Dolly Donates $1M to COVID Research While Getting Some Laughs

Back in April, while the world was wondering if the COVID-19 pandemic might die down in time for kids to get back to school before summer vacation, Dolly Parton wasn’t going to sit back and not help. The philanthropist made an excited post to her Instagram at the time about research towards a “cure” happening at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. 

“I am making a donation of $1 million to Vanderbilt towards that research and to encourage people that can afford it to make donations,” she wrote, signing it “Keep the faith, Dolly.”

She wrote cure – what she meant was a vaccine. The research happening at Vanderbilt was the early stage trials of the Moderna vaccine. And when the news broke in mid-November that the Moderna vaccine was showing an effectiveness in excess of 95 percent, suddenly the entire internet wanted to praise Dolly for ‘curing’ COVID-19.

It’s a fun, tongue-in-cheek response to some long-awaited good news, and while much, much more money than Dolly’s million (and not even all of that) went int Moderna’s trials, the woman deserves some thanks all the same.

Dolly Parton, 74, has never balked at giving back. For decades, the Dollywood Foundation she backs has supported childhood literacy, and she has held benefit concerts in all 50 states for wildlife and HIV/AIDS charities, as well as various disaster reliefs.

“[Dolly] cares so much-” said Vanderbilt CEO and president Jeff Balser after her donation in April. “-about helping others, and we are very grateful for her ongoing support. These funds will help us complete promising research that can benefit millions in their battle with the virus.” Words that seem perhaps prescient – it wasn’t until the end of April that the U.S. reached its first one million confirmed infections. Now in November we are seeing more than a million new cases every 10 days. 

If only we had more people like Dolly Parton.

Source: BBC

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Brontë Museum Receives £20,000 Lifeline Donation from T.S. Eliot Estate

Like many museums, the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, England, the small house dedicated to preserving the artifacts and stories of the famous literary Brontë sisters who once lived there, has been closed for half of 2020. Ordinarily host to over 77,000 guests a year, the sudden stoppage of ticket and gift shop sales has cut deep. In danger of shutting down permanently due to budget shortfalls, they reopened in the first weekend of September to much smaller crowds, while running a crowdfunding campaign to help stay that way.

Without any fanfare or announcement, a 20,000 pound donation appeared on their campaign site on Wednesday night, September 9th 2020.

“Realizing that it was from the T.S. Eliot estate was a very special moment,” said Rebecca Yorke in an interview with the New York Times. Yorke is the head of communications and marketing at the Brontë Society, which manages the museum.

T.S. Eliot, who wrote the poetry which makes up the lyrics of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Cats, passed away in 1965, but his estate still receives royalties from the musical and the 2019 movie recently made from it. He has a tenuous connection to the Brontë sisters; they both knew Sir James Roberts, a Yorkshire baronet and self-made millionaire. Eliot wrote obliquely about Roberts in his poem The Waste Land, as “a Bradford Millionaire.” And Roberts, who was a close friend of the Brontë family, purchased their home and donated it to the Brontë Society. Yes, the very same Haworth Parsonage.

Whether or not the Eliot Estate made this generous donation because of that faint thread of connection or not, the money, which amounts to over $26,000, will keep the museum going for some time, though their debts continue to mount in this difficult time.

If you wish to help the Brontë Parsonage Museum, please click here for information about donating or volunteering.

Source: Town and Country Magazine


Bank of America Pledges $1 Billion to Address Racial Inequality

In 2013, Bank of America was fined $2.2 million after a judge found them guilty of racial discrimination in the hiring practices at their Charlotte, North Carolina offices. Over 1,100 African-American job seekers were denied due to what the judge called “unfair and inconsistent selection criteria” over the previous two decades. While a formal complaint about that discrimination was filed against BoA in 1997, more than 15 years of intentional stalling tactics delayed a resolution until after a number of information leaks revealed corrupt tactics in those same offices.

Hopefully, they’ve had a thorough house-cleaning. CEO Brian Moynihan, who was not implicated in the above corruption or discrimination even though he was in power at the time, announced in a press release on Tuesday, May 2nd, that Bank of America would be donating $1 billon over the next four years in channels meant to help address racial inequality.

