'American Idol' Charity Looks to Establish Lasting Presence

Even as the producers of American Idol and Fox Broadcasting prepare for the follow-up to their star-studded 2007 fundraising appeal, which raised $76 million for charity, officials at the production company that oversees the program are working behind the scenes to sharpen its focus on domestic poverty alleviation efforts, the New York Times reports. The 2008 event, which will air on Wednesday, is expected to raise $100 million.

According to officials at the UK-based Charity Projects Entertainment Fund, which oversaw the distribution of funds raised through last year's "Idol Gives Back" event, approximately $55 million was donated by individuals who called into the show, while roughly $14 million was donated by corporations. Foundations and corporations provided $7 million on top of that through matching gift programs.

According to the Times, approximately $68 million of the $76 million was pledged to nine charities that work to reduce poverty in the United States and Africa, while about $5 million, or 7 percent, was used for administrative and due diligence costs. That figure is lower than the figure claimed by most charities for overhead costs.

In the United States, four charities — America's Second Harvest, Save the Children, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and the Children's Health Fund — received pledges of $7.5 million each, while five organizations — the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the United States Fund for UNICEF, Nothing But Nets, Malaria No More, and Save the Children — received pledges of $6 million for their work in Africa. Another $1 million was awarded to the Kibera Initiative in Nairobi.

Four of the organizations that received money last year — the Global Fund, Malaria No More, the Children's Health Fund, and the domestic programs of Save the Children — have been designated to receive contributions from this year's event, while two new organizations — the Children's Defense Fund and Make It Right, a campaign to help New Orleans recover from Hurricane Katrina — have been added as beneficiaries.

Overall, officials at the charities that received money said they were pleased with the efforts of Idol Gives Back, particularly with officials' rigor in vetting potential uses of the money. "Sometimes celebrity or entertainment-industry-based charities might not be the most sophisticated organizations in distributing the money they raise," said Dr. Irwin Redlener, the president and a co-founder of the Children's Health Fund. "But the American Idol group got up to speed more rapidly than I've ever seen before. And they did a tremendous amount of investigation and due diligence among the organizations that could be potential recipients."

"'Idol Gives Back' Attracts A-List Celebrities." Associated Press 04/07/2008. Edward Wyatt. "Where 'Idol's' Charitable Arm Reaches." New York Times 04/07/2008.