Charity Fundraising to make a difference in this world
Thanks to a record donation of $10,569,002 to the Ressler-Gertz Foundation, actress Jami Gertz and her husband, Anthony Ressler, top the list of the 30 Most Generous Celebrities compiled by The Giving Back Fund, a non-profit organization that tracks philanthropic giving worldwide. Although not exactly a mainstream actress, Gertz’s deep-pocketed donation has much to do with the fact that Ressler is the co-founder of Ares Capital, a Los Angeles investment firm that controls more than $40 billion in assets, which has also recently expressed interest in buying the Dodgers.
Coming in second was musician Herb Alpert, who gave $9,104,829 to the Herb Alpert Foundation, which focuses on the arts, compassion and well being, followed by Mel Gibson, who signed a check of $6,853,020 to the AP Reilly Foundation, which he started to support the Holy Family Church.
Authors, actors, artists, comedians, and supermodels were among the celebrities who made this year’s list, which takes into account the largest donations to charity made by them in 2010, according to public records and interviews with charities known for their celebrity affiliations. The data was also compiled by interviewing publicists, attorneys, agents, agencies, and managers for information about their clients. (Donations made by a celebrity’s foundation were not included on the list, since there’s no way to track the source of that money, which could be money raised by the public and not necessarily donated by the celebrity.)
“Encouragement by example is the main reason we compile this list,”said Marc Pollick, president and founder of The Giving Back Fund. “One cannot help but be influenced by the generosity of his or her peers.” Pollick continued, “We are also often asked by the media and the public about which celebrities actually give the largest donations to charitable causes, so we decided it made sense to publish the research for all to see.”
It’s no surprise that celebrities like to have their name associated with good causes. It’s good PR, and the more good they do, the more the public loves them. Because of that, they have often being accused of using charity work only to improve their “brand.” Truth be told, charities also rely on celebrities to get press and help raise awareness. In other words, it is a virtuous (vicious?) cycle.
The question is — does it work both ways?
“Never say never but, in my experience, the fabled benefits of celebrity support have rarely lived up to the hype,” says Peter Stanford, a British journalist who’s on the board of several charities in the UK. “I have lost count of the number of charity chief executives and chairs who’ve told me that they pinned their hopes on a bumper payback because they had a famous face at a fund-raising event, or fronting a campaign, and then been disappointed.”
Justin Forsyth, the CEO of Save the Children, believes otherwise. “In my experience, the benefits of celebrity are not fabled but real – and can produce very concrete results. Without the campaigning energies of Bono, Bob Geldof and Richard Curtis, for example, I don’t believe 46 million more children would be in school today in some of the world’s poorest countries,” Forsyth countered, remembering the success of the Make Poverty History and Drop the Debt campaigns.
The book Exploring Public Relations, written by public relations and communications experts Ralph Tench and Liz Yeomans, attributes the effectiveness of celebrity endorsement to ‘credibility’ and ‘attention.’ The authors go on to say that celebrities can attract attention and this is the most vital ingredient of success in a world saturated with so much noise generated by media messages. If celebrities are fully informed and engaged with the cause they are promoting, the message can greatly influence the process of persuading others to support the cause.
An example of that premise is the collaboration between the late actor Christopher Reeve and the American Paralysis Association (APA). After Reeve was paralyzed in a horse-riding accident in 1995 he became connected with the APA, which over the next three years saw its revenue double to $5 million, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy. In fact, the results were so positive that the charity was rebranded as Christopher Reeve Foundation.
Lance Armstrong has had similar impact on cancer awareness. The famous US cyclist, a seven-time Tour de France champion and a survivor of testicular cancer, is the founder of the LiveStrong anti-cancer foundation, which annually helps millions of sick people, although critics have leveled chargesagainst it for spending much of its budget on buffing Armstrong’s personal brand. Besides the financial support of its founder, the foundation also raises funds through licensing arrangements with companies like Nike, Bayer and Oakley. Today, Livestrong has an yearly revenue of around $48 million.
Combined, the 30 Most Generous Celebrities donated nearly $64 million of their personal wealth to a variety of charities. Either for doing the good deed or simply for other reasons, these people certainly cannot be accused of not giving back.
Check out who made the 30 Most Generous Celebrities list:
1. Actress Jami Gertz and her husband Antony Ressler — $10,569,002
To the Ressler Gertz Foundation. Grants from the foundation include $1.7 million to the LA County Museum of Art, $400k to Cedar Sinai Medical Center.
2. Musician Herb Alpert –$9,104,829
To the Herb Alpert Foundation, which focuses on the arts, compassion, and well being.
3. Actor Mel Gibson — $6,853,020
To the A.P. Reilly Foundation, which he started to support Holy Family Church.
4. Director, Producer, Writer, George Lucas — $4,250,000
To Lucas Film Foundation then granted to The George Lucas Educational Foundation with a mission to inspire and empower young people to become responsible citizens, compassionate leaders, and to live their dream.
5. Writer Nora Roberts — $3,000,000
To the Nora Roberts Foundation, which support literacy. Additional areas of focus are: children’s programs, arts organizations, and humanitarian efforts, with local organizations being its priority.
6. NFL Player Ndamukong Suh — $2,600,000
$2 million to the Nebraska University athletic department and another $600,000 to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Engineering to endow a scholarship. It is the largest single gift ever from a former football player.
