From Fresh Prince to Philanthropist: A Look at Will Smith's Giving

Will Smith has enjoyed an incredible trajectory, a Philly rapper with a G-rated twist who became the star of one of the most popular sitcoms of all time and an international movie superstar. More recently, he also co-created a production company, Overbrook Entertainment, which has generated more than $3 billion in worldwide box office receipts and even more in home video sales, according to its website. Smith's net worth, meanwhile, has been estimated at $240 million.

That's big money, but it's the kind of fortune that is increasingly common these days in the upper reaches of the entertainment industry, as compensation for top talent has moved into the stratosphere in the past decade. In turn, wealth on this level is producing a new era of philanthropy by the stars, which we're exploring in depth at Inside Philanthropy, profiling many of the emerging funders from this sector. 

Related - Glitzy Giving: Guide to Top Funders in Entertainment and Media

Despite his lengthy career, Smith is only 46 and his wife Jada Pinkett is only 43. On the philanthropic front, the couple established the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation in 1996, which, unlike some other celebrities we profile here, actually has a website, though it's only one page with limited information. This makes it tough to get a handle on exactly what guidelines the foundation has. The site does state that the foundation has interests in "education, empowerment, health, commuity development, sustainability and the arts."

Recent money streaming out of the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation has supported a variety of education outfits. Money has streamed to schools in the Los Angeles area such as Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village, and Discovery Charter Prep School in Pacoima, CA. Another site of philanthropy is Baltimore, where Jada Pinkett is from. Jada gave her school, Baltimore School for the Arts, a $1 million gift last decade, and recently, the foundation has supported the school with more modest sums. Money has also gone to the Elvira B. Pierce Scholarship Fund and Children's Scholarship Fund. On the higher education front, recent money has gone to La Salle University and Towson University.

The Smiths have also supported outfits that work for racial equity and support the African-American community. One example of this is Associated Black Charities, which received a $10,000 grant in 2013. The outfit describes itself as "a public foundation that advocates and facilitates the creation of measurably healthier and more prosperous communities through responsible leadership and philanthropic investment throughout the State of Maryland." Money has also gone to the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, ACLU of Southern California, Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations, Society of Black Academic Surgeons, Little Miss African American, and more.

Related - Will Smith Profile

In health, it's likely that Smith's role as boxer Muhammad Ali in the 2001 biopic is a factor in his support of the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center. Support has also gone to Alzheimer's Association, Keep Memory Alive, which aims to "improve the lives of patients and families as they navigate the challenges of brain disorders, including Alzheimer's," and the Lupus Foundation of America. The forces are also particularly strong when it comes to lupus, as several people close to Jada suffer from the autoimmune disease.

Grantmaking by the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation has also involved arts, environmental, and religious outfits. As well, the couple has waded into energy and climate issues. The foundation recently supported an energy startup called called Quidnet Energy, "a developer of grid-scale energy storage systems capable of enabling the carbon-free power grid."

The Smiths were introduced to Quidnet by Prime Coalition, a nonprofit founded by young MIT graduate Sarah Kearney, whose goal is to get foundations to support technology ideas fighting climate change. On a similar note, the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation has supported Village Capital, which "finds, trains, and funds entrepreneurs solving global problems."

An important thing to remember is that the Smiths are quite young, and are likely just getting started. Additionally, some of their current philanthropy might be through vehicles outside of their foundation, and so the picture we're presenting here may leave out important gifts. 

Related - A Movie Star Gets Behind a Clean Energy Startup, With Help From a Matchmaker