Moynihan made a strong statement that the current unrest was in no small part due to “underlying economic and social disparities” having been made worse by the pandemic, which has has disproportionate impact on minorities in the United States.

“We all need to do more,” he said.

The $250 million a year will be channeled into health services and small business support in communities of color, and BoA locations in those communities will be required to seek new employees from their neighborhoods. It is a massive expansion of BoA’s previous donations to nonprofits, and will expand their low-interest loans to small, minority-owned businesses.

While it is a generous donation program, Bank of America could certainly afford to do more. They reported revenue of $27.4 billion in 2019, as well as repurchases of $34 billion in shares. Perhaps they could donate a little more of the $1.9 billion tax refund they received in 2010, a year in which they paid no federal taxes.

Source: CNN

Editorial credit: Tero Vesalainen /

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Magic Johnson’s EquiTrust to Donate $100M to Support Minority-Owned Businesses

When Earvin “Magic” Johnson retired from playing professional basketball in 2000, it was already obvious that he was not the sort of man who would just retire and ride out his substantial fortune for the rest of his days. He’d already tried his hand at coaching, and at hosting a television show, and starting a record label. And he was just getting started.

Today, Johnson runs Magic Johnson Enterprises, a diverse conglomerate company with a net worth over $700 million, which dabbles in dozens of different industries. Briefly, he owned 125 Starbucks locations. At another time, a chain of movie theaters in his name. For a while, he owned part of the L.A. Lakers and a Pepsi bottling plant in Washington. And he continues to own a controlling interest in EquiTrust Life Insurance Company.

Under his direction, EquiTrust is going to donate $100 million in capital to fund federal loans for business owners who have been struck down by the COVID-19 pandemic, prioritizing minorities and children.

The donation, which will be distributed as forgivable loans via lender MBE Capital Partners, will be governed by the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program, the small business stimulus plan meant to help small businesses keep their staff on the payroll, giving them a greater chance of weathering the crisis.

“These are incredible businesses, small businesses, that have been the pillar of our community that also employ a lot of black and brown people in our community,” Johnson said on MSNBC on Sunday, May 17. “… We wanted to make sure that minority-owned businesses got small business loans through the PPP program.”

His statement alludes to the concern that minority-owned businesses have been left out, after the PPP stimulus has run out, been renewed, and run out of funds again, with large percentages of the package being snapped up by businesses which are not by any means ‘small.’

Source: CNN

Editorial credit: EPG_EuroPhotoGraphics /


J.K. Rowling’s Latest Gift: $18.8M to MS Research

In 1990, J.K. Rowling‘s mother, Anne Rowling, passed away at the age of 45 after a decade-long struggle with multiple sclerosis (MS). In MS, the immune system attacks the myelin, the protective sheath on each neuron, causing them to break down and become unable to relay information. It has a wide array of symptoms, including neurological pain, paralysis, and loss of vision. In 1990, the medical community didn’t know this. To this day, there is no cure for multiple sclerosis.

In 2010, when J.K. Rowling was 45 years old, she donated £10 million ($12.5m) to the University of Edinburgh to found an MS clinic. The Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic opened there in January 2013, with a mission of furthering research and treatment by connecting clinical trials to patients.

Since the clinic’s founding, many advances in MS research have been made. In 2017, the FDA in the US approved ocrelizumab, the first drug to treat primary-progressive MS and shown to dramatically slow the progress of the disease. And while it’s not a cure, it’s still a huge breakthrough.

On Thursday, September 12, J.K. Rowling  made another donation to her mother’s memorial clinic and the University of Edinburgh. This time, she donated £15.3 million ($18.8m).

“When the Anne Rowling Clinic was first founded, none of us could have predicted the incredible progress that would be made in the field of Regenerative Neurology, with the Clinic leading the charge,” said Rowling. “I am delighted to now support the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic into a new phase of discovery and achievement, as it realizes its ambition to create a legacy of better outcomes for generations of people with MS and non-MS neurodegenerative diseases.”

“This inspiring donation will fund a whole new generation of researchers who are focused on discovering and delivering better treatments and therapies for patients,” said Professor Peter Mathieson, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Edinburgh.


Charity Rejects Donation from Robert Kraft

It takes a lot of guts to turn down a $100,000 donation, but that’s precisely what a Catholic charity did when billionaire Robert Kraft offered to make a hefty contribution.

The Haitian Project, a Rhode Island-based nonprofit that operates a school for impoverished children in Haiti, had been trying to secure a donation from Kraft for quite some time. However, it was only when Kraft became embroiled in a prostitution scandal that he decided to offer the charity $100,000.

“The last thing I wanted was a donation by Robert Kraft,” Patrick Moynihan, director of The Haitian Project, told the Boston Globe. “I could not be silent. I had to stand up.”

And so it was, Moynihan publicly rejected Kraft’s offer. And while it may seem like a huge sacrifice, the organization could end up gaining more than it lost.

“His rejection and indignation drew attention and great press to his school that quiet acceptance of Kraft’s donation could not,” the Nonprofit Quarterly reports. “Others may still step up and offer to fill the gap left by the rejected Kraft funds.”

In an interview with Boston sports station WEEI-FM, Moynihan said that he would have accepted the donation if Kraft had issued a sincere apology. And while Kraft has said that he’s “truly sorry,” Moynihan doesn’t buy it.

“What he apologized for was the embarrassment he caused to his family, friends, and team,” Moynihan maintained.

In the end, the charity’s decision not to accept “dirty money” was vital not just in terms of ethics, but also in maintaining the organization’s reputation. Nonprofits rely on the public’s trust. While accepting donations from unscrupulous sources may result in short-term gains, it will only jeopardize an organization’s future in the long run.

“We cannot do good by doing bad,” Moynihan argued. “The ends cannot justify the means.”


Chicago Foundation for Women Awards $1.1 Million in Grants

Disenfranchised women and girls from the Chicago area will now have a better chance of obtaining economic security and reproductive justice, thanks to a $1.114 million donation from the Chicago Foundation for Women.

The donation was broken down into 43 grants, which were awarded to multiple different organizations and causes. According to Philanthropy News Digest, 29 grants totaling $810,000 were given to organizations that support economic security for women through professional development training, stabilization services, and advocacy. Grantees include the Chinese Mutual Aid Association, which mentors and assists impoverished women from immigrant families; Enlace Chicago, which works to expand opportunities and access to health care for the city’s Spanish-speaking population; and the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Chicago, which seeks to increase wages and improve working conditions for those employed in the local food services industry.

The foundation awarded an additional eight grants totaling $270,000 to groups that support reproductive justice. One such grantee was the Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force, which aims is to reduce racial disparities in breast cancer survival rates for black women by increasing their access to health care.

The remaining $33,000 in grants was given to organizations that promote safety, health, and justice for black women and girls. Grantees include the Girls Like Me Project, which gives young black girls access to technology that can be used to record and share their experiences, and the Polished Pebbles Girls Mentoring Program, which equips girls with life skills, including communication and career tools.

“Chicago Foundation for Women takes a comprehensive approach to women’s economic security,” said K. Sujata, president and CEO of the Chicago Foundation for Women. “We ensure women and girls have the skills necessary to thrive in today’s economy, as well as support in addressing barriers to employment such as housing insecurity, previous incarceration, and access to healthcare… But we know that women do not live and work in a vacuum, so CFW also invests in women-led organizing and advocacy to address the root causes of economic insecurity and to build movements that prioritize reproductive justice.”

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Unveils $2B Philanthropic Fund

Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world, with a net worth in the realm of $160 billion. Money like that, wielded philanthropically, can alter the shape of the world. Bill Gates is already doing that, with his anti-disease efforts worldwide. Andrew Carnegie did it by donating nearly 3,000 libraries to towns and cities around the world.

Now, Bezos is making a run at it, with a $2 billion donation to his new “Day 1 Fund”—a two-target foundation to aid low-income communities. One branch is earmarked for homeless families, the other for preschool education.

The first half, called the Day 1 Families Fund, is inspired by a nonprofit in Seattle. Mary’s Place, a family-oriented homeless shelter, has the vision statement of, “No child sleeps outside.” The Fund will issue grants and awards to organizations providing shelter and food to young, impoverished families.

