While many celebrities lend their support to worthy charities, some go above and beyond by lending their time, energy, funding, and even blood, sweat, and tears to the causes they hold dear. Oprah founded and funded the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa in 2007 to provide educational and leadership opportunities for academically gifted girls from impoverished backgrounds. And two years ago, Bill Gates made the world's largest ever single charitable donation when he pledged $10 billion to develop and distribute vaccines to children.
In the circle of charitable celebrities, you'll find noted businesswoman and public relations pro Heather Robinson, the wife of former NBA star Cliff Robinson. One of the sports world's most active and involved philanthropists, she supports charities with an emphasis on education, scholarships, and poverty. This assistance also extends to natural disasters like the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. All of this has been a catalyst for the Robinson Network, her family's new philanthropic endeavor.
In fact, she used her most recent birthday party to collect more than 1,000 gifts for kids through Toys for Tots. But giving up one of her special days is not a tall order or a rare event for Heather. Charity is both her work, and her signature. Why? A strong compassion for others, and a belief that using one's influence to make a lasting, positive impact is crucial.
The old saying "Come from a point of service to everyone you meet" could have been written by Heather Robinson. To her and her husband, just like in basketball, winning is a team effort, and people around the world who need a hand are part of everyone's team.
You've done lots of charity work for the NBA and NFL, and participated in a lengthy and impressive list of celebrity fundraisers. What is the most rewarding aspect of giving back?
The compassion I feel for others is a strong trait of mine, therefore having the ability and desire to "give back" in some way large or small benefits my soul. I love to see people smile.
Tell us a little bit about some of the charities you've supported over the years.
First of all I praise everyone out there that has a charity, and is working to help mankind. It takes a special person to devote themselves to philanthropy. My husband and I have donated our time and money to several charities over the years. Educational programs and Scholarships for low income families are very important to us, along with helping impoverished communities in the United States and abroad. After the devastating earthquake hit Haiti two years ago my husband accompanied Haitian friend Jimmy Jean Louis of Hollywood Unites for Haiti to access the condition of the country while I stayed back making phone calls after phone calls soliciting supplies and donations. I visited the country last year and met with several organizations we support in Haiti. They are doing a great job and it has inspired me to continue on my path of philanthropy.
How helpful do you find platforms like Twitter to some of your social good initiatives?
I like using Twitter. It has been extremely helpful to my business. It's given me the ability to voice my initiatives quickly and easily. Aside from the business networking, I have made "twitter friends." I love the positive tweeters. They brighten my day and make social media more enjoyable for me.
With respect to philanthropy, name some of the things you believe we should be paying attention to moving forward: trends, interesting people, and fund-raising ideas.
I don't believe you have to be wealthy to give. It's not always about the money. People should pay attention to their surroundings. What you see in front of you. You can become a mentor to a child or volunteer at charity events and soup kitchens. A few years ago I signed up to be a bone marrow donor. There are many ways to help someone in need. Blood drives and organ donations are great ways to give, and you could save a life! A very simple way to fund-raise with little effort is to start a Food or Clothes drive. Poverty right here in America is extremely high and the numbers keep growing. If everyone would spend 10 percent of their time "giving back" to society the world would be a much better place.
and former NBA Star Cliff Robinson.
Speaking of social media... a lot of celebrities use it because it puts them in direct contact with their fans, the causes they support, and helps them control their image. What's your take?
The cons of using social media are crazy fans and pushy people who can bombard you with requests or try and belittle your efforts or work. But, the pros definitely out weigh the cons. Celebrities are able to link with other professionals and can interact with fans on more personal basis. Another advantage for celebrities using social media is that it measures their popularity in numbers, via follower. In return it can secure them a high-profile endorsement deal. Social Media has become one of the most important deal points for brands, talent agents and even PR agencies to consider when negotiating contracts. The best thing of all is: no misquotes (laughs). Just make sure your posts don't come back to haunt you.
Philanthropy is a serious commitment. How are you involving your family?
I am currently working on the Robinson Network, a public charity that will support other non-profits, and promote professional athletes in their philanthropy. Giving back is something that my family has always been passionate about. So it makes sense for us to create a huge platform to positively impact the causes we endorse. We're excited.