Many of us wonder what movie stars, athletes, CEOs, and other celebrities do with their extra cash. Outside of the glitz and glamor, many of the rich and famous donate to charitable causes.
Some celebs donate anonymously to avoid the extra publicity. But others may form foundations or use their altruism to promote a specific cause.
So just for fun, let’s take a look at where some celebs donate their money.
Table of Contents
- Food Pantries
- Domestic Violence
- Shelter and Homeless Aid
- International Aid
- 2021 Charitable Contribution Rules
Hunger is a growing problem even in the United States. Food pantry donations have become more critical during the current pandemic. Many food banks are seeing record demand and the rich and famous are lending a helping hand.
Stephen Curry and Ayesha Curry
Professional basketball star Stephen Curry and his wife Ayesha Curry have a heart for helping impoverished children in the Oakland and Bay Area by launching Eat.Learn.Play in July 2019.
Eat.Learn.Play has three mission objectives:
- Eat: End childhood hunger
- Learn: Access to a quality education
- Play: Provide safe places for all children to play and be active
The organization plays a pivotal role during the pandemic by partnering with community organizations to distribute aid. So far, Eat.Learn.Play has provided over 6.5 million meals and over 10 million pounds of groceries during the pandemic to Oakland-area families.
Another basketball legend, Michael Jordan, donated $2 million of his proceeds from the Netflix documentary The Last Dance to Feeding America food pantries.
Musician Kanye West has donated over 300,000 meals through the Los Angeles Dream Center. The center claims these meals helped feed seniors needing meal delivery.
Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, and one of the world’s richest billionaires, announced a $100 million donation to Feeding America in April 2020.
In 2020, Bezos also pledged up to $25 million to All in WA supporting various causes in Washington State. Another Bezos-founded company, Blue Origin, is producing face shields for frontline workers.
One charitable cause that can be easy to overlook is ending domestic violence. As many households struggle more than ever, a study finds domestic abuse is increasing.
Oprah Winfrey may no longer have a daytime show to give away cars and other items to the studio audience. But Ms. Winfrey is a long-time advocate of helping abuse victims.
She also runs several different organizations that support a variety of domestic and international causes. Here two most notable organizations are Oprah’s Angel Network and the Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation.
Most recently, Oprah donated $12 million in 2020 to five cities to help underserved communities during the pandemic.
As a child, Halle Berry witnessed the domestic abuse of her mother. She is one of the most vocal celebs about helping domestic abuse victims. She supports the Los Angeles-based Jenesse Center which operates several shelters.
Harry Potter author JK Rowling donated more than £1 million ($1.35 million USD) in 2020 to support domestic abuse victims and the homeless. The donation splits between the United Kingdom-based Crisis and Refuge charities.
Shelter and Homeless Aid
Food, clothing and shelter are the basic human needs. Food pantries receive a lot of aid and so does housing for the struggling and homeless.
Helping homeless teenagers is a passionate cause of singer and actress Miley Cyrus. She launched the Happy Hippie Foundation in 2015. The foundation helps struggling youth across the United States find shelter and get medical aid.
Former president Jimmy Carter is better-known today for helping build houses with Habitat for Humanity. He has helped build over 4,000 homes in the last 35 years. Through the Carter Work Project, volunteers of any experience level can help at local build events.
Unfortunately, no build events are happening in 2021 due to the pandemic.
Having access to quality education is one of the best ways to invest in yourself. But impoverished youth struggle to get the same opportunities as other communities. Academic institutions at all grade levels are also in desperate need of funds.
Mackenzie Scott (the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos) is one of the most philanthropic of the rich and famous. Ms. Scott is donating nearly $4.2 billion to 384 organizations across various cause types including education, racial equity, fundamental democracy and racial equity.
Some of the notable donations are to several historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU) that typically struggle to maintain endowment sizes. Scott is making the highest-ever one-time donations for Morgan State University ($40 million) and Prairie View A&M University ($50 million).
Claflin, Virginia State and Dillard University are also HBCUs also receiving donations.
Local chapters of other organizations receiving donations include:
- ACE (Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs)
- Feeding America
- Meals on Wheels
- United Way
Rapper Jay-Z (whose real name is Shawn Carter) uses the Shawn Carter Foundation to provide educational opportunities to those with economic hardship. The foundation launched in 2003 with Shawn and his mother, Gloria. Over $4 million in education aid has been distributed so far.
Paul Tudor Jones II
The average household may not be familiar with the name Paul Tudor Jones II. But this famous hedge fund manager launched the Robin Hood Foundation in 1988.
