Celebrities Who Generously Give Money Instead of Buying Luxury Items
When you're rolling in the Benjamins, it may be temptingly easy to spend your dough on diamonds and yachts galore, but these A-list celebrities are giving back in a big way. From charities to private donations, the generosity goes on and on. Their donations make up a large part of the national percentage of charity fundraising, and they also bring awareness to social issues. Read up on these big-time givers of Hollywood and get inspired.
Born in Beirut, Keanu Charles Reeves is a Canadian actor known for his popular films like The Matrix, John Wick, Speed and the Netflix original Always Be My Maybe. He once considered pursuing hockey professionally until he decided to become an actor when he was 15.
His acting thrust him into stardom, and he has since solidified a reputation of being a versatile actor. Other forms of his artistry include directing and music performing. He even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
A Reeves-y Generous Guy
As generous as he is handsome, Reeves claimed that the last thing he cares about is money and "[he] could live on what [he has] already made for the next few centuries." He reportedly gave $80 million of his $114 million paycheck from The Matrix to the special effects team, though that’s also been deemed an urban legend.
Reeves set up a cancer charity (his sister battled leukemia for a decade) and supports PETA, the SickKids Foundation and Stand Up to Cancer, alongside a few more humanitarian companies that he co-founded.
As a Los Angeles native, Leonardo DiCaprio always knew he wanted to be either a marine biologist or an actor. He dropped out of high school (eventually earning his GED) and took off into the spotlight, earning his first Academy Award nomination at the ripe age of 19.
Though he had difficulty landing roles in his early career (almost changing his name to Lenny Williams), DiCaprio became one of the most widely recognized actors in American cinema. In 2016, Time magazine named him one of the most influential people in the world.
Think The Wolf of Wall Street, but Nicer
A true household name, Leonardo DiCaprio's films have accumulated about $7.2 billion worldwide. Aside from acting, he’s one of the most active celebrities in the climate change movement. He has donated small fortunes to the Wildlife Conservation Society and other environmental organizations.
The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation is dedicated to environmental awareness, too, and he aims to personally lower his carbon footprint by using solar energy and divesting from fossil fuels. During his acceptance speech at the 88th Academy Awards, DiCaprio used his platform to highlight climate change.
Amal & George Clooney
Hollywood sweethearts Amal and George Clooney are about as fairytale as it gets. Meeting through a mutual friend in 2013, the two became engaged in 2014. She, a successful lawyer, and he, a renowned actor, were married in Venice by the former mayor of Rome, also a friend of George.
They purchased a £10 million house on the River Thames and occasionally appear at red carpet events. The two became parents with the birth of their twins in 2017 and have kept up with their fair share of humanitarian efforts.
He Was an Actor, She Was a Lawyer — Can We Make It Any More Obvious?
Amal and George co-founded the Clooney Foundation for Justice in late 2016 to "advance justice in courtrooms, communities and classrooms around the world." Amal started the Amal Clooney Scholarship, partnered with the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, and she and her husband sponsor a Yazidi student.
Following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in 2018, the Clooneys pledged $500,000 to March for Our Lives. Amal was also a chair of the famous Met Gala benefit in 2018. The two have endorsed presidential candidates and openly support the LGBTQ+ community.
John Felix Anthony Cena Jr. is a man of many talents. He’s a professional wrestler, an actor, a rapper and a television presenter. His trash-talking style and industry accomplishments made him one of the most famous wrestlers on television, and his peers named him the greatest professional wrestler of all time.
Some of his leading film roles include The Marine, 12 Rounds, Trainwreck, Ferdinand and Bumblebee. He released a rap album titled You Can't See Me in 2005 that rose to platinum certification. Cena continues to solidify his presence in contemporary culture.
You May Not Be Able to See Him, But You Can See His Kindness
John Cena has granted more than 500 wishes through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which is the most in the company's entire history. He’s earned awards such as the Chris Greicius Celebrity Award and appears in other notable advertising campaigns.
He has even collaborated in partnerships with Susan G. Komen for the Cure and WWE's "Be a Star" anti-bullying campaigns. From 2011 to 2012 he raised more than $2 million for breast cancer research and matched $1 million in donations for the FitOps Foundation, which helps military veterans find stability through fitness.
Joanne Rowling, better known by her pen name J.K. Rowling, is a British author, producer, screenwriter and philanthropist. Her Harry Potter series became some of the best-selling books in history. Before there was wild magical success, however, she saw more trials and tribulations than most people.
J.K. Rowling's rags-to-riches story is inspiring to say the least, as she went from living in poverty to making a $1 billion fortune. She’s on numerous influential lists and was named the 197th richest person in the UK in 2016.
