Not just Paul Walker: 10 celebrities who launched social ventures to use their popularity for social good

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“When you put good will out there it’s amazing what can be accomplished”: late Hollywood actor, Paul Walker.

Picture courtesy:

Picture courtesy:


Paul Walker, the star of the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise was on his way to a fund-raiser to raise money for the victims of typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, through Reach Out Worldwide, when he died from a car accident. Walker, best known for his onscreen role in ‘Fast and Furious’, where he played undercover cop, Brian O’Conner also had a big heart. His foundation Reach Out Worldwide, which he founded in 2010, helps disaster victims of struck globally through a network of professionals with first responder skills: that include doctors, firefighters, paramedics, heavy equipment operators, and other disaster-survival specialists. Having hordes of fans, money and popularity, makes some celebrities vain, self-obsessed and egotistical. But there are many celebrities who leverage the might of their celebrity status to raise millions for a variety of causes and support various charities. Walker, however went beyond charity dinners, he decided to deploy his capital to start his own social venture: this surely, requires additional work and commitment.


We profile 10 other celebrities who started their own social ventures to support various causes.

1) Name: Matt Damon

Claim to fame: Hollywood actor

Social initiative: The Good Will Hunting and The Bourne Legacy series actor Damon is a genuinely nice guy in self-obsessed Hollywood, and is involved in a number of charitable efforts. The biggest and most well-known of these is The non-profit that he co-founded with Gary White works on helping solve the world’s water and sanitation crisis in Africa, South Asia and India.

2) Name: Bono

Claim to fame: Frontman of super-band U2

Social initiative: Bono is the friend of many famous personalities including Bill Gates and Michael Dell. In a world of celebrities doing social good, Bono is the superstar – the ultimate poster-child. National Journal named him the most politically effective celebrity of all-time. He was TIME’s person (along with Bill and Melinda Gates) of the year in 2005 and has been nominated for the Nobel peace prize three times. Other than helping raise millions through concerts and other events, he has helped create social ventures like ONE (previously called DATA, the organization focuses on grassroots campaign and advocacy), and EDUN  (a clothing company striving to stimulate trade with impoverished countries).

3) Name: Richard Branson

Claim to fame: Founder of the Virgin group of companies.

Social initiative: Branson is involved in a number of social good initiatives. One of them- The B Team”, is a Virgin Unite initiative that he recently co-founded with Jochen Zeitz, Puma’s chairman, to use capitalism for social good. He has also strived to ensure that social good and sustainability is embedded into most of his group companies. A big advocate for environment protection and arresting climate change, he has also founded other initiatives like The Elders, Virgin Unite and the Branson School for Entrepreneurship.

4) Name: Edward Norton

Claim to fame: Hollywood actor

Social initiative: Norton is one of the most active celebrities, the two-time Academy Award nominated actor serves on the Boards of President Obama’s Committee for the Arts and Humanities, Masai Wilderness Conservation Trust, the Friends of the High Line and the Conservation Lands Foundation. He’s not just happy to be on multiple boards, he recently co-founded peer-to-peer crowd-funding platform Crowdrise, which can be used by anyone to raise money for a cause.

5) Name: Lady GaGa

Claim to fame: Singer

Social initiative: Gaga founded the Born this Way foundation to inspire youth and build better communities. The foundation’s mission is to foster a more accepting society and connecting young people with skills and opportunities. She’s also a huge supporter of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

6) Name: Leonardo DiCaprio

Claim to fame: Hollywood actor

Social initiative: DiCaprio founded The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) to highlight issues like wildlife protection, forest preservation, clean water, and climate change. Currently the foundation is working with La Colombe Torrefaction to create a new sustainable high-end coffee line called LYON. All profits from the coffee line are ploughed back into the activities supported by the foundation.

7) Name: Salman Khan

Claim to fame: Bollywood actor

Social initiative: The bad boy of Bollywood, Khan has a human side- he founded the foundation Being Human, which is involved in doing work in education and healthcare. All proceeds from the sale of Being Human merchandise goes to finance the activities of his Foundation. Also, part of the proceeds from his 2011 launched production company called Salman Khan Being Human Productions, is donated to his charity. Being Human also supports charitable activities of the hospital Fortis, and the charities- Aseema and Akshara.

8) Name: Rahul Bose

Claim to fame: Bollywood actor

Social initiatives: Bose was awarded the Godfrey Phillips Prize for Bravery for his social service work. He’s an Oxfam global ambassador, which sees him rub shoulders with the likes of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Annie Lennox, Scarlett Johansson and Gael Garcia Bernal. Bose is also on the advisory board of ‘Breakthrough’, an NGO that promotes gender equality and human rights. He founded The Foundation,  a social venture that works against discrimination of any kind using education as a tool to create awareness, up skill and influence policy.

9) Name: JK Rowling

Claim to fame: Author of the Harry Potter book series

Social initiative: Rowling founded Lumos (named after a Harry Potter spell) in 2005. She was inspired to do so after she read an article on children being kept in caged beds in institutions. The organization helps orphaned children who are institutionalized to find foster homes. Rowling promised all revenues from her latest book, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, will be invested into Lumos.

10) Name: Oprah Winfrey

Who: Queen of media.

Social initiative: Winfrey, came from an impoverished family, and in her childhood she was a victim of sexual abuse and also suffered racial discrimination. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why she spends an awful amount of time and effort to support numerous charitable initiatives ever since she started her career as a TV talk-show host. Winfrey founded the Oprah’s Angel Network in 1998, to encourage people around the world to make a difference in the lives of others. The social venture supports charitable projects and provides grants to not-for-profit organizations around the globe that share in this vision. Some of the projects supported include building over 55 schools in 12 countries (with Free The Children) and building nearly 300 homes as part of the Hurricane Katrina and Rita recovery efforts.

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Nelson Vinod Moses

Nelson Vinod Moses

Journalist with a keen interest in all things social entrepreneurship.