrities, philanthropy offers all of the above, plus the potential for major image and career enhancement.
There are, of course, good intentions behind celebrities' relationships with philanthropic causes. And being able to throw your star-studded weight behind a cause you believe in must be gratifying. But it certainly doesn't hurt to have the public think of you not just as a beautiful person but as a nice one, too.
"The obvious benefit is the feel-good aspect of helping others," says Paula Greenfield
, vice president of The Celebrity Source
, a Los Angeles-based agency that links celebrities to charitable causes. "And, of course, they benefit from a public-relations standpoint. The more good they do, the more the public loves them."
Celebrities aren't the only ones feeling the love. The best thing about celebrity-charity relationships--aside from the lack of prenuptial agreements--is that they are mutually beneficial liaisons.
, executive director of the United Nations-affiliated organization Adopt-a-Minefield,
which boasts Paul McCartney
as a major supporter, describes a "ripple effect" from celebrity involvement with a charity.
"When people come to charity events and they see a celebrity, they want to know why the celebrity is there," she says. "They become interested and want to learn more about the charity and support the cause."
And that can have a serious affect on donor figures. After Christopher Reeve
was paralyzed in a horse-riding accident in 1995, he became connected to the American Paralysis Association
, which over the next three years saw its revenue double to $5 million, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy
. In fact, the charity is now known as the Christopher Reeve Foundation
"Celebrities get involved with charities because either they or a loved one has suffered from the same illness that the charity supports or because their friends and colleagues currently support or have supported that charity in the past," observes Adlai Wertman, a former investment banker who is now chief executive of Chrysalis
, a Los-Angeles based charity that helps the homeless.
, whose work as goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Refugee Agency is well known, has generated plenty of attention for the plight of refugees around the world. And over the past few years, she has made more than $3 million in her own contributions to the organization, it says.
So how exactly does a charity go about finding the perfect celebrity match?
One option is for the charity to be coy and wait for a celebrity to approach them
. But more often than not, charity directors use their personal connections to contact a celebrity. One thing leads to another and, if all goes well, a beautiful relationship blossoms.
, which provides corrective surgery to poor children with facial deformities, reached pop star Jessica Simpson
through her celebrity hairdresser, Ken Paves
. While working on Simpson's hair, Paves took the opportunity to show her an Operation Smile video, and after months of quiet courting, Simpson became Operation Smile's international youth ambassador. According the organization, she has generated $4 million in television news coverage alone.
For local charities, personal connections can be especially important.
"Hollywood doesn't 'do' local charities," Wertman observes. "They care about getting national attention. So it's very hard to get big names to support smaller charities since there's not as much publicity involved."
Chrysalis has been the exception to the rule. Last year, the organization received $1.2 million from Hollywood donors, and that figures is expected to increase by 10% to 15% per year.
It was an invitation to a fundraiser that sparked the relationship between Chrysalis and Brett Ratner
, the director of Rush Hour
. Through Ratner, the organization connected with various celebrities, including Salma Hayek
, Ice Cube
and Nicholas Cage
. Action star Jackie Chan
gave $100,000 to the charity, the largest single donation Chrysalis has ever received.
But sometimes it takes a major crisis--personal or public--to get prominent figures and A-listers to dip into their wallets. After the tsunami in 2004, NBC aired Tsunami Aid: A Concert of Hope
, a charity program littered with celebrity performances that raised over $18.3 million in a single night. Celebs from up and down the lists opened their hearts and wallets for the cause.
Billionaire entertainer Oprah Winfrey
, who is so generous with her earnings that she has set up two nonprofit organizations and last year alone donated more than $50 million, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy
, gave $11 million to help rebuild areas decimated by Hurricane Katrina. Of that, $10 million was in the form of a personal check, while her foundation kindly left a tip of $1 million to provide food for hurricane victims.
Now that's what we call giving back.