How do you know if a celebrity’s charity is a vanity project or the real deal? We looked at the finances of several of the biggest celeb charities and asked the organizations to explain the amount of money they do -- or don't -- spend on salaries and fees.
(L to R: Bono, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry King)
The ONE Campaign
Mission: To fight extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa, by raising public awareness and educating policy makers about the importance of smart and effective policies and programs, such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. ONE also works closely with activists and leaders in Africa to address structural issues, such as debt relief, trade investment, and good governance, that are essential for countries to lift themselves out of poverty.
Bono’s campaign (which he has always said is a marketing or lobbying campaign – thus distancing it from grant giving charity rules) had an interesting 2010. Total revenue for the year was $18,738,485 (down from $35,212,269 the prior year) – with 55 percent, or $10,464,935, going to “salaries and other compensation.” Only $1,356,706 was paid out in grants, with $11,249,753 going to “other expenses” like 12 percent – or $2,338,966 - for travel, $2,620,148 for unspecified service fees, $1,202,212 in information technology and $828,804 in office expenses.
One claims it is a non-profit advocacy organization -- sort of like a marketing campaign – not a grant giver – so therefore it should be held to different standards.
Kathy McKiernan, ONE's press secretary, told FOXNews.com: “We do not solicit funding from the general public or run programs on the ground. ONE fights extreme poverty and preventable disease by raising awareness of these crises and their solutions, and by pressing policymakers both in the US and around the world to support smart, effective programs that save lives and stabilize communities. So we are part Brookings Institution, part AIPAC and part the NRA for the world’s poor.
“Our staff is the primary tool through which we do our work. Just as a newspaper’s budget would show a large percentage devoted to staff salaries to fund the work of reporters, editors, researchers and more, ONE allocates a significant percentage of its budget to enabling the organization to have the staff necessary to do our programmatic work. ONE has more than 120 staff operating in 8 offices around the world. We are specifically funded not to be a grant-making organization. The only exception is our ONE Africa Award, a prize given each year to a grassroots organization in Africa. On travel expenses, in addition to staff travel to the continent of Africa, ONE runs a half-dozen listening and learning trips to Africa each year so that we can show groups of influencers how poverty and disease are impacting people in the world’s poorest countries, how people in those countries are fighting back and how American-supported programs, such as PEPFAR or the Global Fund, are making a difference."
Andre Agassi Foundation for Education
Mission: The Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation is dedicated to transforming U.S. public education for under-served youth. The Foundation drives reform by engaging in practice, policy and partnerships that provide quality education and enrichment opportunities.
The problem with sports charities is that they usually have sporting events as fundraisers – and those are expensive. In 2010, the foundation had a total revenue of $21,299,687 – with $7.5 million coming from direct donations. Huge right? Except when you get to the line about “other expenses” – including his annual Grand Slam event – which cost the charity $6,057,484, with $917,336 going to salaries. Combined, that’s 32 percent in overhead. Meanwhile it only wrote $3,705,070 in grants, just 17 percent of its total revenue, which is one of the reasons why Charity Navigator gave it a one star review.
But Francisco Aguilar, corporate counsel for the foundation says: “The intent of the foundation is to ensure that the Andre Agassi prep school academy (in Las Vegas) has the funding to continue well beyond Andre’s ability to fundraise and potentially his lifetime. This foundation is more like a university foundation that raises money to fund operations for a long period of time. The foundation owns the actual school facility so we have to do the capital improvements and ensure the building is well beyond acceptable levels to serve students. We also have operational costs that the foundation supplements at $3.7 to $4 million a year.”
Regarding the foundation’s biggest expense, the Grand Slam, Aguilar explained: “Even though Grand Slam is a major undertaking its benefit is substantial in our fundraising efforts because it allows the endowment to reach point where Agassi prep can exist in perpetuity.” However, thanks to an $18 million gift from former Las Vegas strip mogul Kirk Kerkorian, the expensive event has been put on hold. “Going forward we are taking some time off from the Grand Slam event,” Aguilar said.
Michael J Fox
Michael J Fox Foundation
Mission: The Foundation provides funds for Parkinson’s research and improved therapies for those living with Parkinson's.
"The Family Ties" actor is in charge of one of the best run large celebrity charities. In 2010, it had total revenues of $57,621,460 and gave out grants worth $49,441,851: 85 percent of its revenues. Ten percent, or $6,107,055 was spent on salaries, and “other expenses” were kept to a low eight percent.
Todd Sherer, the Foundation’s CEO, told FOXNews.com:“Our Foundation’s mission is to speed breakthrough treatments for Parkinson’s quickly and efficiently. To achieve this, we’ve built a model in which we are exclusively focused on funding research and prioritize the research closest or most critical to patient relevance. We fund strategically to bridge the gaps in the drug development pipeline and bring the right players to the table. We have no endowment and the dollars we raise are immediately deployed to advance research with the best chance of leading to new PD therapies and, ultimately, a cure.”
The Michael Phelps Foundation
Mission: To promote healthy, active lifestyles, focusing on swimming and water safety.
Let’s hear it for our Olympic champion – Phelps’ foundation had total revenues of 419,704 for 2010 – and kept admin costs low. Only $11,233 of that went to salaries while 62 percent, or $261,700, was given out in grants.
A rep for MPF didn’t return e-mails.
The Rainforest Foundation
Mission: To support indigenous and traditional peoples of the world's rainforests in their efforts to protect their environment and fulfill their rights.
Sting's charity had $1,005,217 in total revenue in 2010 and spent 50 percent, or $512,361 on salaries, while only $409,126 (40 percent) was given out in grants. There was $224,938 in other expenses, including $45,163 in travel and $64,250 in unspecified fees. In all, 73 percent of revenue seemed to go to places other than the rainforest.
