6. Your Philanthropy

$255,000 for a dinner with Bill Clinton

$255,000 for a dinner with Bill Clinton

After several attempts of Obama’s government to lower the income tax deduction for charitable giving, non-profit organizations such as hospitals and educational institutes, which largely depend on generous gifts from affluent donors, are bracing themselves for the upcoming devastation. In difficult times like this, non-profit organizations have to get themselves lean and mean to find new ways to incentivize people to open their wallets. Since the government is eliminating an important motivation for wealthy philanthropists to donate a huge sum, non-profit organizations have to make up for it, hence initiating a challenging competition between these organizations.


One of the websites that successfully promoted its charity service is Charitybuzz.com—an online auction house that offers once-in-a-lifetime experiences to raise money for noteworthy causes. Unlike other charity websites that let their users pick a cause of their interest and donate money accordingly, Charitybuzz holds auctions on a dinner with celebrities, concert tickets, makeovers, art works, internships and even extra roles of popular TV shows such as How I met your mother. Thus it not only attracts wealthy donors but also encourages people who previously weren’t interested in donation to be a part of charity work. Due to its interesting approach to social good, this website raised more than $25 million in 2011 alone and more and more non-profits are becoming its partners.

The most popular service out of all is the celebrity section. Debbie McLeod, an executive director of Grant Me the Wisdom Foundation—which aids women and girls in developing nations—has paid $255,000 to spend the day with Bill Clinton. Her bid was twice the amount to meet Oprah Winfrey. The money collected was donated to Clinton Global Initiative.

Here is a list of top 10 celebrities who were sold for highest price and the organizations where the money was donated to.

  1. Bill Clinton: $255,000 to Clinton Global Initiative
  2. Oprah Winfrey: $105,000 to RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights
  3. Elton John: $100,000 to Natural Resources Defense Council
  4. Rupert Murdoch: $85,000 to the Global Poverty Project
  5. Paul Simon: $75,000 to the children’s Health Fund
  6. Paul McCartney: $70,000 to GREEN Schools Initiative
  7. Green Ross: $70,000 to Peace Corps
  8. Karl Lagerfeld: $65,000 to Runway to Green
  9. Harrison Ford: $65,000 to Conservation International
  10. Howard Stern: $55,500 to Rosie’s Theater Kids

Critics’ response differed greatly on Charitybuzz’s success. Mike Colling, a managing director of marketing agency MC&C, applauded the idea by saying, “Any charity representing itself as competent in the execution of this service should be prepared to substantiate this.” He also added, “This will accelerate the trend for charities to benchmark Despite its effective strategy to promote donation, some people doubt its possible effect on other non-profit organizations that are partners of Charitybuzz. On the other hand, Richard Hill, a strategy director of marketing agency at Touch DDB, argued, “By raising the issue of one charity being more efficient than another, we’d risk making donors question the efficiency of charity spending more generally, which might put them off donating. It could also force charities to spend more on advertising in order to defend their positions, which many donors will see as a waste of money.” Adrian Sargeant, Professor of fundraising at Bristol Business School also agreed. “This is a bad idea, such advertising could backfire, and I suspect such cherry-picking may also prove unlawful.”

The debate on Charitybuzz’s tit-for-tat strategy is worth thinking about. If non-profit organizations are to compete for the donor’s money, is it fair that they come up with innovative but not completely altruistic ways to attract users?

What do you think? 


Celebrities Volunteering and Giving Back – Scarlett Johansson

Celebrities Volunteering and Giving Back – Scarlett Johansson

Maxim named Johansson No.6 in their Hot 100 Issue in 2006, No. 3 in 2007, No. 2 in 2008, No. 34 in 2009, No. 14 in 2010 and 2011, and No. 17 in 2012. Now that’s a record! Although she was ranked down than before, she did not miss a year to be on top 20 of this list for seven years in a row. And guess what? Not only is she one of the hottest women in the world, she is also one of the most active philanthropists. Don’t be deceived by her insanely gorgeous appearance. Despite the blinding glamour, she has much higher priorities in giving back to the world than investing in her looks and profile.