The primary goal of Robin Hood is to reduce poverty in New York City. In 2010, for instance, Robin Hood gave over $200 to children on welfare in New York State to buy school supplies.
Over 200 organizations receive aid each year, with many being education-related.
Some of the notable recipients include:
- Achievement First: Public charter schools in Brooklyn
- Association to Benefit Children: Preschool programs and other aid services
- Avenues for Justice: Alternatives to jail terms for teens
- Blue Engine: Improve student performance in math and English
- Bottom Line: Counseling for first-generation college students
- BronxWorks: Job training programs
Multiple celebs and successful Wall Street investors donate to Robin Hood. Some notable celebrity supporters include Alicia Keys, Jay-Z, Ben Affleck, Lady Gaga and will.i.am, according to Look to the Stars.
We periodically see celebrity collaborations to provide aid for one-time causes. One classic example is Band Aid in the 1980s. Over 30 musicians came together to produce Do They Know It’s Christmas? to help end famine in Ethiopia.
The rich and famous also support a variety of international causes on an ongoing basis today.
Bill and Melinda Gates
Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ claim to fame is founding Microsoft. You may not realize that he stepped down as Microsoft CEO in 2000 to focus on philanthropy. In 2010, Gates and Warren Buffett launched the Giving Pledge challenging the world’s wealthiest people to donate at least half of their wealth during their lifetime.
He and his wife, Melinda, also steer the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to support various international causes.
- Improve global health
- Reduce extreme poverty
- Reduce world hunger
The Gates Foundation also promotes sustainability efforts in the developing world to protect the environment. In the United States, the foundation promotes education, libraries, internet access and emergency relief.
Since the foundation launched in 1997, over $54 billion in grants has been made (Q4 2019).
Best known as the most famous investor of our lifetime, Warren Buffett also donates much of his wealth to many causes. As co-founder of the Giving Pledge, he is committing to donate over half of his wealth.
Taking it a step further, Buffett pledges to give away 99% of his wealth while alive and after his death.
In 2019, Buffett donated $2.7 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He also supports Smile Train, which treats cleft lip and palate in the impoverished world.
Actress and singer Selena Gomez became a UNICEF ambassador in 2009. She encourages young people to donate to international causes – and charity in general.
One notable project she participated in is Tap Project. The Tap Project works to get clean drinking water to developing nations in a variety of ways. One of which is to sell tap water from a celebrity’s home town with their picture on the bottle. So you can actually buy your favorite celebrity’s tap water.
Selena is also making personal donations and portions of her music royalties to COVID-19 relief programs.
Climate change, clean water sources and sustainable development are worthy of attention too.
Actor Leo DiCaprio is one of the best-known celebrity climate activists today. His Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation has awarded over $200 in charitable grants for these causes:
- Climate change
- Wildlife and landscape protection
- Marine life and oceans
- Indigenous rights
In 2020, the DiCaprio Foundation donated over $3 million to help provide relief for the horrific Australian wildfires.
DiCaprio is on the leadership board of the World Wildlife Fund.
Gisele Bundchen has a lengthy professional resume. What you may not realize is that Gisele is an active environmentalist.
She is a United Nations Global Goodwill Ambassador. She was also named the Best Green International Celebrity at the 2011 Green Awards.
In her native Brazil, she has fought to stop the building of dams and also bring clean drinking water to her hometown.
She financially supports environmental causes by donating a portion of sales from her Ipanema Gisele Bündchen footwear brand. Proceeds help protect the Amazon rainforest.
2021 Charitable Contribution Rules
Are these celebrity charity donations inspiring you to increase your generosity? If so, your cash and non-cash donations can qualify for a tax deduction up to 60% of the annual adjusted gross income.
For tax year 2021, you can deduct qualifying contributions when you file an itemized tax return. Your deductions must be above $12,550 for individuals and $25,100 for joint filers.
If you make multiple donations or make substantial charitable grants, you may consider opening a donor-advised fund. These funds can make the charity screening process and recordkeeping easier.
You can also maximize your deductions since donor-advised fund contributions can qualify for a tax deduction for the current tax year. If you’re not ready to donate the entire contribution amount, you can donate the cash in a future year.
Here’s more about donor-advised funds.
It’s unnecessary to be on a Hollywood A-List or be one of the world’s richest people to donate to charity. The rich and famous use their wealth to support personal causes and bring attention to everyday issues.
If you’d like to start being more charitable here are some resources: