News and analysis
April 04, 2017

Celebrity Philanthropists: Which Ones Go the Extra Mile

Most celebrities do some kind of charity work — it’s good public relations — but a few stand out for going the extra mile.

Some like George Clooney, Angelina Jolie, Matt Damon, and Michael J. Fox, have devoted considerable time to using their fame to help groups working on big problems like genocide, poverty, or disease. Others, like director George Lucas and Hollywood icon Kirk Douglas and his wife, Anne, have given tens of millions of dollars to support causes like education, the arts, science, senior care, homelessness, and conditions like dementia.

Here are some other stars who have produced big results for charity but aren’t as widely recognized for their giving:


Alec Baldwin

Todd Heisler/The New York Times/Redux

Best known these days for his impersonation of President Trump on Saturday Night Live, Alec Baldwin has given nearly $17.6 million to charity in the last decade through his foundation, including more than $2.7 million since 1993 to his alma mater, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts; more than $1.7 million to the East Hampton Library on Long Island; and $1 million to the New York Philharmonic, where he is board member and for which he hosts a weekly radio series.


Leonardo DiCaprio

Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio is a workhorse for environmental causes, raising at least $61 million for more than 65 climate-change, biodiversity, and conservation programs since 1998. Public records show he has donated about $3.2 million of his own money.


Michael Jordan

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Chicago Bulls basketball legend Michael Jordan pledged $2 million last year to help build trust between communities of color and law-enforcement officers across the country, splitting the gift between the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s Institute for Community-Police Relations. Other recent donations include $5 million to the National Museum of African American History and Culture and an undisclosed sum to nearly two dozen Chicago charities that help needy children.


Dikembe Mutombo

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At 7 feet 2 inches tall, Dikembe Mutombo was a fearsome presence under the basket, blocking more shots in his 18-year pro-basketball career than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The NBA Hall of Fame center shows a softer side off the court. He has showered his wealth on people in need in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he grew up, most notably giving $23 million to build a hospital that opened in 2007. He also gives time and money to help the homeless in Georgia and provides Christmas gifts to a children’s hospital in Atlanta, where he played for four-plus seasons.


Shonda Rhimes

(Mark Peterson/Redux

Television writer and producer Shonda Rhimes, whose credits include Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy, pledged $10 million to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. President Obama appointed her to the Board of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center of the Performing Arts in 2013.


Royce DeGrie/TAS/Getty Images for TAS

Taylor Swift

At 27, pop superstar Taylor Swift has already established herself as a celebrity of uncommon generosity and dedication to a variety of causes. She pledged $4 million in 2012 to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum for an education center and regularly contributes to relief and recovery efforts for survivors of natural disasters. Last year she gave about $1.2 million to charities helping people affected by floods in Louisiana. In previous years she has donated $250,000 to help survivors of a tornado in western Alabama and $100,000 to help victims of a flood in Iowa.

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