We all wish we could donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to our favorite charities and causes. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the capacity to make seriously major gifts. Celebrities bringing in millions each year do have the extra cash to make a huge impact and many of them do use their wealth and influence in positive ways. Here are ten of the most charitable celebrities:
Oprah Winfrey has used her talk show to make giving look fun for decades. This billionaire has donated millions of dollars.
Oprah’s foundation, The Angel Network, was launched in 1998 and the initial ask raised more than $3.5 million dollars. By 2010, when the organization stopped accepting donations, it had raised $80 million dollars. Every cent of that $80 million was donated to charity because Oprah covered all administrative costs of the network.
Oprah has also donated millions of her own money to many causes. She gave $10 million to help with relief efforts after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, $12 million to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History, $2.5 million to the National Council of Negro Women, and $1 million to the Green Belt Movement International.
These figures are astounding, but there is more…The majority of Oprah’s gifts have been focused on education. In 2012, Forbes estimated that she had given about $400 million to educational causes! This includes nearly 400 Morehouse College scholarships, $10 million to an organization called A Better Chance, and $40 million to the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in South Africa.
Oprah is clearly one of the most generous celebrities the world has ever seen!
This mega pop star has been doing some seriously good deeds. She has helped causes ranging from Wounded Warriors, to natural disaster relief, to schools, to individuals. Swift was even placed at #1 on DoSomething.org’s list of Celebrities Gone Good.
She has supported causes by donating cash, auction items, and her time and voice.
In 2008, Swift donated $100,000 to the Red Cross to help flood victims in Iowa. She helped even more flood victims in 2010 when she gave $500,000 during a telethon in Nashville, Tennessee. And in 2011, Swift gave $250,000 to Nicks Kids, a charity started by Alabama football coach, Nick Saban, to help with tornado relief in Western Alabama.
More recently, Swift gave $50,000 to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for a cancer center and made a donation to the Scholastic Possible Fund so that 25 schools would be able to each receive 1,000 books.
During Swift’s Summer 2015 tour, she got word of a fan who missed her concert because she was undergoing treatment for Leukemia. Swift reached out to the family and donated $50,000.
She has also donated signed guitars to causes like PETA and Wounded Warrior Project and her prom dress to a charity called DonateMyDress.org – the dress raised $1,200!
This seven-time Grammy winner may have been through some ups and downs as far as her image goes, but her generosity should never be underestimated!
We all remember Sir Elton John’s 1997 hit single, Candle in the Wind. He raised $40 million with sales from this moving tribute and gave the proceeds to Princess Diana’s Diana, Princes of Wales Memorial Fund. These sales helped to fund more than 400 projects that were close to the Princess’s heart before her tragic death.
This may have been Sir Elton’s most publicized act of charity, but he has done much more. In 1992, he formed the Elton John AIDS Foundation. This foundation has raised an astonishing amount – more than $125 million – to support programs in 55 countries to help prevent and educate people about this disease.
Sir Elton almost always comes in as the most generous musician. In 2004 he won the honor by donating over $43 million of his own money to organizations around the world!
Most recently, in December of 2015, Sir Elton and his partner, David Furnish, celebrated their tenth anniversary by making a pledge to support and help LGBT people all over the world who are facing discrimination. So expect to hear much more of Sir Elton’s generosity in the coming years!
You can’t think about charitable celebrities without thinking of U2’s frontman Bono. Inspired to start living a more charitable life in 1979 after seeing The Secret Policeman’s Ball, Bono has done a world of good since.
His biggest contributions are focused on fighting poverty and preventable diseases. Bono has created or helped to create several organizations:
- The ONE Campaign brought together 11 advocacy and humanitarian organization working in Africa to fight disease and poverty.
- DATA stands for Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa. Founded in 2002, this organization is striving to help Africa catch up with the rest of the developed nations.
- (RED)’s manifesto states that they want this generation to be the one to deliver an AIDS free generation. (RED) has teamed up with companies who donate some of their proceeds every time someone buys a (RED) product.
- Edun is a global fashion brand that sources production and encourages trade in Africa.
For all of his good work, Bono has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize three times and, in 2007, he was honored by being knighted.