1. As an Oxfam Ambassador

Scarlett started to work as an ambassador for Oxfam in the 2004, motivated by the organization’s attempt during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and earthquake. Ever since, Scarlet Johansson has packed numerous fundraising, advocacy and promotional activities into her busy schedule. In 2007, she skipped the Oscar to go on a life-changing trip to India and Sri Lanka for an Oxfam project. She helped tsunami survivors in Sri Lanka who were rebuilding their lives after losing their families and livelihoods from the disaster. Oxfam was also taking projects such as reconstructing village irrigation schemes and schools for devastated communities. She also engaged in a few healthcare projects and domestic violence project to help Indian women. After spending a day with young girls at the Oxfam-funded schools in Uttar Pradeseh, she was motivated to enable over a thousand children from the lowest Dalit caste to gain a basic education by providing three years’ funding for the school.

In 2008, Scarlett joined other Oxfam ambassadors in ‘calling on heads of states at the Japanese G8’ to respond urgently to global poverty. Her role was to remind people that the world’s poorest people are the most vulnerable to increased food prices and the negative impacts of climate change. Later, she signed an open letter with global figures such as Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and Sir David Attenborough to urge world leaders at the UN meeting in Poland to tackle climate change.

Scarlett Johansson also used her celebrity to promoting people’s interest in humanitarian affairs. She appeal to US consumers on behalf of Oxfam Unwrapped drove over $100,000 in gifts for Mothers day 2009 and generated worldwide media coverage for the gift catalogue’s Christmas promotion. She also contributed to on-line auction with eBay by donating opportunities to attend a premieres of her films ‘He’s just not that into you’ and ‘Iron Man 2’. For Oxfam’s project to help Haiti recover after the earthquake, she recorded a public service announcement urging people to give and donated tickets to the opening night of her play “A Vie from the Bridge” to a fund-raising auction.

2. Fighting for food justice

In 2011, Scarlett joined Oxfam’s GROW campaign.

“Sharing food is one of life’s pleasures. On a global scale, we don’t share fairly. Close to a billion people go to bed hungry every night. The fact is: the global food system is a broken one. All of us, from Kentucky to Kenya, deserve enough to eat”

In September of the same year, she joined a trip to Kenya to visit places that was hit by the devastating drought that put more than 13 million people at risk. She visited Dadaab, the biggest refugee camp in the world. Thousands of Somali refugee flew to Dadaab to escaped drought and famine.

“This is a long-term and escalating crisis exacerbated by political conflict, famine and drought that can no longer be ignored,” she said. “Over half of Somalis that have died are children; an entire generation lost. This is no longer an issue that can only garner some attention, some of the time. Extreme action must be taken by the global community now.”

Her global popularity has helped Oxfam raise awareness around the world about issues that create poverty and world leaders’ responsibility to act. She provided the phenomenal boost to Oxfam’s work with people starving around the world.

3. As an (RED) Embassador

Johansson visited Rwanda in September 2008, to increase the awareness of AIDS sufferers in African nations. She spent four days with charity workers at (RED) to attend AIDS clinics.

“When I admitted that I had taken two HIV tests, everyone was completely horrified, the implication being that I was leading this wild lifestyle,” said Scarlett Johansson, whose decision to join Bono in the (RED) initiative was a no-brainer. “I was only being responsible”

“It was important for me to come here and see the issues we’re up against firsthand,” she said.

“I came here with an open mind, wanting to listen, understood and learn; I leave with the overwhelming understanding that the small action of making a (RED) choice in your purchases has an enormous impact on the lives of people in countries like Rewanda.”

When you purchase (RED) items—from partners including Apple, Armani, Converse, Dell, Gap, Hallmark, Starbucks, and Microsoft—in stores and via Joinred.com, up to 50 percent of profits go directly to fighting HIV/AIDS in Africa.

“If that can be achieved by buying a couple of pairs of Convers,” Johansson says.

“It’s worth a shot, don’t you think?”

Scarlett finds charity work very rewarding, she told USA Today: “It was nice to feel part of the community. Certainly your vanity is the last thing on your mind when you’re traveling in a place like this.”

Not only is she the motivation for girls on diet, she’s also a role model for everyone.

