Which Celebs are Using their Platform to Make the Greatest Positive Impact?

We love lists at Inside Philanthropy. We’ve put together lists of the most generous philanthropists on Wall Street and in the tech sector, the most powerful women in U.S. philanthropy, the most interesting foundations, and even the most terrifying trends in philanthropy, just to name a few. So, when we see other organizations making lists of philanthropists, like DoSomething.org’s Celebs Gone Good list, we’re naturally curious to see what they have to say.

The first thing that became apparent when looking at the list was that it’s filled mostly with stars from the younger generation. Many of the names that come to mind when we think of celebrity philanthropyfor example, Bono, Oprah Winfrey, Michael J. Fox, and Brad Pitt and Angelina Joliewere nowhere to be found.

Okay, so maybe these perennial do-gooders didn’t really do anything new or notable in 2014, but what about Dr. Dre and the $35 million he and Jimmy Iovine each laid out to create the USC Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation? Surely, a gift of that size would not escape notice, right? Yet the rapper and the founder of Interscope Records, who together went on to found Beats Electronics, are suspiciously absent as wellsuspiciously, at least, until you realize that the list isn’t based on these celebrities’ actual giving, or the amount of exposure they're getting for their chosen causes, but on the votes of those in DoSomething's network, which is mostly teenagers.

So just maybe there are some problems with the methodology of this list, since it leaves off many of the actual top philanthropists from the entertainment world. On the other hand, it does provide a look into what causes the celebrities that are hot with teens right now support, and that information may be even more precious. These people have seriously big megaphones pointed at impressionable minds, not just in America, but around the world. 

So who made the list? Here are a few of the highlights:

1. Taylor Swift

For the second year in a row, Swift claimed the top spot, this year for donating the proceeds from her hit single “Welcome to New York” to NYC Public Schools. Last year she donated $100,000 to the Nashville Symphony on her birthday, and in 2011 raised $750,000 for tornado victims in the Midwest.

3. Beyonce

Beyonce has launched numerous #BeyGood campaigns this year, mostly to help the poor and empower girls. She also donated $500,000 to Chime for Change, with the money going to health and education programs for women and girls in developing countries, mentoring, counseling, and job training for girls in New York, and support for victims of sex trafficking in Los Angeles.

4. Miley Cyrus

Cyrus used her acceptance speech at the Video Music Awards to raise awareness for the plight of homeless youth in Los Angeles, and the work of My Friend’s Place. She designed t-shirts for the organization, and offered the chance to win a VIP concert experience through Prizeo, resulting in more than $200,000 in donations.

5. Emma Watson

The Harry Potter star isn’t just brilliant on screen. She also recently graduated from Brown, was appointed U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador in July, and helped launch the He for She Campaign, encouraging men to stand up for gender equality. Like many on the list, it wasn't about raising money so much as lending her voice to a cause. 

9. Tyler Oakley

Oakley is one of the few on the list who isn’t really a household name, but the YouTube personality and LGBT advocate managed to mobilize his fans and raise more than half a million for the Trevor Project.

11. John Legend

Legend started the Show Me Campaign early in his career, and raises hundred of thousands annually by hosting fundraising events for the organization, which works to break the cycle of poverty through education. This year, he also raised nearly half a million for the #OperationGirl Charity Challenge, benefiting organizations that support women and girls.

20. Justin Bieber

Rounding out the top 20, Bieber has now granted 200 wishes for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the youngest celebrity ever to do so.


Clearly, when you're basing your list on a fan vote, the celebs with more fans and better name recognition are going to come out on top. This explains why someone like Oakley ended up behind the likes of Miley Cyrus and One Direction (One Direction was ranked sixth for the nearly $350,000 the group raised for Stand Up 2 Cancer) even though Oakley raised more money. And if you consider that Oakley's audience (and in all likelihood, his net worth) is a lot smaller than most of the others on the list, his ability to raise that much money becomes that much more impressive. 

Aside from that, one trend we definitely noticed is that women's empowerment and LGBT issues top the list of causes teens are intereted in. 

And which celebs should be recognized for their charitable contributions last year, but didn't make the list? There are plenty to pick from, so we'll save that for a list of our own. 

Visit Celebs Gone Good and check out who else made their top 20.