Jay-Z calls himself the best rapper alive, and he’s made a cool half billion dollars off his talent — but when it comes to giving money to the charity he founded, he’s recently been more of a nickel-and-dime kind of guy.
The hip-hop artist gave just $6,431 to his own charity in 2010, a year in which he earned an estimated $63 million, according to tax records for the Shawn Carter Scholarship Fund examined by The Daily.
His superstar wife, Beyoncé, made in the neighborhood of $87 million, according to a Forbes estimate — yet she didn’t give her husband’s foundation a dime.
But the charity is hardly an afterthought for the rapper, formerly known as Shawn Carter. He is scheduled to perform the first of two benefit concerts at Carnegie Hall in New York City tonight, splitting the proceeds between his charity and the United Way of New York. Tickets range from $150 to $15,000. Jay-Z is rapping for free, yet it remains to be seen how many crispy Benjamins he’ll personally contribute.
Jana Fleishman, his representative, declined to say whether Jay-Z has given any cash to the fund since 2010, but notes that he contributes in other ways.
“Jay, along with his family, provided office support, overhead support, [mother] Mrs. Gloria Carter’s 100% effort and time, computers, FedEx expenses, accounting, and treasury function support. This was at no cost to the charity,” Fleishman said in an email to The Daily.
Still, tax records show the charity had to pay $1,209 for office expenses, $1,401 for telephone, and $4,696 in other expenses in 2010.
Fleishman also said that in 2011 — a year for which tax returns for the charity are not yet available — a Jay-Z performance helped raise $1.25 million for the charity at its Carnival at Pier 54 event.
But does performing at such events mean he’s off the hook for making old-fashioned, cash contributions?
The average American gives about 3.5 percent of their income to charity, according to the Giving Back Fund. Various major religions suggest donating 10 percent of one’s income to charity.
By contrast, Jay-Z — whose net worth Forbes puts at $420 million — gave about 0.01 percent of his estimated income to his own charity in 2010.
Global Philanthropy Group co-founder Trevor Neilson, who has advised clients like Bill Clinton and Richard Branson, said celebrities and the super-rich take different strategies when it comes to donating to their own nonprofits, but, “Jay-Z’s power to make a difference on these issues does not lie on his checkbook; it’s about his ability to make things cool, his ability to mobilize young people.”
Still, he says “having skin in the game is a good thing,” and commends stars like Shakira, who has used her star power to boost causes, but has also given millions of dollars to her three nonprofits.
Jay-Z’s charity, now called the Shawn Carter Scholarship Foundation, received only three donations in 2010, totaling $218,849.
The largest, $200,000, came from pharmaceutical company Kinray, which was owned at the time by Jay-Z fan Stewart “Rah Rah” Rahr. Cardinal Health bought the company for $1.3 billion in November 2010.
The charity received an additional $12,418 from MissionFish, which bills itself as “the way to fundraise on eBay.” Jay-Z’s $6,431 cash contribution was the smallest of the three.
The charity awarded $124,000 in scholarships that year, and spent $23,744 on college tours and $20,223 for a toy drive in the impoverished Brooklyn neighborhood where Jay-Z grew up.
The Scholarship Fund collected just $15,100 in 2009, but used its previous year’s balance to award $160,974 in scholarships. Jay-Z also gave a $5,000 loan “to pay for expenses of organization,” but forgave the loan the following year, records show.
The rapper acknowledged during a press conference in December that his charity, run by his mother and two other unpaid employees, is going through growing pains.
“We really started it at a grass-roots level,” he said. “And now we’re trying to organize it at this level and have it make sense.”