The legitimacy of a charity seems to be on everyone’s mind these days. I’ve been amazed at the responses to the recent post on a Scientology benefit for charity. That conversation may not have been that surprising (I’m not Scientology’s OMG #1 Fan myself!), but when I heard that charities run by Bono — one of my favorite celebs ever– George Clooney, and other famous people might not be as legit as they claim, I was pretty shocked.

Apparently, Bono’s DATA Foundation (now part of One), which works to eliminate poverty and AIDS in Africa, raised $31 million in 2006–but only used $6 million of that for charity. The rest went to transportation, security, and U2 tour tickets. Clooney’s Not on Our Watch (also founded by Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle and others), which fights genocide, has some shady dealings with an offshore gambling company. Wyclef Jean, Osi Umenyiora, Tyra Banks, Larry King, Gary Payton, Petra Nemcova, Magic Johnson and Dyan Cannon also seem to have skeletons in their charities’ closets; read more about them here.

So what do you think? Do a few gray areas make a charity all bad? Do any of these charities sound completely illegitimate to you, or do you think they still have redeeming qualities?

  • bob dobbs

    Scientology probably spends $55,000 in one day on private investigators and lawyers to deal with it’s critics, so it’s not hard to be too cynical
    about their intent. Many charities end up having high administration costs, it’s really up to the donor to look at that and try to put their money where it’ll do the best good, I guess that’s the only answer.

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  • VeggieTart

    Yeah, it’s pretty bad when you raise $31 million, but only $6 million goes to charity. That’s a pretty deep shade of grey. You want at least 80 to 85 percent of the monies raised doing charitable work, and using the power of your celebrity to get others to give a damn doesn’t quite count.

  • Yoni

    I hope the $80K Jenny Elfman raised won’t go to Scientology’s favorite charitable arms: funding bogus drug studies to get psychiatric drugs off the market, sending volunteers to African countries to bring back foreign workers they can underpay and mistreat, and hiring people to clean their cruise ship of the blue asbestos they say doesn’t exist.

  • yes

    perhaps give bono the benfit of the doubt – i think there is more to it than the ny post article states. he has smart people running his show.

    one is a lobbying organization as far as i know – not technically a charity. and the majority of funding for one comes from wealthy benefactors such as the gates and buffets.

  • chuka

    If you haven’t spent time sorting out budgets of nonprofits, that 6 million from 31 million can seem awkward. However it takes money to raise money – I’m sure U2 would’ve done a tour anyway, but that six million likely would have lined other pockets instead of being earmarked for charity.

    Unless you can see in the budget what was spent on production and what was spent on programs and how many tickets were, say, given out to charities so those they serve could attend, what was in-kind and what was cash, you can’t really jump to any conclusions.

    And oh, you can’t do that with any of Scientology’s over 200 front-group “charities” because they hide behind a cloak of religion and aren’t transparent about their financials.

  • r6

    You are responding to Scientolgy’s fundraiser and you compare it to those of Bono ?

    Bono is not accused of brainwashing of thousands of people.

    Bono does not promote unscientific medicine or faith healing that is common place in Scientology. Nor does he hide his agenda (unless you know something about him I don’t) Scientology won’t even allow their upper levels to be discussed by spokesmen of the church.

    Scientology encourages people to lie because regular everyday people (they call us wogs) wouldn’t understand the “great truths” given to them by a hack sci-fi writter who used money from his “religion” to buy enough of his books to put him on the best seller list.

    This goes much farther than accounting for the money for a fundraiser.

  • fbr

    6M out of 31M revenues would be equivalent to 20% profit margin for a business. There are companies that can do that while competing and providing goods or services in return. A charity that only manages to run 20% profit margin when people are just giving them the money are probably in the wrong business – if the goal is to do charitable work that is.

    Charity organizations necessarily run overheads which mean that all the money can’t go to actual charitable work. However, when you have a charity that wastes $80 from every $100 donation you have to start to question their motives and competence.

  • yes

    sorry but i need to defend bono on this. read what the post artice actually says, not the sensational spin.

    it does NOT say that the rest of that money was spent on u2 tickets and security. it lists these expenses:
    $272,700 bill to charter a plane, a $117,838 tab for “transportation and security” and $8,740 for U2 tour tickets.

    it does not list any of the other expenses it claims are “outrageous” but the ones listed above, are NOT outrageous. considering that one is an advocacy group, working to raise awareness, sorry i don’t think spending money on press trips and security for the press while on trips in africa, is “wasting” money.

    from the ny post article:
    “Kathy McKiernan, a spokeswoman for Bono’s organization, said the group chartered the 737 to fly journalists and others on a 10-day “learning and awareness-raising trip” to seven African countries in May 2006. DATA was reimbursed for the majority of the costs from the media, she said. “Our policy is to take security and a camera crew to shoot video for use in our advocacy work with us on all Africa trips we do,” she added. She said the concert tickets were distributed to DATA’s supporters and elected representatives in Washington. McKiernan said the lawmakers were asked to reimburse the charity if the ticket price was more than $50, to comply with congressional ethics rules. Most of the $31 million raised was in grant form and will be paid over several years, with just $8 million coming in 2006, McKiernan said. Bono has never disclosed how much he gives to his own charity, but McKiernan said the rock star covers all of his own travel-related expenses.”

  • Iris

    Leave Bono alone. Atleast he does something with his celebrity, unlike many other celebs who do nothing. The fact is that Bono has done more for Africa than any politican has. I respect and admire him. Save the dirt and gossip for the a-hole celebs who deserve it, like Britney Speas and Paris Hilton. What the hell have they done to help humanity?

  • Mary

    Bono is not a scientologist, he is a Christian, and he has saved thousands of African lives for what he had done. He deserves praise, not controversy!

  • Sarah

    Why do celebrities need to set up their own charities? There are thousands of competent non-profits, especially in many of the countries where the work needs to be done, that are already able to make excellent use of the funds and the advocacy support celebrities have to offer. But then the celebrities would have to work within a larger community of “ordinary” people including an organization governing board and staff; they would not just get to run the show their own way – and with the big emphasis on them getting credit for the good deeds. There are probably many celebrities who give extensively to such charitable causes, without publicizing it widely; that keeps the focus on the needs and the solutions – not the celeb. I have no reason to doubt that Bono, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle, George Clooney, and others do care about the causes they support. But the way they approach the effort leaves the impression that it is still driven by the self-centered values of their insular, elitist world of international fame.

  • XinXin

    it does not list any of the other expenses it claims are “outrageous” but the ones listed above, are NOT outrageous. considering that one is an advocacy group, working to raise awareness, sorry i don’t think spending money on press trips and security for the press while on trips in africa, is “wasting” money.

    from the ny post article:
    “Kathy McKiernan, a spokeswoman for

  • Kevin

    Commerce, which is to say mutually voluntary trade of goods and services, where everyone plays by the same rules, is much better than charity.