It’s easy to think cynically and assume that celebrities do what they do solely for the fame and fortune that comes with their success. But in reality, a lot of famous people recognize that there’s more to life than just spending money on mansions and luxury cars. Many of them go out of their way to use their wealth and influence to make the world a better place. For some, they’ve never forgotten where they came from, so they derive a lot of happiness from giving back to their communities. For others, they might support a certain cause such as cancer research because they’ve personally been affected by it. With that in mind, here are 10 notables who have made philanthropy a top priority.
1. Lebron James
With an estimated net worth of $500 million, Lebron James is already one of the wealthiest basketball players of all time. But while he has a ton of money in his bank account, he’s extremely generous when it comes to helping others. Through the Lebron James Family Foundation, James has raised over $40 million for inner city after school programs. He’s also pledged to donate another $40 million to provide the underprivileged with college scholarships. The Children’s Defense Fund and Boys and Girls Club of America are two charities that James has donated millions to.
2. Keanu Reeves
While Keanu’s career has been a mixture of brilliant decisions (The Matrix, Speed, John Wick) along with some more questionable calls (Johnny Mnemonic, Replicas), there’s no doubt that he’s developed a devoted following due to his likeability. He comes across as a normal, grounded guy, not a spoiled diva. He has created a private cancer research foundation that helps children’s hospitals. In addition, when he negotiated the percentage he would receive from box office profits for The Matrix, he asked that the money be given to the special effects and costume design teams instead, since he felt they were the ones who made the movies so successful.
3. Dolly Parton
The life of the legendary country singer – who grew up in a one-room Tennessee cabin with her parents and 11 siblings – is a genuine rags to riches story. Her most promoted causes are related to literacy and education. Through the non-profit Dollywood Foundation’s project known as the Imagination Library, she sends books to children all over the world. Her foundation also provides scholarships and other forms of financial aid to students who need it the most.
4. Emma Watson
As a UN Women’s Goodwill Ambassador, Watson has promoted a variety of women’s and girls’ empowerment programs. Along with charities that focus on girls’ education, she also contributes to fair trade and organic clothing unions. She has traveled to several Third World countries in order to personally assist in humanitarian efforts. She had also launched a feminist book club entitled Our Shared Shelf in 2016, but unfortunately she ended it in early 2020. However, she continues to recommend books through her social media accounts.
5. Ricky Gervais
Of all the promoters of animal rights in the entertainment industry, few are as dedicated as the British comedian/actor. For his efforts, he has been honored with several animal advocacy awards. Furthermore, he has stated that once he passes, he intends for most of his wealth to go to animal charity organizations.
6. Leonardo DiCaprio
Winner of one Academy Award for Best Actor and nominated for five more, DiCaprio is unquestionably one of the most talented actors around. But he’s also passionate about combating climate change. In the 2010s, he established the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which promotes causes that help the planet. It provides funding for several wildlife conservation programs and also offers research grants to individuals and organizations.
7. Ashton Kutcher
The actor, model and venture capitalist is committed to doing his part to fight human trafficking. Nearly a decade ago, he and his ex-wife Demi Moore co-founded Thorn, a non-profit organization that focuses on protecting children from becoming victims of trafficking. Aside from trafficking, Thorn has partnered up with the world’s leading tech giants including Google, Microsoft and Facebook in order to stop child pornography.
8. Angelina Jolie
Jolie certainly has enough money to hire other folks to do her bidding, but she feels an obligation to set an example by involving herself personally into projects that make a difference. She’s the Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. She was first inspired to get involved two decades ago while filming on location in Cambodia. Today, the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation (which she started with her then-husband Brad Pitt) is dedicated to fighting poverty and protecting the wildlife of Cambodia. It’s named after their adopted son, who was born there.
9. George Lucas
The creator of Star Wars is worth an estimated $7.6 billion, and he uses a lot of his money for K-12 education. The George Lucas Education Foundation helps students to develop their skills and ignite their interests and creativity so that once they’re adults, they’ll be productive members of society.
10. George Michael
The late pop singer was heavily involved in charitable causes, including Project Angel Food, a Los Angeles-based non-profit that provides free, healthy meals to people who are too sick to shop or cook for themselves. Although he was very generous with his donations for years, he did it all under the radar. In fact, most of his philanthropy efforts were only revealed after his death.