DES MOINES, Iowa — It is no secret that celebrities have a substantial influence on people, trends and popular culture. As popular figures, celebrities with avid fanbases stand a greater chance of getting people to notice and invest in a product. The same is true for high-profile donations to causes like global poverty and health relief. When someone famous offers their time, effort and wallet, it makes headlines. Donations help boost name recognition of receiving organizations, motivating fans to follow in the footsteps of their favorite artists. Celebrity donations to charity offer both publicity and support to nonprofits in need. With millions of people struggling with income insecurity during the global COVID-19 pandemic, donations to vulnerable populations have been more important than ever before. There have been several noteworthy celebrity donations to charity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Helping Youth and Children
- Kristin Bell — The actress revealed her donation to No Kid Hungry on Instagram in March of 2020. Bell shared that she and her family contributed $150,007.96 toward the organization’s efforts to provide for children living in poverty. The extra $7.96 comes from money Bell’s children had saved up in their own piggy banks. No Kid Hungry also posted about the donation on Instagram, writing that the money would go toward school grants as well as community funds that will help feed children who have been affected by COVID-19.
- Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively — The couple made an initial donation at the height of the pandemic in March of 2020 when they divided $1 million between two organizations, Feeding America and Food Banks Canada. On November 29, Reynolds and Lively donated again by giving Covenant House Toronto and Covenant House Vancouver, organizations that offer relief to at-risk youth in Canada, $250,000 each.
Supporting the Vulnerable
- Beyoncé — Partnering with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s #startsmall fund in April 2020, the pop star donated $6 million to support communities of color during the pandemic. In her public statement, the singer drew attention to the fact that people facing mental health challenges are having a difficult time accessing basic needs. With a portion of her contribution directed toward serving this population, her donations will support the National Alliance in Mental Health and various community-based mental health organizations.
- Charlize Theron — In April 2020, the actress gave $1 million to aid COVID-19 relief, half of which was given to domestic violence shelters and community projects. With the help of CARE and the Entertainment Industry Foundation, Theron was also able to start Together for Her, a relief fund for women affected by violence while trapped in their homes. The program’s goal is to help fund “safe accommodation, counseling, sexual and reproductive health services and crisis intervention” to individuals suffering from domestic abuse during the pandemic.
- BTS — The widely popular K-pop boyband has made several big donations to individuals in the music industry who are struggling. In June of 2020, the band made a $1 million contribution to Live Nation’s COVID-19 relief fund, Crew Nation, which offers support to concert crews that have gone without work because of COVID-19. After receiving its first Grammy nomination for the hit single “Dynamite” in 2021, BTS pledged the outfits featuring in the song’s music video for the Grammy Awards charity auction on January 31, 2021. Experts estimate that the set will sell for between $20,000 and $40,000 and all profits will go toward individuals in the music industry who have been greatly affected by the pandemic.
Creating COVID-19 Relief Funds
- Elton John — The Elton John AIDS Foundation has created a COVID-19 Emergency Fund, giving more than $2 million to organizations that are working to lessen the effects the pandemic has on HIV/AIDS care. The Foundation has two different grants to which HIV organizations can apply. The grants offer support to organizations for the transition to online services, purchasing PPE and delivering HIV/AIDS treatments. The grants also focus on developing creative solutions to expand access to HIV services during COVID-19.
- Bill and Melinda Gates — The Gates are well-known for their contributions to relief funds and for starting relief projects of their own. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged more than $350 million globally for research on COVID-19. They also created a Combating COVID-19 Fund, which helps scientific organizations develop medicines to halt the spread of COVID-19. The fund helps shield those who are most at-risk living in Africa and South Asia.
Celebrity donations to charity are essential to keep nonprofit organizations alive, especially in times of crisis. When well-known figures reach out a helping hand, their contributions raise awareness for organizations and the services they provide.
– Celia Brocker