Cause Celebs Sell Charity-Who’s Nice? Who’s Naughty?

The start of January, with New Year’s resolutions not yet fading into memory and hangovers from the long, sad tedium of 2004 still lingering, seems like an appropriate time to take stock of a few things.

The credit-card debt towering over our heads. The friend we refused to bail out of a small-town lockup. The sheer emotional mess of our lonely lives. And whether we’re giving enough money to the charities we appear on television to promote.

For pop star Jessica Simpson, along with Rosie O’Donnell, Derek Jeter and plenty of other stars, carefully cultivating relationships with select charitable foundations-or founding one’s own-is a part of the job. There’s the oft-touted need to use one’s advantages to help others. And all that altruism makes for some great headlines!

If some stars use causes to benefit from the attention, plenty of others use the attention they get to benefit causes. Who are we to say which are which?

Leonardo DiCaprio and Sandra Bullock are giving plenty to tsunami disaster relief, and Oprah Winfrey and Rosie O’Donnell have won praise for the sheer size and the efficiency of their charitable organizations. But there are a few celebrities-like Calvin Klein and Whitney Houston-whose groups are either in debt or haven’t donated very much money. Whatever their intentions, their results are something we can judge.

So The Observer decided to take a look at several dozen celebrities and their charities-to see how much money they’re raising, how much they’re giving away and how much they’ve squandered.

“A lot of celebrities will set up a foundation with a lot of hoopla and fanfare and don’t put their own resources into it-for some reason, they’re chintzy-and don’t ask their wealthy friends for money either,” said Daniel Borochoff, the president of the American Institute of Philanthropy, a charity watchdog group. “Sometimes they’ll get family and friends involved that don’t know what they’re doing, so the charity ends up poorly managed.”

According to industry guidelines, about 60 percent of a charity’s expenses should go directly to charitable activities. While most of the charities on this list meet that target-Jessica Simpson and Vince Carter, shame on you-others are falling into debt or inactivity.

“Michael Jackson’s had a number of charities that didn’t amount to anything,” said Mr. Borochoff. “I’ve been told a lot of egregious stories in confidence, so I can’t tell you the really good stuff!”

Some of the best-respected celebrity charities are the Lance Armstrong Foundation and the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, according to Sandra Miniutti, director of external relations and spokeswoman for Charity Navigator, another charity watchdog.

“On the flip side, one of the most well-known poorly run charities is Operation Smile, which has partnered with Jessica Simpson,” she said. “A relatively low percentage of their budget is going to the services they’re in the business of providing and instead go to high administration and fund-raising expenses.

“The majority of celebrity-affiliated charities are well-run. However, what we say to donors is: Just because a celebrity endorses the charity doesn’t mean it’s an excellent charity.”

See for yourself. The entries below show how much the celebrities raked in and the percentage of the charities’ expenses (“Ratio of Program Expenses” in philanthropy-speak) that actually went to charitable activities.

Rosie O’Donnell

Charity: The For All Kids Foundation

Goals: To provide financial supportto nonprofit programs serving ecnomically disadvantaged and at-risk children.

2003 Assets: $35,217,244

2003 Revenue: $1,694,320

2003 Expenses: $2,991,681

2003 Program Expenses: $2,393,529

Ratio of Program Expenses: 80 percent

C.E.O. Compensation: $106,412*

*Treasurer Daniel Crimmins’ company, DPC Management, located in a suite down the hall from the foundation, provided investment advice for $304,476.

Christopher Reeve

Charity: Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation

Goals: To fund research that develops treatments and cures for paralysis caused by spinal-cord injury and othercentral-nervous-system disorders.

2003 Assets: $13,287,227

2003 Revenue: $14,168,116

2003 Expenses: $17,389,633

2003 Program Expenses: $12,141,308

Ratio of Program Expenses: 70 percent

C.E.O. Compensation: $220,000

Charity Navigator Rating: III

Lance Armstrong

Charity: Lance Armstrong Foundation

Goals: To increase awareness, encourage the government to take action, and address the health-policy concerns of people battling cancer, and to support their families.

