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The new celebrity must-have: a charity

Springsteen has one, as do Oprah and Will Smith. Now Lady Gaga has joined the club

Adam Sherwin
Saturday 05 November 2011 01:00 GMT

The launch of a charitable foundation in your name used to be the preserve of statesmen or the deceased. Now a couple of hit albums will suffice, as pop's drama queens launch new careers as poverty-alleviating social workers.

When Lady Gaga announced the creation of a new foundation this week, many expected the flamboyant singer to unveil a make-up range. But the Born This Way Foundation is an attempt to combat bullying in response to the suicide of one of her "Little Monsters", a 14 year-old fan, Jamey Rodemeyer.

Singer Cheryl Cole is also rolling her sleeves up in a bid to "give something back". The Cheryl Cole Foundation has been registered with the Charity Commission and will distribute grants to help disadvantaged youngsters in the North East improve their life skills and train for work. Both ventures reflect a new twist on celebrity social activism. Rejecting the global political campaigns advanced by Sir Bob Geldof and Bono, they are focusing on specific projects to improve local communities, inspired by the hardships of their own early years.The charitable foundation has also become a rite of passage for do-gooding celebrities. Educational institutions rely on the largesse of the Will Smith Foundation and Oprah Winfrey's Angel Network. Bruce Springsteen offers grants to struggling law centres through his Thrill Hill Foundation.

The foundations are more than vanity projects, their creators insist. Cole, one of five children raised by her mother on a Newcastle council estate, said: "I want my Foundation to help them realise their potential and get their lives on track." The Gaga Foundation is equally ambitious. "We hope to establish a community that protects and nurtures others in the face of bullying," Lady Gaga said.

Great and good: The star givers

Sir Elton John

Elton John Aids Foundation

Established in the United States in 1992 to support innovative HIV prevention programmes, to try to eliminate stigma and discrimination and provide direct care and support for people with HIV/Aids. Has raised more than $220m in support of projects in 55 countries.

Sample donation: £877,000 National Aids Foundation


Rainforest Foundation Fund

Founded in 1989, the Foundation helps forest communities to gain land rights, challenge logging companies and manage forests for protection of their environment. It has helped indigenous and local communities to protect more than 100,000sq km of rainforest.

Donation: £37,000 assistance to tribes in Peru

Cheryl Cole

Cheryl Cole Foundation

Accounts yet to be lodged. It will support the Prince's Trust's work with young people in the North-east who have struggled at school, are long-term unemployed, those who have been in trouble with the law and those who are in or leaving care.

Dolly Parton

Dollywood Foundation

Manages the Imagination Library, a free book-distribution programme she started in 1996, based at her Dollywood theme park in Tennessee. There are more than 1,000 Imagination Library communities across the US and UK, giving more than 25 million books.

Donation: £145,000 single gift

Sean 'P Diddy' Combs

Daddy's House Social Programmes

Established in 1995 by the hip-hop mogul as a support for inner-city youths. Programmes include the Weekend Boys and Girls Club, Daddy's House on Wall Street, college tours and Bad Boy internships. In 2000, Combs donated $500,000 to his alma mater, Howard University, Washington DC. He has given 100 computers to 500 public schools in New York.

Donation: £102,000 for conferences and camps for inner-city youths

Bruce Springsteen

Thrill Hill Foundation

Since 1989, Springsteen has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to low-income people in his home state of New Jersey. Projects include home repairs throughout Monmouth County to allow wheelchair access.

Donation: £15,000 to Southern Poverty Law Centre

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