A Star Who Actually Gives: Three Things to Know About Barbra Streisand's Philanthropy

Brooklyn-born Barbra Streisand had her breakout at just 19, when she debuted on Broadway in the 1962 musical comedy I Can Get It For You Wholesale. Since, she's been in a slew of roles in theater and film. She's won two Academy Awards, ten Grammy Awards, and five Emmy Awards. Over the years, she's also amassed quite a chunk of change, some $340 million by one estimate, much of it through real estate investments, and she set up the Streisand Foundation all the way back in 1986.

While the foundation recently changed its grantmaking guidelines and is no longer accepting unsolicited inquiries or proposals, it has been active in quite a few areas, giving over $25 million to more than 800 organizations over the years. That makes Streisand one of the most generous figures in the entertainment industry that we know of, not counting the moguls (who tend to make much bigger bucks). 

While plenty of actors, singers, and comedians score major paydays these days and amass serious fortunes, the so-called "talent" is often reluctant to part with that money through lots of giving. Why? One reason is that the entertainment industry is filled with former stars whose popularity declined and earnings plummeted. In this world, people tend to horde their piles of money, worrying that the next paycheck could be the last. While stars may readily headline a fundraiser, getting them to write big checks is another story. 

But Streisand has been different. With a passion for progressive causes and women's health, she's now been giving away money for over three decades. 

In recent years, individual grants from her foundation have tended to be under $35,000, with under $700,000 going out of the door in the most recent tax year we have available. At times, though, Streisand has made some very large gifts. Here are a few must-knows about Streisand's philanthropy:

1. Large Sums Have Gone for Women's Health

Streisand has made a number of large grants to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, including giving at least $13 million between 2008 and 2010. Cedars-Sinai is the site of Barbra Streisand Women's Heart Center. Her interest in this area, by the way, was activated in part when she found out that there were grave gender disparities in heart disease research, funding and treatment. Apart from Cedars, recent money has gone to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. It's also worth noting that Streisand has used her celebrity to raise a lot of money for women's health, too, reportedly bringing in as much money to Cedars-Sinai by fundraising as she personally gave. In other words, here's an unusual star who excels at both sides of the philanthropy game: writing checks herself and getting others to write them. 

2. Streisand Supports Progressive Causes

A steady stream of money from the foundation has gone to Feminist Majority Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to "women's equality, reproductive health, and non-violence." The Rape Foundation and Brennan Center for Justice, "a nonpartisan law and policy institute that seeks to improve our systems of democracy and justice" has received funding, among others. A component of this philanthropy also involves supporting progressive media, with recent support going to Media Matters for America, and Mother Jones. Recent money has also gone to Advancement Project, civil rights organization.

3. Streisand Is a Strong Environmentalist

Recent money has gone to Environmental Media Association, Heal the Bay, Oceana, National Resources Defense Council, Climate Reality, and Environmental Working Group, an organization which "specializes in research and advocacy in the areas of toxic chemicals, agricultural subsidies, public lands, and corporate accountability."

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Apart from work in these areas, Streisand has also supported Jewish causes and education, with recent money going to the UCLA Foundation, College Track and Teach for America, and arts oufits such as Juilliard, and PEN Center USA.

Of late, her foundation has been giving dozens of small grants annually in a number of different areas.

Related: Barbra Streisand Profile