Donation News

“Game Changer” Sold for Health Charities

In May 2020, a black and white painting of a young boy sitting on the floor swooping a toy around, the action figure of a nurse in a superhero cape, appeared on the wall of Southampton General Hospital. The only spot of color is the archetypal red cross on her shirt. Nearby, in a waste basket, Batman and Spider-Man toys have been obviously cast aside for a greater hero.

Unlike most Banksy art, or most of what we think of as Bansky art, this painting, titled “Game Changer,” isn’t graffiti and it wasn’t a guerrilla effort. The framed painting was instead hung with the collaboration of managers of the hospital. But the secretive artist did leave a note.

“Thanks for all you’re doing,” the note that accompanied “Game Changer” read, addressed to all hospital workers. “I hope this brightens the place up a bit, even if its only in black and white.”

Nearly a year later, being called a hero has taken a bitter taste in the mouth of most health workers. It was only ever lip service, as was proved whenever these heroes asked for more staff, for danger pay, or for more support. But the painting stayed up, and it did brighten people’s days. And hopefully now it can do more.

On Tuesday March 23rd, “Game Changer” sold at auction in Christie’s of London for 16.8 million pounds ($23.2 million), a record for Banksy’s art. According to the auction house, proceeds from the sale and “a significant portion” of Christie’s cut will be donated to fund health charities across the United Kingdom.

The sale, which was planned from the first donation of the painting, came on the one-year-anniversary of Britain’s first national lockdown. It also doesn’t leave the staff at Southampton empty-handed – a reproduction of the painting continues to hang in the same spot, complete with the original note.

Image: Shutterstock

Donation News The Power of Giving

Ben Navarro Donates $1.25 Million to the College of Charleston

Ben Navarro turned a well-connected family and a bachelor’s degree in finance into a $3 billion nest egg in just over 30 years. Formerly a vice president of Citigroup, he left the investment bank to found his own, Sherman Financial Group, which currently owns Credit One Bank. Ben Navarro also owns two tennis clubs, and tried to purchase the Carolina Panthers, North Carolina’s NFL team, but lost it in auction. Today, he and his family live in Charleston, South Carolina.

As a philanthropist, Navarro’s priorities are plain – healthy, well-educated minds. In recent years, he has founded a small string of private schools, a scholarship fund for low-income Charleston County high school students, and a mental health wellness center targeting anxiety and depression.

On March 15, College of Charleston President Andrew Hsu announced that a large donation from Navarro was being given to the college’s teacher education program for the purpose of educating more teachers to work in underserved communities.

“The gift really recognizes our commitment to excellence in public education at all levels,” Hsu said. “It will help us create and support a national signature program.

“As a public institution, we have the responsibility of helping the state to narrow the educational gap,” he continued. “It is our duty to help the underserved communities, or help prepare teachers for the underserved communities.”

South Carolina is currently weathering a heavy teacher shortage, one exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic. As of February, five months into the school year, the state was still short more than 500 teachers in all grades. The College of Charleston is working on a plan to attract more students passionate about education, and Ben Navarro’s generous donation will help them recruit those students.

“We already have a lot of strength in terms of faculty and programmatic offerings around teacher education for students coming from underrepresented populations,” said Suzanne Austin, provost and executive vice president of student affairs. “So we already do that work but we’re excited about doing more.”

Editorial credit: Katherine Welles /

Donation News Organizations

Brooklyn Nine-Nine Creators, Cast Donate to Protester Bail Funds

During the protests over police brutality in the United States after the death on video of George Floyd, the police arrested over 10,000 protesters across the country in just the first two weeks, and they haven’t stopped. Some of the arrests for looting and violence, but others have been plainly unjust, such as the arrest of Evan Hreha, who was arrested for “unlawfully discharging a laser” by a mob of cops while walking his dog a week after his footage of a 7-year-old child screaming in pain after police pepper sprayed him directly in the face went viral.

Hreha was released without bail after 43 hours, but many have not been so lucky. A variety of charities have been launched to provide bail funds for the hundreds of protesters who are still awaiting charges or trial. For many, waiting in a cell is life-ruining. Every hour they remain inside, they risk losing a job, custody of their children, or their apartment, and they’re made less able to participate in their own defense.

The cast of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” a comedy show which satirizes the police and has an excellent track record of not shrinking away from the either issues of police corruption or the risks they face, has been vocally on the side of the protesters since this began.

“The cast and showrunner of ‘Brooklyn 99’ condemn the murder of George Floyd and support the many people who are protesting police brutality nationally,” tweeted Dan Goor, the show’s co-creator. “Together we have made a $100,000 donation to The National Bail Fund Network. We encourage you to look up your local bail fund: the National Bail Fund Network is an organization that can lead you to them. #blacklivesmatter.”

Stephanie Beatriz, one of the show’s lead actors, also made a personal donation of $11,000 to support bail funds, and said she regards it as her moral responsibility.

“I’m an actor who plays a detective on tv,” Beatriz tweeted. “If you currently play a cop? If you make tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in residuals from playing a cop? I’ll let you do the math.”

The Brooklyn Nine-Nine donations is just the latest in a series of large donations to Black Lives Matter and related causes. K-pop group BTS and its fans donated millions, and Bank of America pledged $1 billion to address racial inequality.

Photo: A June 2020 Black Lives Matter protest in Washington, D.C.

Credit: Kalen Martin-Gross /


Salesforce Pumps Millions into Underserved Schools, the charitable arm of a cloud-computing company based in San Francisco, has been in a philanthropic relationship with two Bay Area school districts for five years now. This year, the combined $15.5 million donations put their contributions over $50 million.

San Francisco Unified School District will be receiving $8 million, and the slightly smaller Oakland Unified School District will get $7.5 million. The money is earmarked for STEM support, teacher training, and mindfulness projects.

Mindfulness, while something of a workplace buzzword, is a big focus for Salesforce’s charity organization. They want to promote education that takes into account a student’s whole life, a “whole child,” approach.

“Because we know that what happens outside of the classroom impacts what happens inside the classroom,” explained Ebony Frelix, the executive vice president and chief philanthropy officer of Putting their money where their mouth is, the organization also donated $2 million towards fighting youth homelessness, announced in the same breath on September 25, by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

London Breed, current Mayor of San Francisco, lauded the philanthropic organization.

“We are going to change what is normal in San Francisco because we are going to invest in our kids on the front end,” he said. “We are going to make sure that the doors of opportunity in the technology field are open to them.”

Oakland Unified School District, which will receive $7.5 million, has formed a “Principal’s Innovation Fund,” where the money can be used at the individual school level. So far, they have used past donations to create a makerspace, support students who are refugees, and incorporate mental health services, all of which increase the ways in which students can access their education. More of the funds have also gone into training teachers to more effectively teach and use technology, and to make computer science education more available.


Feeling Generous? Here’s Some Tips for Giving

In times like these, it’s easy to want to help and not know how. The news is packed with stories of economic injustice, much of it urgent. A thousand children need legal representation today. Schools in Puerto Rico are closing down. Michigan’s donated water has run out. It’s something different every day, and for most of us, the only help we can offer is to open our wallets.

The urgency makes it difficult to gauge the effectiveness and trustworthiness of charity campaigns. GoFundMes and the like set up by private individuals feel good to support, as they represent the kind of grassroots activism we all admire. But even well-meaning organizers may fall short of their promised activities, and many don’t have good intentions.

That’s why it’s important to take the time to investigate a charitable campaign before giving. A quick search may turn its name up on a list of common scams.

For a more concrete review, check with and Charity Navigator, which hold charity organizations responsible for transparency and fiscal responsibility. New organizations that pop up immediately following a disaster are difficult to verify.

Crowdfunding campaigns, while often among the first to pop up in response to an emergency, are difficult or impossible to vet. If you do decide to donate to one of these, follow up by monitoring the campaign’s activity and discussions. If anything seems off-base, quick reports to the hosting site may keep the money from disappearing.

If you do support small grassroots campaigns, look for a few earmarks of good planning. Specific uses for donations and how they are intended to help is a good starting point. Avoid vague and broad promises. Organizers who set up transparency from the beginning, with real names and contact information available, are far more credible.

We all want to help, and monetary donations are desperately vital. Lawyers, marches, soup kitchens, and clean water all cost money. But take the time to ensure that your money will go where you intend it to.

Donation News

Charitable Giving in the U.S. Topped $390 Billion Last Year

Here’s some good news: last year was one of the most charitable years in U.S. history. According to Giving USA’s Annual Report on Philanthropy, Americans gave $390.05 billion to charities in 2016—about a 3 percent increase from 2015.

But what’s particularly impressive is that Americans were still generous despite a rocky election cycle. Aggie Sweeney, the chair of Giving USA, fully expected donations to drop off in 2016 due to all the political upheaval. But that’s not what happened.

“Americans remained generous in 2016, despite it being a year punctuated by economic and political uncertainty,” Sweeney stated. “We saw growth in every major sector, indicating the resilience of philanthropy and diverse motivations of donors.”

The report also shows that donations made by individuals are on the rise. Last year, individual contributions topped $282 billion—up 3.9 percent from 2015.

Patrick M. Rooney, associate dean of academic affairs and research at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy (which compiles the report), says that the increase in individual giving reflects the “democratization of philanthropy.”

“In 2016, we saw something of a democratization of philanthropy,” Rooney stated. “The strong growth in individual giving may be less attributable to the largest of the large gifts, which were not as robust as we have seen in some prior years, suggesting that more of that growth in 2016 may have come from giving by donors among the general population compared to recent years.”

But it’s not just individual contributions that are on the rise; donations from foundations also rose—to the tune of a 3.5 percent increase from 2015. Donations from corporations also increased by 3.5 percent. In fact, the only demographic that saw a decrease was giving via bequests, which fell by 9 percent.

As for which causes people are donating to the most, religion remains number one with education coming in at a close second.


Appealing to Psychological Needs Can Garner More Donations

It may seem obvious, but the way you word fundraising appeals can have a pretty big impact on the success of those appeals. According to new research, minor changes to wording can increase donations by up to 300%. But before you go and rewrite all of your appeals, there are some things you need to know.

First of all, there is no secret weapon here. The study was based on 30,000 fundraising letters sent out to people across India. 20,000 of those letters were from a cold list and the rest were from a warm list. Researchers found that seeking out donors with the same religious beliefs increased donations by 55%, or by 33% if the target is of low-income status. By slightly modifying the fundraising appeals, researchers found a variety of ways to appeal to peoples’ sympathy.

At the core of all of this seems to be the idea that putting a face on the appeal helps. Making donors aware that they will be helping real, specific people seems to draw in more donations. But donors also want to feel like they’re a part of something greater than themselves. In order to create this sense of belonging, donors have to feel aligned with the organization’s missions and goals. Organizations have to cater to these psychological needs if they want to receive more donations.

That may feel manipulative, but the fact of the matter is that pure logic does not appeal to people as much as we might like to think. Marketing, and that’s what this is, most often appeals to human emotions, because let’s face it, we’re emotional creatures first and foremost. It’s all about convincing people to back a certain idea or cause, and making them feel good about doing so. This research has shown that by actually applying psychology to fundraising efforts, these efforts can really pay off, which is especially helpful in a world with an ever increasing number of charities.


Is Donald Trump a Philanthropist?

A year ago, News Examiner deemed Donald Trump “the least charitable billionaire in the world.” Even Vanity Fair suggested that Trump’s donation claims were a sham. But despite harsh critiques from the press, one thing is certain: Donald Trump has donated to charitable organizations in the past. The question is: does that make him a philanthropist?

The problem with the word “philanthropist” is that its definition is vague. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a philanthropist as “a person who gives generously to help other people.” But is “generously” really quantifiable? Well, it depends on whom you ask. reports that the average American donates 3.2% of his or her income to charity (before taxes). Meanwhile, Christian churches typically recommend tithing (giving 10% of one’s income). Yet, other organizations are adamant that a mere 1% donation will do. So then where does that leave Trump?

On March 4, 2016, Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, claimed that the presidential frontrunner has “donated over $100 million to charitable causes over the last number of years.” With a Forbes estimated net worth of $4.5 billion, that leaves Donald Trump with approximately 2% of his current net worth donated to charity.

