The 25 most charitable celebrities who have changed people's lives

Getty/Scott BarbourEllen DeGeneres is known for surprising her her live studio audiences with giveaways.

While some celebrities have made habits of broadcasting their wealth and excess, others have devoted their time and considerable resources to help advance the welfare of others.

From Ellen DeGeneres’ roundly-publicized giveaways to the quiet philanthropy of Nicki Minaj, here are 23 of the most generous celebrities whose altruism has changed people’s lives.

The name Oprah Winfrey has become synonymous with celebrity benevolence and charity.

Mike Windle/GettyOprah Winfrey has donated millions to charities.

Former talk show host and current billionaire media mogul Oprah Winfrey has used her fame – and the affluence that comes with it – to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars into various organisations and charities.

Here’s a small taste of her philanthropic resumé: She donated $US10 million to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts; she lobbied for the National Child Protection Act, which established a national database of convicted child abusers and went on to be known as the “Oprah Bill“; and she spent $US50.2 million on education, health care, and advocacy for women and children worldwide in 2007 alone.

Read about how to implement Oprah’s secret to self-success in your life.

Barack and Michelle Obama donated over $US1 million during their time in the White House.

Mark Wilson/Getty ImagesBarack applauds as Michelle beams at their portrait unveiling.

During their years in the White House, the Obamas donated over $US1 million to various charities – and 54% of the money donated went toward causes for children.

The largest sum, of $US392,000 over the course of six years, went to the Fisher House Foundation, which supports families of veterans.

The Obamas also announced that they were donating $US2 million to summer jobs programs in Chicago in May 2017.

Elton John topped the Sunday Times Giving List in 2016 for donating an estimated $US38 million to various charities.

According to the Sunday Times Giving List, the musician donated most of his money to fighting HIV/Aids. His own Elton John AIDS Foundation boasts 24 years of expertise in the fight against HIV.

Author J.K. Rowling fell off of the Forbes billionaires list after donating an estimated $US160 million to charity.

John Phillips/Getty ImagesJ.K. Rowling attends the 70th EE British Academy Film Awards.

J.K. Rowling became the first author to ever make the Forbes billionaire list, largely in thanks to her massively successful Harry Potter empire.

Rowling dropped off the list after donating an estimated $US160 million in charitable donations, combined with Britain’s high tax rates.

“You have a moral responsibility when you’ve been given far more than you need, to do wise things with it and give intelligently,” Rowling said.

George and Amal Clooney co-founded the “Clooney Foundation For Justice” for marginalized and vulnerable communities targeted by hate.

Getty Images/Mike CoppolaGeorge and Amal Clooney recently donated to support the ‘March For Our Lives’ campaign.

Not only has Amal, a renowned human rights lawyer, spent her career advocating for refugees and other marginalized peoples, but after meeting her husband George at a charity event in 2013, the two co-founded the Clooney Foundation For Justice to fight “for the rights of individuals unfairly targeted by oppressive governments through the courts.”

The pair recently donated $US500,000 to support the “March For Our Lives” campaign.

Stories of British pop star George Michael’s magnanimity emerged after his passing in 2016.

Getty/Kevin WinterGeorge Michael performing in 2008.

George Michael, an iconic British pop star who passed in 2016, donated frequently to Childline, a counseling service that helps children heal from various traumas – on the condition that his contributions be kept anonymous.

“Over the years he gave us millions…” Childline founder Esther Rantzen said, adding that Michael was adamant that nobody know “how much he gave to the nation’s most vulnerable children.”

Michael was also known for secretly donating to strangers in need, including $US21,307.80 to a contestant on “Deal or No Deal” who needed money for an IVF treatment.

Angelina Jolie has carried out nearly 60 field missions for her role as an UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador.

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty ImagesAngelina Jolie has represented the UN since 2001.

Not only did Angelina create the Jolie-Pitt foundation with her ex-husband in 2006 in an effort to aid humanitarian causes around the world, Jolie was appointed Special Convoy to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 2012, following years of dedicated service to the program and the cause of refugee rights.

Not only did Chance The Rapper launch the New Chance Arts & Literature Fund, but he’s raised over $US3.2 million for Chicago Public Schools in 2017.

Christopher Polk/Getty ImagesChance The Rapper was honored by Do Something in 2017.

Chicagoan musician Chance The Rapper – who has been named one of the most influential people in the world – earned the top spot on social change organisation Do Something’s annual “Celebs Gone Good” list in 2017.

Additionally, Chance, who is a three-time Grammy winner, was presented with the 2017 BET Humanitarian Award by Michelle Obama.

Beyoncé consistently uses her platform to advance both feminist and charitable causes.