Celebrities Volunteering and Giving Back – Johnny Depp

Celebrities Volunteering and Giving Back – Johnny Depp

Once again, Tim Burton has successfully exploited Johnny Depp for his recent film, Dark Shadows—a horror comedy-drama based on 1960s gothic horror opera. Of course, as a fan who is constantly thanking god for Johnny Depp’s existence, I rushed to the theatre on its release date. Despite the typical withered and pallid look of vampire that Tim Burton likes to put on him, Johnny Depp looked like the most beautiful and glorious corpse on this earth. I could not help but run wild with my imagination. How wonderful this world must be to be wedded to Johnny Depp? Oh how lucky Lori Allison is! Is it just me that thinks he is possibly the most beautiful human being in this world? You may think I’m judging a book by its cover. Well, yes I am and I’ll tell you why.

1. Jack Sparrow and his surprise visit to children.

When Depp’s 8-year-old daughter, Lily-Rose was hospitalized, Depp and Vanessa Paradis put their lives to hold. They had to bring production of his movie Sweeney Todd to a standstill. Lily’s E.coli poisoning led to the failure of her kidneys. “To say it was the darkest moment, that’s nothing,” Johnny Depp spoke to a reporter from Entertainment Weekly, “It doesn’t come close to describing it. Words are so small.” When his daughter finally recovered, Depp decided to devote his time and money to do good works for children’s hospital.

The Great Ormond Street Hospital, where Lily had her surgery, specializes in the most life threatening conditions, regularly treating 150,000 patients a year. Unfortunately, it is not receiving enough funding from the government and the children at the hospital would rely on public donations for their on-going treatment. Depp donated a pledge of $1.96 million for the redevelopment of two-thirds of the hospital site. Following his donation, he visited the hospital himself and spent a day in a Pirates of the Caribbean’s Captain Jack Sparrow’s costume to read bedtime stories to the young patients. For a father who understands the hardship that a family goes through for a child’s suffering, Depp understood the importance of supporting the young patients both financially and emotionally. Even after his donation, he would drop in unannounced, always dressed as a pirate.

2. Johnny Depp’s gift for children in need of support

In 2005, Barry and Sarah Westwood’s son, Mark—a huge fan of Johnny Depp, was diagnosed with a tumor. He underwent three operations to remove the malignant growth, which were futile. He mostly spent his time in the Alder Hey Hospital, the biggest and the busiest children’s hospital in Europe. Spending all day at the hospital to take care of their son, Mark’s parents befriended a couple was also had a son with cancer. After watching a movie Pirates of the Caribbean, which Mark was fanatical about, Barry and Sarah discovered that their new friends were acquaintance of Johnny Depp. A few days later, Mark received a personal video message from Johnny Depp. Delighted by an unexpected surprise, Mark had one of best moments of his life. On January 2007, Mark passed away. After his death, Barry added “Mark did so many special things during his life and we have a lot of people to thank.” By sending a cheerful message to one who really needed it, Johnny Depp bettered Mark’s life.

Johnny Depp is also an active member of ‘sophies gift’, which helps the children in coma by using celebrity’s personal video to patients. Andrew Wilkinson, the father of a child in coma, initiated this project and started recording as many different voices as possible to make sure that coma patients will improve. “When someone is in a coma, it’s important to find that key to unlocking them out of the coma,” said Alison Wilkinson. “It could be a smell, a sound, or a voice. In Sophie’s case, we knew she was a huge fan of Johnny so we thought that if she heard his voice it may wake her. We realized what a great idea it would be to have a bank of celebrity voices reading out specific commands that the doctors have issued.” The couple showed their appreciation for Johnny Depp. “We were over the moon when Johnny Depp agreed to record a tape, and now more stars are signing up, it’s fantastic. Now that Sophie is showing signs of responding to certain voices it’s the critical time to get her listening to as many different voices as possible” Johnny Depp supporting this couple until the initiation of a project, in which several of the top celebrities are now members of.

3. Johnny Depp’s Angels

While Johnny Depp engages in volunteer activities to better the children, his angels are also working hard. Johnny’s Angels—a charity organization, which is conducted by a small group of dedicated women to raise funds and awareness for children’s hospice, regularly hold fund raising events and participates in various activities. (http://www.johnnysangels.org/)

The organization seeks to best benefit Johnny Depp and it has been successful with their sales of fan items, fund raising and other various events. Their most recent fundraising was right after the release of Dark Shadow, where they raised $4400. Johnny Depp himself is also aware of the good works of this organization and has written them several letter and made a donation to CHPCC in its name.

