George Clooney - The Unlikely Philanthropist of the Month?

10 January 2014 | By Cause4 staff

I recently read an article in Esquire magazine about Hollywood star George Clooney. Alongside stories about his professional and personal life, it was interesting to see Clooney passionately talk about charitable causes that he has supported. In the film world, renowned for glitz and glamour, acts of charity can and often do go un-noticed. However, what we are beginning to see is a growth of discreet, unlikely philanthropists. Often scrutinised and criticised for his on-screen performances and his lothario lifestyle off-screen, Clooney is one of the world’s most generous philanthropists.

A self-described activist, he was staunchly against the war in Iraq, and has contributed to many charitable causes. Some may criticise his performance in adverts for Nespresso and Omega watches, but would you be more tolerant of this if you knew that he donated his fees for these adverts to charity? Seeing the humanitarian crisis in Sudan, Clooney has been moved to support the area in any way he can. In 2012 he auctioned off a 2008 Telsa Roadster car (valued between $100,000-$150,000) the proceeds of which went to supporting causes in the region.

Other charitable acts have included paying $5million to setup a satellite above the war-torn area of Darfur to monitor the atrocities that have been taking place in the region. He raised $3million of this through charitable donations, including his advert fees, and simply gave the other $2million himself.

Clooney, who was made a UN Messenger for Peace in 2008, was arrested (along with his father) in 2012 for protesting outside the Sudanese embassy in Washington. Clooney’s philanthropic ventures are driven by ethical and political views, something which can be seen more and more frequently with celebrities donating to causes close to their hearts.

In addition to this prestigious role, Clooney has also been involved in other charitable causes:

- Not On Our Watch – A humanitarian organisation, seeking to draw attention to the main atrocities from across the world, focusing primarily on Darfur, Burma and Zimbabwe. Clooney founded the organisation with celebrity friends Matt Damon and Brad Pitt, amongst others. The organisation has donated millions of dollars in food and aid, with much of this being run in collaboration with the UN’s World Food Programme.

There are many other celebrities who you may not know are philanthropic. Other unlikely and discreet philanthropists include:

- Didier Drogba: A much maligned, controversial figure during his football career with Chelsea, Drogba’s own foundation works to provide support to some of the poorest children in Africa, giving support across health and education. Not only has Drogba done much great charitable work with his own foundation, he is also considered as having brought a peaceful cease-fire to his civil-war ravaged home country of Ivory Coast.

- Taylor Swift: The American singer, who has made her millions on-stage, has also contributed greatly to charitable causes. In 2009 she performed on BBC’s Children In Need, and donated £13,000 to the cause. She has also supported many causes closer to her home, including donating $100,000 to the Red Cross in Iowa to help victims of the 2008 floods.

Celebrities are often criticised for being out of touch with reality, but many are doing incredible things for charitable causes, often without the recognition or merit that they deserve. At Cause4, we work with a number of philanthropic sports stars and artists and we know that it is essential that their generous giving is acknowledged if they are to become the philanthropic role models that society needs.

Are you aware of any other unlikely or discreet philanthropists? We’d love to hear.


The Cause4 Opinion blog has been nominated for the National UK Blog Awards 2014, for its contribution to the debate about the latest trends in fundraising, philanthropy and social enterprise. 

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