Five Charitable Organizations Started By Musicians

Music Lists

In Paste’s Can Rock Save the World? feature back in 2007, the staff highlighted some critical issues facing the earth, from poverty to horrendous living conditions to diseases rampantly spreading through underdeveloped countries—and the musicians who brought those issues to the forefront (to see the full list of organizations mentioned in the feature, click here). But we felt like that list needed an update, so today we shed some light on five more musicians who’ve used their platforms to start their own charitable organizations.

The 2007 feature covered Bono from U2, who has long been a champion of people’s rights, not just in his home country of Ireland, but largely ignored portions of Africa, where diseases like HIV continue wreaking havoc on huge percentages of the population.

We also covered Justin Dillon, who read about the nearly incomprehensible amount of modern-day slavery, he decided to write music about the tragedy and use concerts to benefit the International Justice Mission (Josh Jackson writes, “27 million slaves live in bondage throughout the world today—more than in any other time in history.” And that was 2007.)

Of course, Bob Dylan’s politically-charged themes came at a time when society’s disenfranchised needed their messages encapsulated in a widely dispersed medium. (It didn’t hurt that the messages came from a genius who could absorb a whole ranges of emotion in a single melody and a 10,000-word story in a single line of poetry like he did with “Blowin’ in the Wind”).

Here are some additional musicians who have not only voiced deeply crucial societal concerns and/or donated to charitable foundations, but started their organizations.

1. Jack and Kim Johnson
Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation

Jack Johnson used every cent of his 2008 tour to start the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, “an endowment founded by Jack and Kim Johnson to support environmental art and music education now and into the future.”

As with 2008, 100% of the profits Johnson’s 2010 world tour will go to charity. Plus, as part of the tour, “the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation will offer direct and matching donations to All At Once partner non-profits.”

Roughly $1.3 million has been donated to various causes. As part of 2010 To The Sea World Tour and donated $525,000 to 2010 All At Once Non-Profit Partners.

Similar to Incubus, Johnson is involved in a “green movement” that focuses on minimizing the impact touring has on the environment. Instead of consuming bottled water, the crew only drank from the tap through Britta filtration systems and hydration stations, saving over 55,000 single-use water bottles. At each concert location, attendees can refill their bottles at All At Once water stations.

To exemplify the importance of recycling, Johnson and his crew, in partnership with Live Nation, instituted a parking-lot recycling program in parking lots, diverting an estimated 460 tons of waste from landfills.

To minimize the impact of carbon dioxide, over 26,000 gallons of sustainable biodisel were used to fuel tour trucks, buses and on-site generators. Fans chipped in as well, using “Jack Johnson/Zimride online ridesharing tool resulting in over 100,000 carpool miles” and various other forms of mass transportation to get to the shows. “These combined efforts saved over 200,000 pounds of CO2.”

To further offset carbon, 7,000 concert attendees purchased a Jack Johnson To The Sea offset at shows or online, resulting in an offset of 1.8 million pounds of CO2. “In addition, concert venues which fully implemented the Jack Johnson Green Rider, offset their remaining impact from the shows, totaling over 3.3 million pounds of CO2.

Johnson’s merchandise was created entirely of eco-friendly sustainable and reusable materials. Fans purchased 2,715 reusable water bottles, “which if used for one year, would prevent 509,062 single-use plastic bottles from entering the waste stream.” They also purchased 9,605 reusable tote bags, which saved an estimated 12.8 million barrels of oil and 14.9 million trees.

2. Dave Matthews Band
Bama Works Fund

The Dave Matthews Band has been hugely successful for decades now, infinitely traveling to the next sold-out concert.

So to capitalize on some of their success, in 1999, they established a called The Bama Works Fund, which is administered by the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation and supports charitable programs in the Charlottesville area.

The primary focus is disadvantaged youth, needs of the disabled, protection of the environment and the arts and humanities. has details from 2009, in which the CACF Governing Board approved Bama Works Fund grants in support of non-profits. A few excerpts from the list of 50 grants: $4,000 was given to African American Teaching Fellows of Charlottesville-Albemarle (AATF) “that provides recruitment, mentoring and financial support to African Americans who are working to become licensed teachers in the Charlottesville and Albemarle County public schools,” $5,000 to Planned Parenthood Health Systems that supports Teens Taking Action, “a peer reproductive health education program” and $7,500 to the Rapidan Better Housing Corporation “to support the Emergency Home Repair Program to support the disabled in Orange County.”

To date, The Bama Works Fund has raised more than $8.5 million for charities. The list of grants from the fund is far too long to list, but you can view it on the fund’s homepage (to get an idea of how many organizations received donations, 25 start with the letter “C” alone).