This Academy Award winner has been referred to as Hollywood’s highest paid actress. And she certainly puts her salary to good use. In addition to adopting children with her husband, Brad Pitt, Jolie has been very generous in giving both time and treasure to Doctors without Borders, Yele Haiti Foundation, Wyclef Jean’s Clean Streets project, and the Red Cross.
Jolie says her mother, who passed away from ovarian cancer in 2007, inspired her philanthropy. Her mother taught her to “live a life of use to others.” To honor her mother, Jolie and her brother made an undisclosed donation to the Los Angeles Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Most of Pitt and Jolie’s efforts are through their foundations, The Jolie-Pitt Foundation and the Maddox Jolie Pitt Foundation. These foundations work internationally to eradicate poverty and conserve wildlife. Over the past decade this duo has donated around $30 million through their foundations.
In 2013, Jolie was honored with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. This award, given to her at the Fifth Annual Governor’s Awards, is bestowed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
While some celebrities choose to spread their wealth and time over a wide variety of causes and charities, WWE Superstar John Cena has found his calling with a single organization – Make-A-Wish. He currently holds the record for most wishes granted – in fact, no one is anywhere near challenging him!
He began granting wishes in 2004 and has never looked back. In November of 2015, Cena granted his 500th wish! Cena’s motto, “Never Give Up,” has given hundreds of children hope and shows them that he will keep fighting alongside them. Not surprisingly, Cena is the most requested celebrity among Make-A-Wish Wish Granters.
Additionally, Cena has headed up WWE’s partnership with Susan G. Komen for the Cure Breast Cancer Organization. This partnership has raised over $2 million since 2012.
While he and his Ocean’s 11 co-stars may have been up to no good in the movie series, Clooney has lead this group to perform some extraordinary charitable work.
Clooney, along with Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle, and producer Jerry Weintraub, founded an organization called Not on Our Watch. According to the website, Not on Our Watch “is committed to robust advocacy and research in support of global human rights.” They focus on stopping genocide in areas including Darfur, Burma, and Zimbabwe.
Also a big supporter of the United Way, Clooney is on their Board of Directors and donated $1 million to the Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund.
Clooney credits his dad with teaching him “to help look out for people that are less fortunate than you and to challenge people that are in power.” He has clearly taken his father’s words to heart.
Another Grammy winner using her fame and fortune to help others. Beyonce has created her own foundations and donated hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Beyonce and Kelly Rowland cofounded the Survivor Foundation in 2005 to support families affected by natural disasters. Originally founded to assist families affected by Hurricane Katrina, this foundation helped to provide transitional housing in Houston and went on to support families after Hurricane Ike.
Beyonce also founded the Beyonce Cosmetology Center. This organization, which she started with her mother, provides training for individuals recovering from alcohol and drug addictions.
Recently, she has been a major supporter, both financially and verbally, of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. In addition to speaking out, she and her husband, Jay Z, provided thousands of dollars in bail money to help protesters in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri.
Not surprisingly, billionaire filmmaker George Lucas, focuses most of his charitable efforts on education.
In 2010, Lucas joined other billionaires signing on to Bill Gates and Warren Buffet’s Giving Pledge. This pledge states that he will give at least half of his wealth away by the time of his death. In his pledge letter, Lucas wrote, “I am dedicating the majority of my wealth to improving education. It is the key to the survival of the human race. We have to plan for our collective future — and the first step begins with the social, emotional, and intellectual tools we provide to our children. As humans, our greatest tool for survival is our ability to think and to adapt — as educators, storytellers, and communicators our responsibility is to continue to do so.”
Putting his words to work, Lucas founded the George Lucas Educational Foundation and the website Edutopia, which emphasize project-based learning rather than textbooks and standardized tests.
DiCaprio got started in philanthropy at a very early age. When he was only 24 years old, he started his own foundation, The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. The mission of the foundation is to protect the world’s last wild places. The main focuses are to protect wildlife, save our oceans, restore wildlands, and empower communities. The foundation’s most recent gala in 2015 raised over $40 million!
In addition to making personal and foundation donations, DiCaprio has worked hard to show how we can all make a difference. He has made several films, including The 11th Hour, to inform the community about environmental issues. And he has used his media presence to encourage others to take action.