The Magical World of Sharing Your Fortune
J.K. Rowling created the Volant Charitable Trust, which combats poverty and social inequality with an annual budget of £5.1 million. Through fundraising efforts, she donates considerable amounts to health and social issues such as multiple sclerosis, one-parent families and children's welfare.
She remains an advocate for aspiring writers and regularly auctions pieces of her writing for charity. She supports the Sharon Trust, tutoring prisoners who are illiterate. Though many of her charitable efforts revolve around literacy, they are also personal to the struggles she faced before her magical rise to fame.
Emma Watson was born in Paris, France, which goes to show she's always had that "je ne sais quoi." From the booming success of her role as Hermione Granger in Harry Potter to her grace in Beauty and the Beast, she quickly became one of the highest-grossing actors of the 2010s.
When she wasn't filming major roles, she was continuing her education at Brown University, where she graduated with a Bachelor's degree in English literature in 2014. But we all knew she was a brainy beauty, right?
Contributions Fit for a Princess (and a Witch!)
Emma Watson remained a champion of the limelight on and off the camera. She is a strong supporter of education for girls. In 2014 she was declared a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. As an advocate for feminism, Watson has launched several campaigns to give women a safe space to share experiences.
She believes in men's participation in feminism and has spoken on issues such as women's education and gender-based discrimination. Watson even helped develop a legal advice line for women. Her donations and efforts put her on Time's list of the most influential people.
Chan Kong-sang, known professionally as Jackie Chan, is one of the most influential cinematic and action-oriented personalities in the world. He began acting in the 1960s and has appeared in more than 150 films. Though he attended the China Drama Academy, he also rigorously trained in martial arts and acrobatics.
Chan's early roles were small and martial arts-based, and he had his breakthrough in the United States within the action-comedy genre, specifically with Rush Hour. He received stars on the Hong Kong Avenue of Stars and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The (Martial) Art of Giving Back
In 2016, Forbes named Jackie Chan the second-highest-paid actor in the world. Inspired by the charitable efforts of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, he pledged to donate half of his assets to charity upon his death.
As a lover of nature, Chan is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and has campaigned against animal abuse and for wildlife conservation. He donated $65,000 for flood relief in Thailand, previously promoting relief for mainland floods in China and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Chan also founded the Jackie Chan Charitable Foundation and the Dragon's Heart Foundation.
Will Smith & Jada Pinkett Smith
Hollywood's favorite mom and dad Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith are ultimate relationship goals. They met on the set of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air when Jada auditioned to play Will's girlfriend. The two began dating in 1995 and married in 1997. Jada has said that she would throw away her entire career before she let it break up their marriage.
The couple has produced a few films together and is vocal about how they raise their children. Kids Jaden and Willow Smith have even started successful ventures of their own.
The Philanthropic Prince of Bel-Air
The couple created the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation in Baltimore. The charity focuses on youth in urban inner cities and family support. They have provided grants to non-profit organizations, and Jada has also contributed to organizations like Capital K-9s and PETA.
The Smiths have donated more than $3 million to various groups, including two Christian ministries, three Scientology organizations, the Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Center in Israel, a private elementary school that they founded in California and a Los Angeles mosque. They remain passionate about family values.
Sir Richard Starkey, or Ringo Starr, is famously known as the drummer of the Beatles. Starr was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a Beatle in 1988 and again in 2015 for his solo career. He’s one of 21 performers who were inducted more than once.
Starr's rise to fame may not have started or ended with the Beatles, but his legacy still remains embedded in it. Rolling Stone named him the fifth-greatest drummer of all time.
The Starr-t of Something New
Ringo Starr founded the Lotus Foundation with his wife Barbara Bach, a charity aimed to advance social welfare in diverse areas. In 2015, Starr and Bach auctioned items from their private and professional collections, raising over $9 million. A portion of the proceeds was donated to the charity.
He also took part in George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh in 1971. Starr supports a number of charities, including the David Lynch Foundation, American Foundation for AIDS Research and 21st Century Leaders. He was also named one of the richest drummers in the world.
Matt Damon is one of the most notable actors in Hollywood. He rose to fame in 1997 with his breakthrough role in Good Will Hunting and has racked up more than 23 nominations for prestigious awards, resulting in two wins. He also took up voice acting.
Aside from acting, Damon is also known as a film producer and screenwriter. When he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, he said it was one of those experiences that was "too big to process."
One Martian Makes a Difference
Damon founded the H2O Africa Foundation, which joined forces with WaterPartners to create Water.Org in 2009. He is a ONEXONE ambassador, committed to improving the lives of children. He and other celebrities also founded the Not On Our Watch Project.