3. Jon Bon Jovi
The Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation
Jon Bon Jovi is one of the highest-grossing touring musicians, which isn’t a surprise considering how long he’s been doing it. But he doesn’t spend all his time around music. He also founded the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation in 2006 (previously known as the Philadelphia Soul Charitable Foundation).

The foundation’s aims are “to combat issues that force families and individuals into economic despair. Through the funding and creation of programs and partnerships, [it supports] innovative community efforts to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness.”

Additionally, the Philadelphia Soul, an Arena Football League team that Bon Jovi owns alongside Craig A. Spencer, “is dedicated to enriching the lives of under-privileged children, teens and adults in the city of Philadelphia.”

They’ve accomplished this by donating beds to the local Convenant House, building a state-of-the-art playground for the Northern Home for Children and gave money to “a wide array of local charities including C.A.D.E. (Corporate Alliance For Drug Education,) The Philadelphia Children’s Alliance, Northern Home For Children, Philabundance, Covenant House, Inn Dwelling, Project H.O.M.E., 2nd Floor Youth Helpline and the Delaware Valley Adoption Center.”

4. Incubus
Make Yourself Foundation (MYF)

Whatever you think of Incubus’ hard rock, the band has also indulged a sensitive side, exemplified both by songs like “Aqueous Transmission” and “Mexico” and its Make Yourself Foundation that “funds various environmental causes and charities both locally and around the world.” All the revenue from Incubus’ five-album bootleg series of live concerts goes to foundation.

But Incubus don’t strictly rely on purchases, or even their own foundation, to help. After the large Tsunami that hit Asia in 2004, the band donated $100,000 to Red Cross, and then followed up by donations to (in no specific order): Carbon Neutral, International Rett Syndrome Association, The Painted Turtle, Surfrider Foundation, Operation Smile, Heal The Bay, Institute of Music and Neurologic Function, Sweet Relief, Save the Music, Break the Cycle, Life Rolls On, Epilepsy Foundation, Kristen Ann Carr Fund for Sarcom, TJ Martell Foundation for Cancer, Earth Force, Ease-In Program/UCLA for L.A. youths, Reef Check, Save the Waves, Animal Rescue and Adoption Center, World Bicycle Relief, Red Cross, Santa Monica Bay Keeper, VH1 Save the Music, ROAR Foundation, City of Hope, Habitat for Humanity, Rock the Earth, Center for Biological Diversity, California Wildlife Center, National Center for Science Education, Heart to Heart, Cherish Project, Urban Farming, Silverlake Music Conservatory, Global Giving Foundation, Mercy Corps and UNICEF.

As of December 1, 2010, the Make Yourself Foundation had raised roughly $1,450,000 since 2004. In addition to raising money, they also signed as a partner for the Stop Global Warming campaign (, and they remain in the top 10 of all “virtual marchers.”

During their worldwide tour in 2007, they made everything “carbon-neutral” friendly, “and neutralized the carbon waste from the buses, trucks and flights used on tour. Through MYF, they contributed funds to Carbon Neutral to plant news trees (thereby offsetting the carbon) and researched new fuel alternatives.”

Lead singer Brandon Boyd gave this statement regarding the Make Yourself Foundation: “We are honored and grateful to be doing this, and we are certain that with the participation of everyone and our wonderfully supportive fans that we will succeed in this first of what will be many goals in the future. One person working diligently alone can do wonders, but many people working harmoniously together can accomplish worlds. Thank you.”

5. Zac Brown Band
Camp Southern Ground

According to the Our People section of the Camp Southern Ground site, even though Brown is a Grammy Award-winning musician, he “calls his foundation and camp plans his ‘life’s work’.”

“Having the camp and giving back is important for me,” he says. “I’m very blessed to have what I have, and I know a lot of that’s on credit for what I do down the road. It’s very important for me to keep that in mind. I want to leave something behind that does some good after I’m gone.”

Camp Southern Ground’s mission is “to operate a camp to allow children to overcome academic, social and emotional difficulties so they may reach their full potential by providing them with the opportunity and tools necessary to become prominent leaders in our society and to achieve excellence in all facets of their lives.”

Brown donated 360 acres of property in the farmlands of Georgia for the camp, which is still being developed. Soon, it will become a “state-of-the-art facility that practices cutting-edge programs to assist and rehabilitate children with neurobehavioral and learning difficulties (including ADD/ADHD, Dyslexia, Tourette’s Syndrome, Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorders),” the site states. Of course, camp is fun, so the children will enjoy their time there. But its primary goal is to “be a place for [children] to grow into better health through an advanced program involving superior nutrition, physical exercise, and the latest practices in therapy—all administered by a knowledgeable and attentive staff.”

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