For those of us who consider ourselves failed Freudian psychoanalysts, it's always fun to theorize why celebrity funders feel compelled to give. It's doubly fun when the funders have gotten rich by writing sadistic and terrifying books. Perhaps they're trying to make up for all the bad-vibe karma they've spewed into the universe.
More often than not, however, the philanthropic urge is simply rooted in the unpredictable developments of everyday life. Stephen King, for example, set up the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation to help support artists who are unable to work due to health problems, like the one he suffered when he was hit by a car while out jogging one day.
Then there's the Dean and Gerda Koontz Foundation, established in 1994 by the best-selling suspense author Dean Koontz and his wife. The foundation supports charities that assist people with severe disabilities, and critically ill children. One of the main benefactors has been Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), a charitable organization that provides service dogs for people with disabilities.
Koontz definitely has cash to spare. After years atop bestseller lists, he's worth tens of millions of dollars. And therein lies an important point to remember about the top creative talent of our era: Thanks to globalization and other factors that have expanded revenue from entertainment products, this talent—whether musicians, actors, directors, or writers—has built the kinds of fortunes once associated only with entrepreneurs or business executives. All this helps explain why we're seeing an entirely new era of "glitzy giving" by celebrities.
In Koontz's case, his books have sold over 450 million copies worldwide. Author James Patterson has been even more successful, and has also become a philanthropist, as we reported recently.
Koontz's connection to canines began back in 1989 when he was writing Midnight, a novel about a CCI-trained dog named Moose. The more Koontz learned about CCI, the more he liked it. His foundation gave $2,500,000 to CCI between 1991 and 2004 alone. In 2008, meanwhile, $1 million of the foundation's total yearly spending of $1,400,000 went to CCI. And in 2012, CCI's site noted that Koontz had given over $6.5 million to the charity over the past few years.
In an interview with, appropriately, a horror and dark fantasy magazine called Nightmare, Koontz noted how CCI revolutionizes the live of these people "with everything from autism to paraplegic/quadriplegic paralysis and even to some people who would appear to be in something akin to a vegetative state. It's amazing to see that the quality of their life, how it flourishes, how it unfolds when they have an assistance dog."
What's more, Koontz's foundation, which reported assets of $600,550 and revenue of $0 for the most recent tax period ending December 2013, is also a well-oiled machine. A 2010 Forbes piece entitled "Celebrity Charities: Good For Image, But What About Good Works?" posited the cynical (and unfortunately reality-based) theory that—gasp!—some celebrities set up charities to grow their personal brands while racking up high administrative costs.
Forbes crunched the numbers and Koontz ranked in the "efficient" camp. His foundation allocated $1.2 million in 2010 with overhead of a respectable $2,400. Not bad. Of course, the article also notes that if a foundation gets its funds primarily from the founding celebrity (so there are no fundraising costs), and runs no programs, simply cutting checks to charities like CCI, overhead costs can be negligible.
But why split hairs, right?