The second half, the Day 1 Academies Fund, is more hands-on. It will operate a network of “tier 1” full-scholarship preschools in low-income areas.

Bezos has been open about his desire to operate both branches like a business as opposed to a nonprofit. This decision has drawn a reasonable amount of criticism from the public.

In a tweet posted on September 13, Bezos explicitly called his potential students “the customer,” which many say shows that he inherently misunderstands education and the way that schools work. Nevertheless, this type of donation can still do a tremendous amount of good. Thus, the public has begrudgingly tolerated his faux pax.

On the same token, it’s also worth noting that $2 billion is a drop in the bucket for Bezos, as it equals a mere one percent of his assets. But it does mark a large upswing in his charitable giving; previous known donations from himself, his wife, and family only amounted to $135 million, a paltry 0.0008 percent. Hopefully, his latest donation marks the beginning of a new trend.


Comic Book Collector Makes Historic Donation to Library of Congress

Comic books are an oft-underrated part of literary history, with fingers in every direction from novels to television and movies. And of course, the comics themselves.

Stephen Geppi has built his career on publishing and distributing comic books, beginning with a small chain of comic shops in Baltimore in the 1970s. In 1982, he founded Diamond Comic Distributors. By ’96, after the acquisition of major competitor Capital City, he had a near-monopoly on comic book distribution in the U.S. and was a major force abroad.

Over time, Geppi amassed a substantial collection of comic and pop-culture history. He opened a private museum in his home town of Baltimore to trace the history of American pop-culture from the days of newspaper comics on forward. He also opened a series of galleries, the Diamond International Galleries, to show comics and collectibles as having a place in the fine art world. Much of the collections shown in those galleries comes from Geppi’s private collections.

This year, he will close his museum. And it’s from that collection comes his recent gift to the United States. Announced Wednesday, May 30th, Geppi will be donating more than 3,000 items from his collection to the Library of Congress, their largest-ever donation of comic books and related articles.

The donation, which is estimated to have a value in the millions, includes items from 80 years of American comics, including storyboards from the early Mickey Mouse short “Plane Crazy,” Beatles memorabilia, and newspaper strips from the very first American serial comics.

The Library of Congress has the world’s largest collection of comic books, with approximately 140,000 issues from 13,000 titles, according to Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress.

“When Steve asked about making this gift, I was just thrilled, because it supports something here that is a touchstone for many people who might not otherwise think the Library of Congress is a library for them,” said Hayden.

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Dolly Parton Gives $1 Mil to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital

“Twenty-six years ago is when Hannah was diagnosed with leukemia and for five years we didn’t know if we’d be keeping her or not,” said Dolly Parton on Thursday, May 17th, in an auditorium at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. “But Hannah now stands here as our chemo hero. She shows that miracles do happen with good care, great doctors, and great nurses.”

The legendary country singer was referring to Hannah Dennison, her niece. For Hannah’s 30th birthday, she and her aunt visited the hospital that saved her life as a child. In front of an audience of doctors, nurses, patients and families, Parton donated $1 million to the hospital.

“They took such good care of her and just looking at the little faces of the kids going through this and the parents who suffer so much as well; it’s just touching and moving,” said Parton. “If you’re in a position where you can do something, you should do something.”

That is Parton’s general philosophy in life. The country singer has been a big name in American philanthropy for her entire career. Her charitable foundation, Dollywood, provides free books to more than three quarters of a million children and hundreds of libraries, supports hospitals and wildlife conservation, and backs charity drives to help the victims of natural disasters.

Parton decided she would make this donation to mark a landmark in her niece’s life a year ago, when she visited Vanderbilt to release her children’s album, I Believe in You. The album was targeted at children who face heavy challenges in life, such as illness and bullying… children like Hannah.

As a demonstration of gratitude for the donation, Vanderbilt dedicated their rooftop butterfly garden to Hannah Dennison..

“Now that we have Hannah’s butterfly garden, we may come up and do little shows now and then and bring some joy to the kids,” said Parton, raising her guitar.