Busacca/Getty Images for NARASBeyoncé performing at the Grammys in a Peter Dundas gown.

All eyes are on Beyoncé’s every public move – and she uses her platform not only to introduce an intersectional (and unapologetic) idea of feminism to a global audience, but also to promote charitable causes.

From the Survivor Foundation she co-founded with Kelly Rowland to the various donations made through her Beygood Foundation (which went toward supporting causes such as relief efforts around the world and toy giveaways for children in need over the holidays), Beyoncé’s sense of altruism is truly flawless.

The mission of the Colin Kaepernick Foundation is “to fight oppression of all kinds globally, through education and social activism.”

Slaven Vlasic/Getty ImagesColin Kaepernick accepting the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, December 2017.

Athele-activist Colin Kaepernick famously kneeled during the National Anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice, but his activism extends far beyond the field.

“I will donate1 million dollars plus all the proceeds of my jersey sales from the 2016 season to organisations working in oppressed communities, $US100,000 a month for 10 months,” Kaepernick pledged in September 2016.

With the help of some celebrity friends, Kaepernick completed his pledge in January 2018.

Ellen DeGeneres’ charitable efforts have changed the lives of humans and animals alike.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesEllen DeGeneres advocates from humans and animals.

Fans of the “Ellen DeGeneres Show” know that the talk show superstar often surprises her live studio audiences with exorbitant giveaways – but her generosity doesn’t end with her fans.

DeGeneres’ Oscar selfie raised $US3 million, so she donated $US1.5 million apiece to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and The Humane Society; she’s a staunch supporter of animal rights; and in 2016, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama.

Portia de Rossi is just as philanthropic and started a wildlife fund with $US10 million for wife DeGeneres’ 60th birthday.

De Rossi came on the “The Ellen DeGeneres” in 2018 and suprised her wife with the Ellen DeGeneres Wildlife Fund, a foundation that focuses on wildlife conservation.

The actress is currently in Rwanda to begin construction on the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund which will support endangered gorillas.

“The Ellen Fund is so honored to support the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund in their dream of finding a permanent home in Rwanda. The new campus will help the gorillas and the surrounding community,” said de Rossi. “Dian Fossey was Ellen’s hero growing up, and I love the idea of these two powerful women working towards the same goal – the protection of one of our closest relatives, the mountain gorillas.”

Nicki Minaj has been donating money to an unnamed village in India for years — and her generosity doesn’t end there.

Kevin Winter/Getty ImagesNicki Minaj showcased her altruism on Twitter and in secret.

Not only did Nicki Minaj spontaneously pledge to pay off a selection of her Twitter followers’ student loans (and other school-related expenses) in 2017, but for years she’s been sending money to villages in India via her pastor, Lydia Woodson-Sloley.

“This is the kind of thing that makes me feel the most proud,” Minaj wrote on her Instagram. Her efforts have helped establish a computer center, a reading program, two water wells, and more infrastructure for different villages in India.

John Legend initiated a multi-year culture campaign which aims to transform America’s criminal justice system.

GettyJohn Legend has won 10 Grammy awards.

After reading “The End of Poverty” by Earth Institute director Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, musician and activist John Legend reportedly travelled to Ghana to further his education on the problems faced by African countries.

Legend then established the Show Me Campaign, which “seeks to give every child access to a quality education,” partnered with Millennium Promise Alliance to serve African villages in need, and established FREEAMERICA, a multi-year culture campaign that aims to transform America’s criminal justice system.

Read about the time John Legend paid off $US5,000 in school lunch debt for 99 Seattle schools.

Emma Watson is both a U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador and a key member of the HeForShe initiative.

Jesse Grant/Getty ImagesEmma Watson attends The BAFTA Los Angeles Tea Party.

This year alone, Emma Watson donated approximately $1.4 million to the anti-sexual harassment campaign, UK Justice and Equality Fund– but her history of giving and activism hardly begins there.

Watson, a U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador and member of the HeForShe campaign, launched an ethical fashion line with PeopleTree in 2009, encouraged her fans to skip her birthday and donate to UNICEF’s charity fund, and supports charities such as the Small Steps Project.

Rihanna has helped make clean water more accessible to children around the world through her role as a UNICEF ambassador.

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty ImagesRihanna attending Rihanna’s 3rd Annual Diamond Ball Benefitting The Clara Lionel Foundation.

The singer, who founded the Clara Lionel Foundation Global Scholarship Program, which supports students from Caribbean countries seeking higher education in the United States, received the 2017 Harvard University Humanitarian of the Year Award for her efforts.

Rihanna also supports the Global Partnership for Education and Global Citizen Project, which seeks to provide millions of young students around the world with education access.

Meryl Streep and her husband, Donald Gummer, established the Silver Mountain Foundation for the Arts.

Frazer Harrison/Getty ImagesNominated for a record 21 Academy Awards, Meryl Streep has won three.

Per Huffington Post, Forbes reported that nobody at the Silver Mountain Foundation of the Arts takes a salary; rather,Streep and Gummer have donated about $US1 million a year to a number of organisations including: Oxfam America, New York’s Meals on Wheels, the Coalition for the Homeless, the National Women’s Museum, Vassar College, and more.

Actress Laverne Cox uses her visibility to shift the narrative around the LGBTQ+ community and reduce violence against marginalized folks.

Jason Merritt/Getty ImagesLaverne Cox works with the NCAVP to end violence against and within LGBTQ+ communities.

Cox is heavily involved with the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), which strives to “prevent, respond to, and end all forms of violence against and within LGBTQ communities.”

In 2015, she helped “Broadway Bares” raise $US1.6 million for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (BCEFA), one of the nation’s most prominent industry-based HIV/AIDS fundraising and grant-making organisations.

Mark Ruffalo was awarded The Humanitarian Award for his work with Water Defence.

Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images for DisneyMark Ruffalo is a passionate environmentalist.

Actor and social activist Mark Ruffalo is a known environmentalist – his support of green campaigns, such as “The Solutions Project,” which pushes for a transition towards using 100% clean energy for everyone, and his standing as a member of “Artists Against Fracking” helped earn him The Humanitarian Award in 2014 for his work with Water Defence at the BAFTA Los Angeles Britannia Awards.

Barbra Streisand raised more than $US20 million for the cardiovascular program at Cedars Sinai, and donated $US10 million herself.

Emma McIntyre/Getty ImagesBarbra Streisand is a tireless vindicator for women’s cardiovascular health.

Barbra Streisand, whose net worth comes in at an estimated $US390 million, created a private charity foundation in 1986, which gives grants to a number of causes, including “national organisations working on preservation of the environment, voter education, the protection of civil liberties and civil rights, women’s issues, and nuclear disarmament.”

Streisand also raised more than $US20 million for the cardiovascular program at Cedars Sinai, now renamed the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center – and she donated $US10 million herself.

Rosario Dawson co-founded an organisation in 2004 aimed at bolstering Latinx participation in politics.

Getty Images / Ian GavanRosario Dawson co-founded an ethical fashion start-up.

Dawson co-founded Voto Latino, an organisation that strives to encourage Latinxs to get involved in politics; in 2016, Voto Latino registered 100,000 Latinx voters in the 2016 election.

The “Luke Cage” actress also co-founded an ethical fashion start-up with fashion executive Abrima Erwiah called “Studio 189,” which enables poor Ghanaian communities to take advantage of the global fashion market.

Ariana Grande staged a benefit concert to support and pay tribute to those affected by a suicide bombing that took place in May 2017.

Jason Merritt/GettyAriana Grande raised $US3 million at her ‘One Love Manchester’ benefit concert.

After twenty-two people were killed – and an additional 116 were injured – in a suicide bombing at on of her concerts in May 2017, the singer hosted a benefit concert called “One Love Manchester” to raise money for those affected by the attack.

The concert raised about$US3 million (£2.35 million) in three hours.

Miley Cyrus has supported a reported 43 different charities and foundations.

Cindy Ord/Getty ImagesMiley Cyrus founded the Happy Hippie Foundation.

Miley is also the founder of the Happy Hippie Foundation, a nonprofit organisation, whose mission is “to rally young people to fight injustice facing homeless youth, LGBTQ youth, and other vulnerable populations.”

Recently, Miley also shelled out the security deposit and first six months’ rent on a two-bedroom apartment for one of her team members from “The Voice.

Dolly Parton recently donated her 100 millionth book from her Imagination Library to the Library of Congress.

GettyDolly Parton champions early childhood literacy.

Country music icon Dolly Parton started her Imagination Library program, which seeks to mail free books to children aged zero to five, in 1995.

On February 27, 2018, Parton donated her 100 millionth book to the Library of Congress, and to date her Imagination Library has mailed books to Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, and the United States.

Matt Damon has worked to provide clean water to impoverished communities and co-founded in 2009.

Kevin Winter/Getty ImagesMatt Damon.

The “Good Will Hunting” actor merged his former foundation, the H20 Africa Foundation, with along with co-founder Gary White. Damon’s foundation hopes to eliminate poverty by creating clean water for disadvantaged communities in 13 countries that include Brazil, Uganda, and Indonesia. So far, has helped provide clean water to over 17 million people.

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