2003 Assets: $9,928,999

2003 Revenue: $9,043,412

2003 Expenses: $10,541,883

2003 Program Expenses: $8,523,966

Ratio of Program Expenses: 81 percent

Highest Salary: $133,338

Charity Navigator Rating: IIII

Britney Spears

Charity: Britney Spears Foundation

Goals: To raise funds to benefit selected charities.

2003 Assets: $74,737

2003 Revenue: $342,907

2003 Expenses: $516,826

2003 Program Expenses: $391,028 ($1,106,781 in 2002)

Ratio of Program Expenses: 75 percent

Highest Salary: $30,741

Vince Carter

Charity: Embassy of Hope Foundation

Goals: To raise funds for organizations and individuals who work to improve the quality of life for children.

2003 Assets: $25,570 ($53,898 in 2002)

2003 Revenue: $152,930

2003 Expenses: $185,690

2003 Program Expenses: $48,345 ($127,229 for fund-raising)

Ratio of Program Expenses: 26 percent

Highest Salary: No paid employees

Jessica Simpson

Charity: Operation Smile (Ms. Simpson is the national spokeswoman)

Goals: To repair childhood facial deformities; to build public and private partnerships that advocate for sustainable health-care systems for children and families.

2003 Net Assets: $9,319,733

2003 Revenue: $11,422,567

2003 Expenses: $10,995,539

2003 Program Expenses: $6,244,788

Ratio of Program Expenses: 56 percent

Highest Salary: $176,538

Charity Navigator Rating: I

Jayson Williams

Charity: Jayson Williams Foundation

Goals: Youth Education and Counseling

2003 Net Assets: –$7,051 (deficit)

2003 Revenue: $62,342

2003 Expenses: $69,393

2003 Program Expenses: $62,918

Ratio of Program Expenses: 90 percent

Highest Salary: No paid employees

Muhammad Ali

Charity: American Parkinson’s Disease Association

Goals: Founded in 1961 to “Ease the Burden and Find the Cure” for Parkinson’s through research, as well as patient and family support and education.

2003 Net Assets: $11,021,906

2003 Revenue: $11,501,031

2003 Expenses: $8,590,305

2003 Program Expenses: $6,263,257

Ratio of Program Expenses: 73 percent

Highest Salary: $162,435

Charity Navigator Rating: III

Tiki Barber

Charity: Fresh Air Fund (Mr. Barber is on the board of directors)

Goals: Over 10,000 New York City children enjoy free Fresh Air Fund programs annually.

2003 Net Assets: $96,363,662

2003 Revenue: $14,588,390

2003 Expenses: $13,112,546

2003 Program Expenses: $9,897,264

Ratio of Program Expenses: 75 percent

Highest Salary: $233,871

Charity Navigator Rating: II

Paul Newman, Julia Roberts

Charity: Hole in the Wall Gang Fund

Goals: A nonprofit summer camp and year-round center which serves children and their families coping with cancer, sickle-cell anemia, H.I.V./AIDS or other life-threatening illnesses.

2003 Net Assets: $43,792,497

2003 Revenue: $4,821,671

2003 Expenses: $6,074,557

2003 Program Expenses: $5,207,971

Ratio of Program Expenses: 85 percent

Highest Salary: $113,500

Charity Navigator Rating: II

Bruce Willis

Charity: Willis Foundation

Goals: Raise funds to benefit charities.

2003 Net Assets: $874

2003 Revenue: $312,000

2003 Expenses: $111,688

2003 Program Expenses: $107,500

Ratio of Program Expenses: 96 percent.

Highest Salary: No paid employees

Calvin Klein

The Calvin Klein Foundation

2003 Assets: $8,728

2003 Revenue: $57

2003 Expenses: $125

2003 Program Expenses: $0

Ratio of Program Expenses: 0 percent.

Highest Salary: No paid employees

Oprah Winfrey

Charity: Oprah’s Angel Network

Goals: Grants awards to grassroots organizations in under-served communities that assist people with basic human needs, dignity and educational initiatives.