His other charitable contributions include those to ONE Campaign and Feeding America and his public service announcement participation. His efforts revolve around American social issues as well as international ones. In 2013, he participated in a toilet-seat protest to raise awareness for people who don't have access to water or proper sanitation.
José Antonio Dominguez Bandera, known as Antonio Banderas, is a Spanish actor, producer and singer. He began acting in the 1980s and has since received praise for his roles in films like The Mask of Zorro, the Spy Kids series, Puss in Boots and Evita alongside American pop star Madonna.
He owns 50% of a winery in Spain and produces red and rosé wines. He received two honorary degrees from the University of Malaga and Dickinson College. Banderas has also undergone multiple surgeries, but continues to watch his health while working.
Spanish Hospitality Wins Again
Antonio Banderas keeps his activist efforts sharp when not immersed in the film world. He appeared in a Spanish culture video alongside other celebrities supporting the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party in 1996. He continues to provide resources for disadvantaged people.
Banderas founded the Fundación Lágrimas y Favores in 2010 to provide scholarships for University of Malaga students, partnering with Cudeca, a charity for terminally ill cancer patients. In 2015, he supported Israel by helping to raise $31 million for Israeli soldiers on behalf of the Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces.
Angelina Jolie is about as A-list as it gets. Coming from a family of seasoned Hollywood legends, Jolie has a variety of critically acclaimed films under her belt, including Gia, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Mr. & Mrs. Smith and Maleficent.
Angelina Jolie has been viewed as a sex symbol in the public eye and caught media attention for her wild antics during her early career. Throughout her professional success, she expanded her skills to film directing and producing. She’s been described as a "skilled and sensitive filmmaker."
Jolie's "Joie de Donner"
Through her role as Lara Croft, Angelina Jolie claims her eyes were opened to the disastrous conditions of the world. She visited various refugee camps to better her understanding of social crisis issues and donated $1 million to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which was the largest donation the organization had seen from one individual.
Over more than 40 field missions, Jolie continued to aid those in war-torn countries, even taking flying lessons to be able to deliver supplies. Her other charitable efforts extend to women's rights, children's education and general human rights.
Country superstar-turned-pop princess Taylor Swift constantly appears in headlines and on the radio waves with her top hits and media contributions. She became the youngest artist signed to a major label at the age of 15. Her seventh studio album Lover, released in 2019, made her the second woman in history to have six consecutive number-one albums on the Billboard 200.
Her 1989 World Tour became the highest-grossing tour of 2015. She is currently undergoing a battle with former managers for ownership of her music, receiving public sympathy and support along the way.
She's Got a Blank Space, and She'll Write Your Name
Taylor Swift's philanthropic efforts extend far beyond the average celebrity. Though she is worth more than $360 million, she has donated considerable amounts to charitable organizations such as Architecture for Humanity, V Foundation for Cancer Research, Tennessee Equality Project and GLAAD.
A supporter of the arts, Swift has also donated to various music programs, literacy programs and music departments. She’s launched efforts to protect children from online predators and remains an active member of the Time's Up movement. Swift strives to provide resources to young musicians and artists.
Known as perhaps the best and most highly sought-after actress of her generation, Meryl Streep has accumulated a wide variety of roles and award nominations. She began acting in 1975 and won an Emmy award the following year.
Streep has been described as an acting chameleon with the ability and will to play any role. Despite her large success, she is modest about her accomplishments. She has mastered many different accents and prefers to keep her personal life private.
The Devil Wears Prada and Donates, Too
Though it may be difficult to imagine American cinema without the legendary matriarch, Meryl Streep has also contributed to charitable organizations and efforts that reflect her values. She aims to spread female empowerment and funded a screenwriters lab for female screenwriters over 40 years old.
She wrote letters to Congress in support of the Equal Rights Amendment. Streep has also donated more than $4 million to the Silver Mountain Foundation for the Arts while donating a cool $1 million to Vassar College. She declares herself a humanist promoting balance.
Television's most beloved host, Oprah Winfrey, rose to stardom through her show and truly believes in sharing the wealth. The Oprah Winfrey Show was the highest-rated television program of its kind, and she has won numerous awards because of it.
Winfrey launched her own production company and was credited for breaking traditional societal taboos on her show. Her career has also involved acting roles, media execution and television producing. She was named the "Queen of All Media" and North America's first Black multi-millionaire.
Everyone Gets a Fundraiser!
Oprah Winfrey was named the first African American among a list of 50 most generous Americans. More than 400 scholarships were given in her name to students at Morehouse College in Georgia. She created Oprah's Angel Network, which provides grants to non-profit organizations around the world and has raised more than $80 million for her causes.
Winfrey invested more than $40 million, along with $7 million in public donations, to help poor and AIDS-affected children in Africa. She has expressed maternal feelings for the girls involved in the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls.