Donation News

Star-Studded Sing-a-Long Raises $5 Million for Historic Apollo Theatre

Since it first opened in 1934, the Apollo Theatre has been a hotspot for African American culture—particularly music. Its amateur night has been the starting point for many big names in music, including Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Bill Cosby, and Lauryn Hill. These days, the theater relies on generous donations to keep its legacy going. That’s why billionaire Ron Perelman’s seventh annual fundraiser is so important.

On August 20, Perelman’s “little barn in the Hamptons” was filled with big names from a variety of entertainment and business backgrounds, including comedian Chris Rock, singer/actress Jennifer Lopez, and private equity guru Henry Kravis.

Guests paid $10,000 to mingle among the stars and hear live music performances by Lionel Richie (who led sing-a-longs to his hits), The Roots, Gwen Stefani, and Joe Walsh. But there was a purpose beyond fun—to raise funds for the Apollo Theatre.

“We’ve got to break the divide between the haves and have-nots, the rich and the poor,” Perelman told his guests. “I think we can manage to do it with the arts….And the Apollo can do that better than any other institution I’ve been involved with.”

The theater that was to become the historic Apollo was built in Harlem, New York in 1913 by Jules Hurtig and Harry Seamon. The two burlesque operators ran it as Hurtig and Seamon’s New Burlesque Theater. In 1928 Bill Minsky bought the building and renamed it the 125th Street Apollo Theatre. Even though Harlem was becoming the epicenter of African American culture by that time, audiences and entertainers at the theater were entirely white.

That all changed on January 26, 1934, when new owners Sydney S. Cohen and Morris Sussman reopened the Apollo as a theater specifically meant to showcase black performance. Its “amateur night” became a popular feature, creating space for the first performances for many who went on to become big names in the music industry.

The Apollo is now officially a landmark building, drawing an estimated 1.3 million visitors every year.

Perelman’s annual fundraiser provides the Apollo with regular funds—this year, about $5 million—to continue its support of the African American art scene in New York.

Photo: Felix Lipov /


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.

Donation News Organizations The Power of Giving

The Foundation of Giving: New Movements by the Wealthy to Give Back

Front of the Gates Foundation building
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Giving Pledge is one way billionaires are giving back.
Image: lembi /

Whether it’s inherent in the structure of a business or a personal choice made by the wealthy individual, more and more billionaires are choosing to give away massive portions of their wealth to charity. Sometimes the donations happen during the person’s lifetime; other times it’s a promise through a program like the Giving Pledge to donate a significant percentage of their money to charity upon their death.

On the business side, groups like global financial powerhouse General Atlantic are often founded on the idea of giving back to the community. Established in 1980, General Atlantic has more than 100 investments around the world. But it’s not just about the money—the company founder, Chuck Feeney, was determined to make philanthropy a vital part of the business.

According to Bill Ford, General Atlantic Chief Executive Officer, Feeny “was one of the early proponents of ‘giving while living’ and aimed to give his entire fortune away during his lifetime to support a number of philanthropic causes he was passionate about. In order to grow his capital available for giving, he partnered with us to invest in other promising entrepreneurs. So General Atlantic’s heritage has always been about backing entrepreneurs and innovators who are trying to build new businesses and who often pioneer new industries.”

In more modern times, many billionaires are not only integrating philanthropy into their businesses, but also turning to Bill Gates’s and Warren Buffet’s Giving Pledge. The pledge is not a legally binding commitment, but rather, a promise by the world’s wealthy to donate more than half of their fortunes to charitable causes either during or after their lifetime. The Giving Pledge is meant to help the wealthy inspire others by providing well-known examples of people who have gone above and beyond to give back to their communities.

Each Pledge member publicly announces his or her intent to give, as well as creating an official statement about their philanthropic plans. In addition, they gather throughout the year—and at one big annual event—to discuss issues of philanthropy.

As of 2015, this group included 193 individuals from around the world, with more constantly joining

“It’s really thinking about how iconic figures providing inspiration and support can inspire and serve as a model for society,” said Robert Rosen, Giving Pledge coordinator and Director of Philanthropic Partnerships for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “We aren’t looking to add any additional complexity.”

Will these billionaires actually give the amounts they’ve promised? So far, many have. And hopefully they will inspire an entirely new generation of philanthropic do-gooders to do great things for their communities.



Street Art in San Francisco: Balmy Alley

Image: Via

In San Francisco, there are several clusters of murals or street art that have gained attention. Many of these exist in the Mission District. For the mural lover, Balmy Alley is one of the highest concentrations of murals, and it is steeped in history. The Alley is located between 24th St. and 25th St., and Treat St. and Harrison St., which is a short walk from a BART stop. The ally contains murals in a variety of styles and on a variety of topics from human rights to gentrification.

The history of Balmy Alley begins in the mid-80’s. During this time, the neighborhood was primarily Latino.  In the previous decade, a famous mural called Las Lechugueras had been painted by two women called Mujeres Muralistas. A couple of murals were painted in the area, but it was Ray Patlan who had the intentions for the area. He brought together a group of muralists to create a project in this ally. They wanted each garage door or fence to have a mural on it. The theme uniting the paintings would be the “celebration of indigenous Central American cultures, and protest of U.S. intervention in Central America.”

By September 1985, 27 murals had been painted thanks to the funding Zellerbach Foundation and paint donations from Politec Mural Paints. After its completion it received more publicity than any other murals in San Francisco and significantly affected the creation of La Lucha Continua Art Park in New York City.

Since then, other murals have sprung up in the same area on a variety of different themes while some of the older murals are being restored. The best way to visit this iconic area is by foot, either individually or on the tour with Precita Eyes Mural Arts. This is a great way to get some history behind some of the major murals. Either way, if you appreciate street art, Balmy Ally is a San Francisco must.

Donation Organizations

Turn Your Gardening Hobby into a Charity

Image: Shutterstock

For gardeners with a charitable streak, donating part of your harvest to charity can turn your hobby into helping others. According to Plant a Row, a nonprofit dedicated to this exact idea, about 84 million households in the United States have yards or gardens. They maintain that if each of those gardens simply added another row of vegetables or the like and then donated that yield, it could take a pretty big bite out of hunger.

About 50 million people, almost the population of California, suffer from food insecurity, and rely on food banks or other organizations for help, when they can get it. But those organizations don’t always have enough food to go around, and fresh produce can be especially hard to keep on hand. Fresh fruit and vegetables are important to human health, but are all to often neglected or out of people’s price range. Local gardeners can help change that though.

There are a lot of ways that this idea can be put into practice. Home gardens are the obvious choice, but community gardens built with charity in mind are a wonderful idea as well. Not only do such gardens generate food, but they create green spaces and provide exercise and recreation for people in the community. Schools often undertake gardening projects, and those are a perfect opportunity to not only teach kids about biology, but to help instill a charitable tendency as well.

And charitable gardens don’t require much more work than normal gardens either. Crops like leaf lettuce, onions, or carrots are easy to grow, hardy, and should have no problem finding a good home. Get in touch with local food banks, or organizations like Plant a Row or Feeding America to see how you can help out, and if you can’t find a local organization to contribute to, why not start your own?

News The Power of Giving

The Billionaires to Donations Ratio in China is Skewed

The number of billionaires in the People’s Republic of China has increased significantly in the last decade or so, but their charitable giving has not kept pace. In 2015, China saw a rise in the billionaire population of 38%, with a net worth of $830 billion, meaning that country has the second largest number of billionaires after the United States. But the United States far outpaces China in charitable giving.

There are a number of reasons for this, but one of the most significant is a lack of transparency on the part of charitable organizations. In recent years, there have been a number of scandals involving charities in China, especially as pertains to the use of funds, which has made many people cautious. The government has stepped in to address the situation, but as is common in China, that has largely been to restrict who can claim charity status, and what they can focus their mission on. The result is that many charities are now beholden to the government.

Some billionaires, a class that has only recently come into being in the nominally communist country, are reasonably cautious about how the government perceives them, and so they must choose their donations very carefully. But there also aren’t many tax incentives for donating in China. Here in the United States, although many people donate out of the kindness of their hearts, there are a number of tax benefits that companies can claim by donating to charity, and they make sure to do that. Regardless of why a person, or a company, donates to charity, the end result is still a donation.

While the number of charitable organizations in China has increased in the last few years, up to 4,211 as of 2015, giving to those organizations is still slow. The Chinese government does seem to be interested in finding ways to get people to support select charitable causes though, so this may change over the next few years.


Trump Finally Gives Away the Money He “Donated” In January

Photo credit: Joseph Sohm /

Back in January, instead of attending a debate, Donald Trump held a fundraiser for veterans’ charities. Supposedly, it raised about $6 dollars, with Trump having donated $1 million himself, though until very recently, most of that money had yet to be given to any charities.

Trump’s campaign manager claimed that the money the Republican candidate donated had already been withdrawn and distributed, and that the process would be complete by Memorial Day, but Trump himself has said that he doesn’t know how his campaign manager would know that. Instead, he finally did donate $1 million on May 23rd, to the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation, which helps children of fallen marines and law enforcement officers.

According to Trump, it took so long because “you have a lot of vetting to do” when you donate. That’s actually good advice, and something that donors and nonprofit groups know well, except it doesn’t mesh with the fact that the Donald J. Trump Foundation already donated over $230,000 to that group. So did the Foundation not do a good enough job of vetting them, or is that just an excuse Trump made to avoid admitting that he never planned on actually donating any money in the first place?

The whole issue seems like just another example of Trump grasping for publicity. It’s become clear in the last few months that he is not a generous man, and that most of the “donations” he has made over the years weren’t really donations in the first place, but instead free golf games and the like.

It’s good that a charity finally did get the money Trump pledged, four months later, but some of that money is still unaccounted for, which is pretty amazing considering just how long four months is, and that he already has a foundation, named after him, which could have handled the actual donations in a few days or so.

News The Power of Giving

New Bill Would Make Investigating Charity Fraud More Difficult

A bill introduced to the House of Representatives and awaiting a vote would make “dark money” untraceable, which poses some risks to charity fraud investigations. “Dark money” refers to anonymous donations to nonprofits, usually politically active groups, that allow wealthy people to donate money without attracting attention to themselves. It’s become a huge issue in politics of late, especially since the Citizens United victory in 2010 that allowed for unlimited spending by corporations and other entities on political campaigns. This presidential election season is already gearing up to cost more than twice the 2012 race.

The bill would eliminate an IRS mandated donor-disclosure requirement, meaning that groups wouldn’t have to say who gave them money. Supporters say this protects the First Amendment rights of donors and protects them from political pressure and the like. Meanwhile, opponents say that it would make it difficult for fraud investigations to determine who donated to charities and whether or not there are conflicts of interest there. It would also prevent them from determining if charities moved funds between one another.

Charity fraud is a serious issue, and although it doesn’t happen all that often, only about 1% of annual giving is affected, it’s still something that needs to be investigated. Especially since when it does come to light, it tends to get a lot of press and damage the nonprofit sector’s image. Adding fuel to opponents’ arguments against the bill are the supporters themselves, most notable Citizens United and the Koch Brothers. If you’ve been following politics for the last decade, especially campaign finance, then you know that these groups have never had the best interest of American’s at heart, but only those of billionaires and corporations. This bill is simply another attempt to increase their own power, while denying the government the ability to keep them in check, and this time it’ll make fraud easier.

News Organizations

Another Veterans Charity Under Investigation

Military veterans are, sadly, some of the most in need of support from nonprofits, but lately there have been a number of veteran’s charities coming under fire for not doing right by the people they’re supposed to be helping. The Wounded Warrior Project has seen the most press, after the CEO and COO were fired following revelations that they were spending most of the group’s money on pomp and circumstance, instead of helping veterans.

Now, The National Vietnam Veterans Foundation is under investigation for similar offenses. The group actually has a rating of 0 out of 4 stars from Charity Navigator, which is pretty damning on its own. A big part of that is because it does not have an independent board of directors. Their board consists of only three members, some of whom are related to each other. According to 2014 tax filings, they spent $133,000 on travel, $8,000 for parking, and $21,000 on awards. How is any of that possibly justified?

It doesn’t seem like the organization cares, because they also paid the charity’s head $65,000 that year. Which was in addition to the $127,000 salary he brings home as a deputy director of the Office of General Counsel for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA has a pretty mixed reputation with veterans, and the idea of somebody who makes that much money in the first place supplementing his income by another 50% instead of actually helping the veterans he purports to work for, is pretty disgusting.

Veterans charities exist because the VA isn’t all that good at it’s job, and with people like this involved, it’s not hard to see why. J. Thomas Burch, the individual in question, so far hasn’t responded to requests for interviews from CNN or anyone else, which is a sure sign that he’s got no real defense for his actions.


NYC Mayor’s Fundraising Arm Stops Working with Investigators

Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York City, has been investigated for the conduct of the fundraising arm of his political campaign. The Campaign for One New York is currently being investigated by several entities, including the Joint Commission on Public Integrity (JCOPE). For the last year or so, the state ethics panel has been working closely with the Campaign for One New York but as of April 6th, that organization has stated that they will no longer be replying to JCOPE subpoenas.

Although neither the Campaign nor de Blasio have made things entirely clear, there seems to be some concern on their part that the independent, non-profit JCOPE is actually a political tool of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a political rival of de Blasio. They have implied that JCOPE has overstepped its legal purview, and has the wrong motivations in conducting the investigation.

The Joint Commission on Public Integrity was formed back in 2011 as an independent monitoring organization. Coumo has been quick to point this out, though he himself is responsible for appointing the groups chair and seven of it’s fourteen members. That does paint a picture of a group which is heavily influenced by the governor, whether or not he directly “pulls the strings.”

In response to the letter, JCOPE has asked the courts to force Campaign for One New York to comply and continue submitting to the investigation. That decision should be interesting, as it could establish precedent for de Blasio’s group to shrug off other current and future investigations, and may push other non-profit groups to do the same.

Regardless of whether JCOPE is a political tool of Coumo, the Campaign’s reaction this late is the game does seem like a political move, since they’ve been cooperating for so long already, it seems unlikely they didn’t know about Coumo’s alleged influence.