2003 Assets: $7,430,851

2003 Revenue: $4,967,827

2003 Expenses: $2,173,896

2003 Program Expenses: $1,930,895

Ratio of Program Expenses: 89 percent

Highest Salary: $58,805

Michael J. Fox

Charity: Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research

Goals: Dedicated to ensuring the development of a cure for Parkinson’s disease within the decade.

2003 Assets: $15,738,571

2003 Revenue: $16,335,971

2003 Expenses: $17,881,605

2003 Program Expenses: $15,989,657

Ratio of Program Expenses: 89 percent

Highest Salary: $210,000

Bruce Springsteen

Charity: Thrill Hill Foundation

2003 Assets: $3,206,479

2003 Revenue: $1,009,354

2003 Expenses: $128,102

2003 Program Expenses: $128,000

Ratio of Program Expenses: 100 percent

Highest Salary: No paid employees

Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston Foundation for Children

2003 Fund Balance: -$6,144 (in debt)

2003 Revenue: -$270

2003 Expenses: $2,027

2003 Program Expenses: $0

Ratio of Program Expenses: 0 percent

Highest Salary: n/a

Derek Jeter

Charity: Turn 2 Foundation

Goals: Established to identify and fund nonprofit organizations in Western Michigan and New York City which focus on substance-abuse prevention and treatment for youth.

2003 Assets: $2,010,369

2003 Revenue: $1,549,729

2003 Expenses: $1,157,444

2003 Program Expenses: $973,985

Ratio of Program Expenses: 84 percent

Highest Salary: No paid employees

Russell Simmons

Charity: RUSH Philanthropic Arts Foundation

Goals: To provide opportunities, facilities and funding to artists of diverse cultural background.

2003 Total Assets: $781,142

2003 Revenue: $953,620

2003 Expenses: $912,058

2003 Program Expenses: $716,735

Ratio of Program Expenses: 78 percent

Highest Salary: $93,746

Joe Torre

Charity: Joe Torre Family Foundation for Margaret

Goals: Dedicated to fund and develop education programs that will end domestic violence.

2003 Net Assets: $278,847

2003 Revenue: $337,172

2003 Expenses: $58,325

2003 Program Expenses: $50,000

Ratio of Program Expenses: 85 percent

Jane Pauley/Gary Trudeau

Grandison Foundation

2003 Assets: $2,538,830

2003 Revenue: $375,863

2003 Expenses: $338,910

Total Charitable Expenses: $325,500

Ratio of Program Expenses: 96 percent

Highest Salary: n/a

The following celebrity charities have not filed tax returns since 2002:

Aerosmith Foundation (debt of $5,060 in 2001)

Donald J. Trump Foundation (net revenue of $350 in 2002)

Brokaw Family Foundation (net revenue of $32,750 in 2002)

Arod Foundation (Alex Rodriguez) (debt of $21,369 in 2002)

Bernie Williams Foundation (debt of $28 in 2002)

Michael Bolton Charities Inc. (debt of $160,606 in 2002)

Christy Turlington Charitable Foundation (debt of $15,452 in 2002)

Peter Jennings Foundation (net revenue of $125,348 in 2002)

Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund (the Baldwin brothers) (net revenue of $183,558 in 2002)

Robin Hood Foundation (Gwyneth Paltrow, Harvey Weinstein are on the board) (net revenue of $7,742,820 in 2002)

Ennis William Cosby Foundation (debt of $111,975 in 2002)

William Henry Cosby Jr. and Camille Olivia Cosby Foundation (debt of $268 in 2002)

The Gere Foundation (net revenue of $1,540 in 2002)

Tommy Hilfiger Corporate Foundation (0 percent ratio of charitable expenses in 2002)

The Hilfiger Family Foundation (debt of $15,737 in 2002)

The Justin Timberlake Foundation, which provides financial aid to education groups who develop or enhance music programs in the public schools, hasn’t filed a return since 2002, when it reported assets of $6,306 and $141,077 in program services (a 74 percent ratio of its total expenses).