Longtime Actor, Longtime Giver: A Look at Alan Alda's Philanthropy

Actor, director, screenwriter and author Alan Alda was born in New York City, the son of actor Robert Alda. He began acting in the theater at the age of 16. During his junior year at Fordham University, he studied in Europe, where he performed on the stage in Rome and on television in Amsterdam with his father. Alda is best known for his long-time role as Hawkeye Pierce on the television show M*A*S*H, for which he won five Emmy Awards.

Alda has also been involved in philanthropy for some time, which makes sense, given the deluge of residuals that flowed from M*A*S*H over the years. Amid a super-sizing of Hollywood compensation in recent decades, Alda's net worth doesn't approach that of today's top figures from the entertainment industry, but certainly he's ended up with plenty of spare cash. 

He and his wife Arlene founded the Jenjo Foundation in 1990s. What's in a name? Well, some clues about the Aldas' philanthropic focus. The Jenjo Foundation is named after Arlene's mother, Jenia, and Alda's mother Joan. In addition, the couple's daughters had recently given birth when the foundation was created, and Arlene is a children's book author. Perhaps as a result of all of these influences, the couple's philanthropy has revolved around women, youth and family. Here are a few things to know:

1. Jenjo Makes Grants That Support Women and Youth

Recent money has gone to Girls Write Now, a nonprofit serving at-risk girls from New York City public high schools. Money has also gone to Project Eye to Eye, which works to empower those with learning differences. Jenjo has also supported Family Services of Merrimack, and Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth (LIGALY). Last decade, Alda also narrated a one-hour TV special for St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

2. Human Services is Another Interest

Recent money has gone to the Retreat, a domestic violence agency, in East Hampton. Alda has also been involved with other organizations including Feeding America, Clothes Off Our Back, and Help USA, which runs housing and shelter programming.

3. Alda Also Has Interest In Science

Specifically, Alda has an interest in making science more accessible to the general public. He founded the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, which develops "innovative programs that enable scientists to communicate more effectively with the public." He also originated the Flame Challenge, a yearly international competition for scientists in which they compete to "explain complex scientific concepts so that 11-year-olds can understand them."

Alda has also supported Economic Ventures, a New York City-based nonprofit which "encourages entrepreneurship through developing and delivering experiential education programs to innovators, visionaries, and early-stage entrepreneurs."

It's worth noting that some of the money streaming from the Jenjo Foundation has gone to a donor-advised fund at the Philanthropic Initiative (TPI) in Boston, with which Jenjo has been associated for years. An interesting document on TPI's website goes into the couple's earlier philanthropic vision. Unfortunately, the Jenjo Foundation doesn't have much of a web presence, or provide a clear way for grantseekers to get in touch.

Related: Alan Alda Glitzy Giving Profile