But that’s assuming that Trump really has donated $100 million to charity. According to The Washington Post, there is no actual evidence to support this claim. Lack of evidence aside, the amount of money he’s donated isn’t the only thing that has Trump under fire.

Tax information from the Donald J. Trump Foundation reveals that Trump himself hasn’t made a donation to the foundation since 2008. This is part of the reason that News Examiner harped on him so badly; from 1990 to 2009, Trump has only donated $3.7 million to his own organization. Meanwhile, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) donated $4 million to the foundation in 2007.

So does any of this make Donald Trump a philanthropist? You tell us! Leave your comments below!


Hated Celebrities and the Causes They Support

It turns out that not all press is good press, because the negative press associated with these celebrities overrides the positive impacts they’ve made.

Kanye West

Maybe it’s that people still can’t get past the whole Taylor Swift feud, that or they can’t get past his enormous ego. Either way, Kanye West remains one of America’s most hated celebrities. But while the rapper has certainly engaged in some eyebrow-raising antics, his good deeds largely remain unknown. Among them is Donda’s House, an arts and music program that he co-founded with his mother back in 2005. The organization benefits at-risk youth by providing them with access to recording studios, writing workshops, and open mics. Donda’s House was named after Kanye’s mother, Dr. Donda, who passed away in 2007.

Kim Kardashian

Birds of a feather flock together. Kim Kardashian, who married Kanye West in 2014, caught some flak in 2013 for auctioning off her clothes on eBay, with only 10 percent of the proceeds benefiting the victims of Typhoon Yolanda. But what people may not realize is that Kim has been donating to multiple charities long before this incident ever took place. Charities she’s donated to include the Alzheimer’s Association, American Foundation for AIDS Research, the Dream Foundation, and the Humane Society.

Justin Bieber

Beloved amongst tween girls, hated by the rest of the American population, Justin Bieber can’t seem to catch a break even when he donates to noble causes. The pop star has given generous amounts of money to the ALS Association, the Food Bank for New York City, PETA, the American Red Cross, and World Vision.

Miley Cyrus

Originally famous for being Hannah Montana, Miley Cyrus has morphed into a twerking, culture-appropriating nightmare. But racist accusations aside, Miley Cyrus has supported a variety of different causes, including St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, the YWCA, Feeding America, and Habitat for Humanity.

Simon Cowell

Known for his brutally honest commentary on American Idol and the X Factor, Simon Cowell is cited as being rude, callous, and arrogant. But beneath the rough exterior, Simon actually has a heart, and even donated £25,000 to help pay for a three-year-old’s life-saving cancer treatment. But Simon has come under fire for his charitable donations in the past. In 2014, Simon gave $150k to Israel’s Defense Force, an act that angered pro-Palestinian activists.


Hollywood Isn’t Donating Like It Used To

Los Angeles, despite being home to numerous very wealthy, sometimes generous people, is in a bit of a charity slump. There are a lot of reasons for why that is, but chief among them is that celebrity donors aren’t donating as much as they did before 2008. A lot of charities suffered during the financial crisis, and following that, people seem to be more interested in seeing how their donation is spent.

That’s reasonable, and something that is common for educated donors. But there are other issues as well, which may not be as unique to L.A. There are currently 35,000 501(c)3s. That’s 12% more than there were a decade ago. As a result, there is a lot of overlap, with multiple charities working towards the same goal. And while that may sound like a good thing, it actually isn’t. New charities are hard to start and maintain, and at scale are more expensive than large, established charities. But people keep starting new charities, when what they could be doing is donating that money to established organizations, or establishing funds to raise money for others.

Part of the problem with having so many charities is that it’s hard to tell which are worth supporting, which is part of the reason they tend to not survive for very long. It takes time to gain the trust and support of donors, which can be difficult with that many causes and charities to choose between. A streamlined non-profit scene would be ideal, but it’s not really fair to ask a bunch of charities to close up shop, nor is it really all that practical. It is safe to say that L.A. doesn’t need any more charities, it just needs to focus on what it has, and get people motivated to invest in those organizations.