Celebrities Volunteering and Giving Back – Angelina Jolie

Celebrities Volunteering and Giving Back – Angelina Jolie


Angelina Jolie

In the movie, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Smith reluctantly reveals to her husband Mr. Smith that she lied about being in the Peace Corp. Visibly annoyed, Mr. Smith flares up and shouts, “I really liked that about you!” Off screen, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt seem to be the happiest couple in Hollywood although Angelina is not working for Peace Corp. In fact, she is doing so much more in reality. Aside from adopting a daughter from Ethiopia and giving birth to another in Namibia, both Brad and Angelina have spent some serious time and money on causes in Africa.

1. What inspired Angelina Jolie

When Angelina Jolie was in Cambodia to film “Tom Raider” she wasn’t just off raiding tombs and spending time with her little boy Maddox. Her interest in humanitarian affairs piqued during her stay in Cambodia. In an attempt to gather information on international trouble spot, Angelina contacted the United Nations High Commissioner. They set up a meeting and she decided to visit refugee camps around the world—an 18-day mission to Sierra Leone and Tanzania. Faced with the gruesome scene she witnessed, she said, “I was shocked by what I saw” In the end, she covered all costs related to her missions and shared the same rudimentary working and living conditions as UNHCR field staff on all of her visit.

2. As a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador

On 2001, Jolie was appointed as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador at UNHCR headquarter in Geneva. Reflecting on her time spent with humanitarian field workers on her mission, she spoke, “We cannot close ourselves off to information and ignore the fact that millions of people are out there suffering. Honestly, I want to help. I don’t believe I feel differently from other people. I think we all want justice and equality, a chance for a life with meaning. All of us would like to believe that if we were in a bad situation, someone would help us.”

Ever since, Jolie has interrupted her busy schedule to be on field missions around the world. She represented UNHCR and the High Commissioner at the diplomatic level and engaged with others on global displacement issues. Not only did she facilitate solutions for people in need of help, she actively participated in the mission to visit refugees in more than 30 countries. She even volunteered to visit areas that are at war. Here is a list of some places she visited.


  • 2004 – Darfur region of Sudan during the Darfur conflict
  • 2007 – Chad during its civil war
  • 2007, 2009 – Iraq during the Second Gulf War
  • 2008, 2011 – Afghanistan during the ongoing war
  • 2011 – Lybia during the Libyan revolution

3. What is she up to now?

After more than a decade of working as a Goodwill Ambassador, Jolie was promoted to the rank of Special Envoy of high Commissioner Antonio Guterres on April 17, 2012. As her new position, she represents the organization at the diplomatic level and will facilitate long-term solutions for large-scale crisis. “This is an exceptional position reflecting an exceptional role she has played for us,” said a UNHCR spokesman.

Jolie also uses her public profile to promote humanitarian causes through the mass media. Her book, Notes from My Travels, which was published with her film Beyond Borders is only a fraction of her works. Overtime, Jolie became more and more involved in her promotion of humanitarian causes, especially on a political level. She was an invited speaker at the World Economic Forum in Davos and also met with members of Congress to spread her thoughts.

In addition, she established several charitable organizations. In 2003, she founded the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation, which dedicates to community development and environmental conservation in Cambodia’s northwestern province. After three years, she partnered with the global Health committee to establish the Maddox Chivan Children’s Center–a daycare facility for children affected by HIV. That same year, she and Pitt founded the Jolie-Pitt Foundation to aid humanitarian causes worldwide. In 2008, she collaborated with Microsoft Coporation to establish Kids in Need of Defense, a pro bono movement of law firms, corporate law departments, NGOs and volunteers committed to providing legal counsel to unaccompanied immigrant children in the U.S. Finally, in 2010, she established the Jolie Legal Fellows Programme, which recruits lawyers to support governmental child protection efforts in Haiti.

It’s hard for me to doubt Jolie’s genuineness when it comes to volunteering and promoting humanitarian causes. What do you think? Are you inspired? Or are you still doubtful?

Please share your thoughts about her work with us.