There are LOTS of celebrities who are generous with their time, money and influence when it comes to the causes they love. So, in the unlikely event I'm ever invited to a swanky Hollywood cocktail party, I thought it would be a fun conversation starter to ask the fellow guests to tell me about the causes they believe in. I know this conversation would take right off if I happen to find myself sipping a martini next to George Clooney, Bono, or Bill Gates. For the record, I would be way too nervous to drink a martini in front of these guys. In fact, there’s a good chance I would just cry and hyperventilate.
George Clooney is co-founder (along with Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, David Pressman, and Jerry Weintraub) of Not on Our Watch whose mission is to focus global attention and resources towards putting an end to mass atrocities around the world. Drawing upon the powerful voices of artists, activists, and cultural leaders, Not On Our Watch generates lifesaving humanitarian assistance and protection for the vulnerable, marginalized, and displaced. We encourage governing bodies to take meaningful, immediate action to protect those in harm’s way. Where governments remain complacent, Not On Our Watch is committed to stopping mass atrocities and giving voice to their victims.
U2 front man Bono is also a well-known activist who cofounded ONE. ONE is a grassroots advocacy and campaigning organization that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa, by raising public awareness and pressuring political leaders to support smart and effective policies and programs that are saving lives, helping to put kids in school and improving futures.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is guided by the belief that every life has equal value, and works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life.
There’s a good chance you already know about these men and the causes they passionately align with. But here are a few other famous people who decided to create foundations to further the causes closest to them.
You know David Lynch as the director of brilliant and creepy films like Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet. But did you know he is also founder and chairman of the Board of Trustees of the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace?
The David Lynch Foundation was established in 2005 to fund the implementation of scientifically proven stress-reducing modalities including Transcendental Meditation, for at-risk populations such as underserved inner-city students; veterans with PTSD and their families; American Indians suffering from diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high suicide rates; homeless men participating in reentry programs striving to overcome addictions; and incarcerated juveniles and adults.
Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher founded The Demi and Ashton Foundation (DNA) to help end child sex slavery. DNA has created and supported programs that have educated the general public and law enforcement about the issue of human trafficking and that have helped strengthen support networks for survivors. Programs focus on reducing demand, disrupting the marketplaces in which these transactions take place, and helping educate vulnerable children about the realities of trafficking.
Music legend Sting founded The Rainforest Foundation back in 1989 with his wife Trudie Styler, after they saw first-hand the destruction of the Amazon rainforests, and the devastating impact it had on the lives of the indigenous peoples who lived there.
Over the last 20 years the Foundation has expanded and diversified. Today there is the New York-based Rainforest Foundation Fund, which is generously backed by Sting. This provides funding, over USD 1.5 million in 2007, for three autonomous organisations - Rainforest Foundation US, Rainforest Foundation Norway, Rainforest Foundation UK. These organisations directly support projects in more than 20 countries that protect tropical rainforests and the people that live in them.
Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne and Graham Nash, along with longtime energy activists and colleagues, Harvey Wasserman and Tom Campbell, helped organize NukeFree.org as an on-going grassroots campaign and website working to defeat up to $50 billion in proposed loan guarantees for building new atomic reactors. Going forward, NukeFree.org is committed to preventing the construction of new nuclear reactors and helping to pave the way for an energy economy based on renewables, efficiency and conservation.
Bernadette Peters and Mary Tyler Moore started Broadway Barks because of their passion for animals. Originally conceived as a program to promote the adoption of shelter animals, Broadway Barks has evolved into an event that has not only focused on the plight of homeless animals but has opened the door of communication and fostered a spirit of community among the number shelters and rescue groups working throughout the city.
Rosie O’Donnell is the inspiration behind another New York-based organization. Rosie’s Theater Kids is dedicated to providing quality instruction in music and dance at no cost to New York City public schools or students. In Manhattan, thousands of children live near the “Great White Way” but never have the opportunity to step inside one of the theaters and experience Broadway. As Rosie says, it’s “like living in Hawaii and not having access to the beach.”
It probably comes as no surprise that Angelina Jolie is on this list. In 2003, she created the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation (MJP) for the conservation of Cambodia’s endangered Cardamom Mountains’ northern territory. Formally known as the Maddox Jolie Project and based in Cambodia's rural and impoverished northwest, the initial focus of its conservation work was on the protection of Samlout National Park (Samlout Protected Area), Samlout contains most of the region’s biodiversity: forests, freshwater ecosystems, and endangered species. As more resources became available, MJP’s operations expanded into other areas such as reforestation, community protected area, park management and integrated rural development.
Back to the Future star Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 1991. He became an activist for research for a cure, and then eventually started The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. The Michael J. Fox Foundation is dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease through an aggressively funded research agenda and to ensuring the development of improved therapies for those living with Parkinson’s today.
You can also check out http://www.looktothestars.org/ to see how other famous people are using their resources and fame to make the world a better place.
What celebrity-founded charity organization do you think should be added to the list?
Coming soon...charities started by famous athletes. Stay Tuned!