Donating with the Stars
I have a claim to fame. I graduated high school with Alec Baldwin. Yes, that Alec Baldwin. Back then he was known as “Alex” to the guys and “Zander” (short for Alexander) to the girls. Generally the girls drooled and squirmed when they spoke of Zander. Back then he was a pretty good guy, too, although you may not know it by his current public persona. I’ll leave it to you to decide which of us has aged more gracefully…
Massapequa (Long Island) Hall of Fame, Then and Now:
Anyway, I wouldn’t say that Alec is a friend as much as an acquaintance who does not necessarily remember my name. After all, I only see him once every ten years at our high school reunions (Go Berner Bisons, Class of 1976 – the “Bisontennial Class!”) Alec always plays the politician, working the room and speaking with everyone as if they were long lost relatives. One year (2006 to be exact) Alec chatted up my wife about some charitable work he was involved in at the time providing money to day care centers so that “women like you can hold down jobs.” My wife’s feelings vacillated between feeling insulted that Alec would assume that she required subsidized daycare in order to work and feeling complimented that she looked young enough to have daycare aged children. But it got me to thinking – where do celebrities give their money? And why does it matter?
Now, I know, this may be pretty far down the gossip chain for most people but guess what? You too can find out quickly and easily whom these guys support. https://www.looktothestars.org/ is a fun website where anyone can research these pressing issues. Interestingly, however, there appears to be no information about the stars’ private foundations. Alec’s mother, Carol Baldwin, heads up a public charity called the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund, Inc., which appears to be a family endeavor, but there was nothing listed about the Alec Baldwin Foundation (a large supporter of Mom’s charity). For that juicy information, I had to go to www.guidestar.com, one of the best charitable research sites out there. I found that in 2011, Alec had contributed more than $3.5MM to the fund (up from $1MM in 2010) and the foundation apparently paid out almost all of that cash in the same year to a wide variety of arts organizations and environmental groups.
Another favorite son of Massapequa is the one and only Jerry Seinfeld. The Seinfeld Family Foundation supports a fairly wide variety of Jewish causes as well as education and human services. Its 2011 990PF has not yet been posted, but in 2010, about $1MM came in and $1.8MM went out. Nearly 65% of its grants went to an organization called Scholarship America, a nice chunk of change for any not-for-profit organization.
For charity geeks, this is pretty cool stuff – but it also shows you that PRIVATE FOUNDATIONS are the furthest thing from PRIVATE. Wealthy individuals and families with charitable intent need to decide how important their anonymity is before using this type of charitable vehicle. But other than providing fodder for those who wish to pass judgment pro or con on something that is none of their business anyway, how useful is this data? Well, actually, it can be quite useful, particularly for smaller organizations that are trying to expand their contribution base and possibly get some good publicity but are not sure where to turn. It is all public information and free for the asking and may make a huge difference, especially to those organizations with limited fundraising options.