Alright, Alright, Alright: The World of Celebrity Philanthropy

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Sandra Bullock at a Warren Easton Charter School event.
Source: dosomething.org

Aside from being talented actors, writers, and directors, many of the men and women who walked the red carpet at the 86th Academy Awards are also private donors to philanthropic causes around the world.  Whether it is disaster relief, poverty, or global health, these artists have taken the initiative to start charities of their own to more directly help those in need. Some actors, such as Brad Pitt, give back to communities right here in the United States. Others, such as Matt Damon, have founded charities in Third World Countries.

The celebrity philanthropy-tracking website looktothestars.org spreads the word about singers, actors, and politicians who make charitable contributions to NGOs, private foundations, medical research centers, and more. While most of us are aware of Bono’s (RED) campaign or Paul McCartney’s involvement with Live 8, we should also be aware of lesser-known artists who continue to support philanthropic causes. Celebrities may choose to donate to an established foundation or create one of their own. Some celebrities have personal connections to the charities that they support, such as Senegalese-American singer Akon’s “Lighting Africa Project.” Steve McQueen, director of 12 Years A Slave, recently joined Anti-Slavery International, an organization based in the U.K. that fights for the rights of men and women who are victims of modern day slavery.

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Water.org founders Matt Damon and Gary White
Source: J. Adam Huggins/Water.org

Matthew McConaughey, who recently won Best Actor for his role in Dallas Buyers Club, founded the Just Keep Livin’ Foundation, a non-profit that promotes fitness and wellness in public schools. Best Actress winner Cate Blanchett focuses on environmental issues in her home country of Australia through the Australian Conservation Foundation. The ACF helps protect Australian forests and advocates for environmental regulation. Sandra Bullock, star of the brilliantly directed Gravity, supports Warren Easton Charter High School in New Orleans, which was badly damaged in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina. Bullock donated $1 million to the Red Cross in 2011 to support relief efforts in Japan after the devastating earthquake and tsunami. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Bullock donated $1 million to Doctors Without Borders, matching donations made by Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and George Clooney.

As these A-Listers already spend quite some time in the limelight, when they support a new charitable cause they bring national awareness to the issue or crisis at hand. Forbes examined a 2011 study that calculated how valuable celebrities are to their respective charities based on publicity value. Randall Lane, who reported on celebrity public impact for Forbes, said that celebrities have more than just money to give. The “currency that they [celebrities] use,” he explains “is their fame.” Jon Bon Jovi, Paul McCartney and Bono, ranked highest in terms of the publicity that they generate for charitable causes. By making countless public appearances, designing advertising campaigns, and utilizing social media to its maximum potential, these three singers prove that personal fame can provide for the public good.

To that we can all say…

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