It’s known that many celebrities support noble causes. After all, if you’re a celeb, you supposedly got the visibility and the money. So, you’re particularly well-suited to help other people.
Some VIPs go the extra mile and found their own charitable organization.
But are these celebrity-powered charities effective? Or even: are they doing any good?
To answer these questions, we picked five charities founded by celebrities and ran them through our Kinder Vetting Framework. Let’s see what came out.
Our selection of charities below isn't based on any scientific criteria. We browsed lists of celebrity founded charities and tried to pick out a balanced list
These are the charities that we picked:
The Lopez Family Foundation. Co-founded by journalist Lynda Lopez and her sister singer Jennifer Lopez, the Lopez Family Foundation “advocates and invests in policies and programs that make a positive, measurable impact on communities and makes quality healthcare and health education available for underserved mothers and their children.”
Born This Way Foundation. A charitable organization created in 2012 by Lady Gaga and her mother Cynthia Germanotta “with the goal of creating a kinder and braver world” (we can’t help but sympathize with such aim).
The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. Created in 1998, the foundation was established with the mission of protecting the world’s last wild places.
The Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation was founded in 2003 by Angelina Jolie as a “conservation and community development program in the Samlout Protected Area” (Cambodia).
- The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls is a nonprofit boarding school that provides “education and leadership opportunities” to disadvantaged girls in South Africa.
The Kinder Vetting Framework
At Kinder, we developed a vetting framework to assess the performance of charitable organizations. At the moment, it’s made of two steps but we’re working to add another two in the near future.
The first step is called Initial Screening. With it, we examine the transparency and accountability of charitable organizations by evaluating their official websites.
In particular, we evaluate the charities on five parameters.
- First off, we check if potential donors can easily contact the organization they want to donate to.
- Then, we see if there’s relevant information about the organization's staff readily available online.
- Third, we check if the organization makes its financial statements public.
- We do the same for the organization’s strategic plans: can donors easily understand how the organization is planning to use the money raised in the future?
- And finally, we check if the organization has been involved in any scandal in the past. If yes, we want to see how it explained the scandal(s) to its donors.
This is a fairly low initial threshold. To pass the Initial Screening, you need a score of 95.
The second step is called Organizational Competence. With it, we try to determine whether a charitable organization is competent and well-suited to solve the problems it’s addressing.
If an organization fails the Initial Screening, we usually don’t vet it on its Organizational Competence. Our aim in the next months is to start reaching out to all the organizations that fail the Initial Screening, share our results with them, and ask if they’re willing to improve their score.
So, to start with, we just wanted to see whether the five celebrity-run charities passed the Initial Screening.
I asked our in-house research team to have a look. This is the screenshot that they shared with me:
Again, to pass the Initial Screening you need to score at least 95. None of them did.
Quite discouraged, I read the notes the research team attached to the screenshot.
All charities with the exception of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation lack relevant information about their strategic plans. At the same time, DiCaprio’s organization needs to improve on other parameters like publishing its financial statements.
The Born This Way Foundation’s website was deemed “quite minimalist” by the research team, lacking information about key staff members and financial statements. Similarly, the Lopez Family Foundation should expand its website to include financial statements, strategic plans, relevant information about key staff members, and contact information (they don’t even have a contact form).
Obviously, the fact these five charities don’t pass the Initial Screening doesn’t mean that they’re inherently inefficient. It just suggests that they should work more on their online transparency and accountability.
In general, Kinder is not in the business of bashing charities and we would never share an organization’s poor results without discussing them with the relevant stakeholders beforehand. In this case, we made an exception since these five charities are exceptionally well-backed.
And if you’re Lady Gaga, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lopez, Oprah Winfrey, or Angelina Jolie and want to improve the Initial Screening score of your foundation don’t hesitate to drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
Header Image: The Wolf of Wall Street © Paramount Pictures