Kanye West

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Kanye's charity just vanished into the night. Why does this happen so often to celeb nonprofits?
—Sergeant, via the inbox

Indeed, some celebrity charities disappear before they even get started. (How is that halfway house coming along, Paris Hilton?) And charities that don't disappear still suffer all kinds of headaches; Madonna's Raising Malawi underwent some recent upheaval followed by an overhaul, and even The Oprah suffered an annus horribilis regarding her South African girls school. Why all the trouble? Well:


I spoke with Maggie Neilson, partner at Global Philanthropy Group, which recently advised Madge's charity.

When a foundation disappears or suffers a scandal, it's usually because "either the wrong person ends up running it or the founder just loses interest," Neilson tells me. Although, to be fair, "it's not just a celebrity thing at all," Neilson adds. "It doesn't happen with celebrities any more than average people who come into money."

That said, celebrities do have unique circumstances that can threaten a charity before it even launches.

Many celebrities feel pressured to start a charity because nonprofits are so "in vogue right now," Neilson points out. "But if you really don't care about it, there's no way it's going to last."

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No one is really sure what happened with Kanye's charity, other than it was founded to help kids stay in school and has since, in the words of the New York Times, "closed mysteriously." As for exactly how much school-staying the Kanye West Foundation achieved, the Times notes, "The charity raised an average of $492,000 and made total grants averaging $18,080 in each of 2007, 2008 and 2009."

And that's about it. One thing to note, however: People familiar with the charity tell me that Kanye's mother, Donda, was its major inspiration before she passed away in 2007.

"Kanye's mom really was a driver of this effort," Neilson tells me.

It wouldn't be outrageous to assume that the charity perhaps foundered without Donda's involvement.

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