Seven Celebrities Who Founded Nonprofits and Changed Lives


SEATTLE — Many celebrities donate money to charity, but it’s another thing entirely to devote your time as well as your money to charitable causes. These seven celebrities who founded nonprofits aimed at eradicating poverty-related problems around the globe have gone above and beyond the normal call of duty and created their own foundations to help the impoverished people of the world.

Matt Damon

Matt Damon is no stranger to charitable causes. He has supported projects ranging from cancer research to fighting AIDS and poverty in third world countries. Recently, Damon partnered with Gary White to create works toward creating “market-driven financial solutions” to aid the global water crisis.’s website claims to have given more than 13 million people worldwide access to safe, sanitary water.

By providing impoverished communities with easy access to water, the organization creates the opportunity for the communities to spend their time, energy and finances toward other tasks related to eradicating poverty such as education, market development and overall improved health.’s most recent development is WaterCredit – an effort that has given over $1 billion in small loans toward making water and sanitation accessible to the people who need them most.

JK Rowling

The author of the Harry Potter series founded the Lumos organization — a company devoted toward finding children in orphanages homes. The name of the organization itself comes from the name of a spell in the wizard and witch world that creates a warm-light. One aim of Lumos is to reunite children in orphanages with their living parents — food and water shortages, war and severe poverty often leave new parents without the means to properly care for children, so these children end up in orphanages around the world.

By working with international donors and governments and through advocacy and direct aid, Lumos aims to increase living conditions for the impoverished around the world so giving children up for adoption isn’t seen as the only option. Rowling and Lumos aim to end the need for orphanages globally by 2050.

Ben Affleck

Aside from being the last actor to grace the big screen as billionaire philanthropist-turned-vigilante Bruce Wayne/Batman, Ben Affleck has turned to philanthropist efforts off-screen as well. Affleck founded the Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI), an advocacy and grant-making initiative focused on working to improve life for residents of eastern Congo.

By devoting efforts to local, community-based approaches, Affleck and ECI are able to develop public and private partnerships that increase attention to the impoverished nation and enact policy changes that create new opportunities for the people of eastern Congo. One of the successes of ECI is their implementation of the program Children’s Voice in Goma. Goma is rife with intense violence, extreme poverty, child soldiers and sex slaves. Children’s Voice understands the important role education plays in breaking the cycle of immense poverty. They provide around 600 children per year with schooling, vocational training and mental health assistance in the Goma and Magunga communities.

Elton John

Rockstar Elton John has long been a champion of charity and NGO work around the globe. He created the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) to contain and reduce the spread of HIV. Their one goal is to create an AIDS-free future. The organization was founded by John in 1992, after one of John’s friends died of AIDS, and has since raised nearly $300 million for 1,500 projects in 35 countries.

One of EJAF’s current projects is to tackle the problem of the virus being transmitted from mother-to-infant during childbirth; the solution, the foundation says, is simple: “just one pill, once a day.” The foundation has provided 65,000 mothers with this medication, giving children the opportunity to be born HIV free. This initiative aims to prevent one million deaths of mothers and children globally.

Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Don Cheadle

The Not On Our Watch project is certainly a group effort, headed by Pitt, Clooney, Damon and Cheadle, with the help of Jerry Weintraub and David Pressman. This isn’t one celebrity, it’s four, which subjectively makes it four times as impactful. This is Damon’s second appearance on the list of seven celebrities who founded nonprofits, which is quite a feat. Not On Our Watch is an international advocacy group that was created to “pressure governments and intergovernmental bodies to take immediate action” to end the violence in Darfur.

Not On Our Watch also contributes financially to the region, providing over $7.5 million toward humanitarian and emergency programs in the Darfur region. This includes providing fuel-efficient stoves to over 20,000 people in displacement camps, reducing the risk of violence and rape to women collecting firewood. They have also built health clinics, provided psychosocial counseling, legal aid, access to safe water, high-yield produce seeds and fertilizers and other programs to millions of people in the Darfur region.

Not On Our Watch has extended their efforts to Burma and Zimbabwe as well, continuing their efforts to help the impoverished across the globe.

These seven celebrities who founded nonprofits have made a lasting impact around the globe. From the provision of clean water to ending the need for orphanages, the work of these organizations is an integral part of the fight against global poverty.

– Nick Hodges
Photo: Flickr


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