7. MLB Player Lance Berkman and his wife Cara — $2,412,245
To The Lord’s Fund, a foundation they established. Grants include $400k to Josiah Venture, a Christian youth movement in Eastern Europe, and $113k to Children’s Cup, a Christian organization focusing on “forgotten children” in Swaziland, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, and efforts are also underway in Vietnam and the Philippines.. Most of their giving is to Christian-based organizations.
8. Actress Meryl Streep and her husband Donald Gummer — $2,000,000
To Silver Mountain Foundation for the Arts, a foundation they established. Grants include $100k each to Oxfam America and Partners in Health; $1,225,000 to Vassar College. Total grantmaking for the year was more than $2.1 million.
9. Television Producer Marcia Carsey and her husband John Carsey — $1,870,000
To Carsey Family Foundation they established. Grants include $250k to Media Matters for America, $100k to Institute for America’s Future, $50k to Progressive Talent Initiative.
10. Simpsons’ Co-Creator Sam Simon — $1,800,000
To The Sam Simon Foundation to “save the lives of dogs to enrich the lives of people.” The Foundation manages a number of programs including a mobile veterinary unit, dogs for veterans, and dogs for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
11. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld — $1,766,000
To the Seinfeld Family Foundation that supports education, children’s services, health associations, and Jewish organizations; funding also for the arts.
12. Actress Barbra Streisand — $1,555,500
To the Barbra Streisand Foundation. Grants are distributed to a variety of charities and causes including the Barbra Streisand Women’s Cardiovascular Research and Education Program at Cedars Sinai, City Year, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, respectively.
13. Actor Matthew McConaughey — $1,537,292
To the Just Keep Livin’ Foundation that he established. Grants distributed include $88,000 to Communities in School Los Angeles West and $38,000 Communities in School Central Texas.
14. Writers Dean and Gerda Koontz — $1,500,000
To the Dean and Gerda Koontz Foundation. Grants include $750,000 to Canine Companions for Independence and $500,000 to Saint Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, CA.
15. Model Gisele Bundchen — $1,500,000
To the Red Cross for Haiti Relief.
16. Writer Isabel Allende — $1,017,247
To the Isabel Allende Foundation to support charities that empower and protect women. Founded in honor of her daughter, Paula Frias who passed away at 28. Grants include $500,000 to Oritel, which provides human services for low income families and $30,500 to the Global Fund for Women.
17. Actor Alec Baldwin — $1,005,131
To the Alec Baldwin Foundation. Grants include $50,000 to the NY Philharmonic, $42,500 to Waterkeeper Alliance, and $250,000 to the Carol M Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
18. Actress Sandra Bullock — $1,000,000
To Doctors Without Borders for Haiti Relief following the devastating earthquake.
19. NFL Player Eli Manning and his wife Abby — $1,000,000
To the University of Mississippi’s Ole Miss Opportunity Scholarship, which allows prospective students with an adjusted gross family income at or below $30,000 to attend the University of Mississippi.
20. Actress Will and Jada Smith — $900,000
To the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation. Grants included $126,000 to the Lupus Foundation, $200,000 to the Baltimore School for the Arts, and $52,000 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
21. Playboy Founder Hugh Hefner — $900,000
To Trust for Public Land to save the iconic Hollywood sign from being plowed under in order to make room for four luxury homes.
22. NBA Player Carmelo Anthony — $837,200
To Carmelo Anthony Foundation. Grants include $500,000 to Syracuse University and $302,000 to The Living Classroom Foundation.
23. Cyclist and seven-time winner of the Tour de France, Lance Armstrong – $700,648
To The LiveStrong Foundation, which he founded to improve the lives of people with cancer.
24. Writers Jonathan and Faye Kellerman — $627,700
To Jonathan and Faye Kellerman Foundation. Grants include $175,000 for Children’s Hospital of LA, $150,000 to USC/Kellerman Endowment, $25,000 to Boston Institute of Music.
25. MLB Player Mariano Rivera — $627,500
To the Mariano Rivera Foundation. Grants distributed included $150,000 to the Church of God Prophecy and $50,000 to the Brooklyn Tabernacle.
26. Singer/Songwriter Taylor Swift — $625,000
$500k to Hands on Nashville the Community Foundation of Middle Tennesee for Nashville’s flood relief efforts (Nashville Rising); $25,000 to the Wyomissing, PA school district for educational $100,000 check to rebuild Kids Kingdom, a playground in Hendersonville, Tennesee where she attended high school.
27. Daniel and Cara Whitney (Larry the Cable Guy) — $550,020
To Git-R-Done Foundation. Grants include $500,000 to the Child Advocacy Center and $525,000 to the Madonna Foundation.
28. Artist Jasper Johns — $500,000
To Low Road Foundation he established. Grants distributed include $50,000 to the Foundation for Contemporary Arts.
29. Golfer Davis Love — $424,379
To the Davis Love III Foundation, which he established. Grants distributed include $479,000 to the St. Presbyterian Church, $100,000 to Frederica Academy, $75,000 to Special Olympics, and $75,000 to Boys and Girls Club of Southeast GA.
30. Actress Victoria Principal — $342,665
To Victoria Principal Foundation. Grants distributed include $25,000 to Greenpeace Fund, $125,000 to Natural Resource Defense Council, $100,000 to Oceana.