But Suzanne Pelletier, executive director of the Rainforest Foundation, told FOXNews.com: “We give out grants and provide technical support so a large part of the salary and compensation is for our staff that work directly on Rainforest projects in Central and South America. They build technical support, and provide technical training - we’re not just a grant making institution.”
Jerry and Jessica Seinfeld
Mission: Provides families in need with essentials for their infants and young children.
Baby buggy had total revenue in 2010 of $3,307,878 – and gave away 66 percent or $2,192,242 in grants. Salaries took up 24 percent of the budget at $803,752, but expenses were kept low, with things like “office expenses” a meager $23,346.
Messages were traded with the organizations rep, Allison Arnes, who insisted “Baby Buggy is not a celebrity charity.”
The Dr. Phil Foundation
Mission: To work to improve the health and welfare of youth, as well as giving to earthquake victims in Haiti.
Dr. Phil may be rolling in the dough, but his foundation didn’t seem to have the best 2010, with total revenues of $235,795. Of that, $86, 379 went to pay salaries, $65,411 went to independent contractors and $48,105 went to “other expenses.” However, $670,107 was paid out in grants. Dr. Phil’s rep Stacey Luchs, explained the large number, given the light cash inflow. “This was from the coffers. We have a great business model and we are very proud and vocal about our causes. The Dr. Phil Foundation was established in 2004 and soon after received a $1 million donation from the McGraw family with the specific intent to offset administrative expenses for years to come. 100 percent of all donations made to the Dr. Phil Foundation are paid out to the designated beneficiary. Because a 990 tax return is an annual statement, it does not tell the entire story.”
The Larry King Cardiac Foundation
Mission: To subsidize the cost of cardiac surgery.
In 2010, Larry King’s foundation brought in $1,725,656 in donations, spending 22 percent ($395, 257) of that on salaries – with King’s son, Larry King Jr., being paid a whopping $200,000 a year as it’s president. In addition, $89,342 was spent on “entertainers,” $71,566 on audio, visual and lighting, $32,298 on event coordinators, $31,229 on travel, meals and lodgings as well as $21,722 on the website and an unspecified $66,177 on “other expenses.” The foundation did write $923,974 worth of grants: 53 percent of its revenue.
The Foundation’s CFO, Clark Lee told FOXNews.com: “I’ve heard some criticism and the fact that Larry King Jr. is the president does raise eyebrows, but he took this job after resigning from a much more lucrative job at another company. He took a substantial pay cut to come here and brought business experience to the foundation we never had. He came here in 2004 and has never had a raise. All presidents have made $200K and he’s had no raise since 2004. We experienced difficulty in raising money but he approached medical device companies and got them to donate products – he’s extraordinarily capable and smart. Fundraising was 26 percent. It’s primarily because we have an annual gala – not every year – but our management expenses are five percent. We also have a corporate partner who covers almost all the expenses and we disclose that in our material. The expense is worth what we bring in because we use the money we get very efficiently and often trade the product for cardiac procedures. With a non profit the financials tell only half the story – anyone who really wants to understand what we do should talk to our patients, hospitals and doctors we work with.”
Make it Right Foundation
Mission: Pitt co-founded the organization after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. The Foundation is supposed to rebuild the Lower Ninth Ward with eco-friendly houses.
In 2010, Pitt's charity had total revenues of $7,288,030, but paid $2,899,219 (or 39 percent) in salaries/compensation. In addition, $304,335 was spent in fundraising and $12,905,127 was listed as “other expenses," with the bulk of those going for construction costs, homeowner maintenance and training. Only $266,204 was paid in grants.
Taylor Royle, the foundation’s rep, told FOXNews.com: “Make It Right builds homes for families in need - we are not a grant-making foundation. We track our results in actual homes, buildings, homeowner counseling sessions, sustainable construction job training and research and development on green technologies and building methods. The $266,204 categorized as ‘grants’ that year was funding for a program to assist homeowners with certain expenses like closing costs. Because part of our mission is to support communities in need beyond providing housing, we focus on creating local jobs and often hire workers directly instead of paying contractors for services, resulting in a higher number for salaries reported.”
Elton John AIDS Foundation
Mission: Provides support for HIV/AIDS prevention education programs and direct care and services for people living with HIV/AIDS.
The foundation had total revenues of $8,701,180 in 2010. Of that just $449,601 went to salaries and a whopping 82 percent or $7,153,017 was given away in grants.
E-mails to the foundation weren’t returned.
The American Foundation for Courtesy and Grooming
Mission: It donates to at-risk children’s causes
Letterman's foundation has zero overhead costs. $907,500 was raised and $909,300 was given away. Neat, easy, efficient – good job, Dave!
A rep for Letterman declined comment.
Jon Bon Jovi
Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation
Mission: To combat issues that force individuals and families into economic despair.
Despite it’s confusing mission message, the JBJSF looks like its pretty well run. Total revenue for 2010 was $1,414,488 – with only $148,743 going to salaries and $52,836 in “other expenses.” But only $239,895 was given out in grants leaving a lot of money on the table.
A rep for the organization explained the funds left on the table: “In 2010, funds were earmarked for the JBJ Soul Kitchen, which would begin renovation in mid-2011 and open in October 2011. Also in 2010, the JBJSF began accumulating funds to participate in an exciting, large-scale partnership that will have a significant impact in Philadelphia when it is announced later this year (stand by for that!!).”
Running a charity can be a lot more confusing than a celebrity bargained for.