The death of Robin Williams has caused a surge of emotional tributes on the internet and social media from those who were touched by his work. While many people around the world loved his movies and stand-up comedy, he also had a strong legacy as a humanitarian who gave money to a variety of causes. This legacy could have implications for charitable organizations, in particular for health care fundraising efforts.
Dan Holm / Shutterstock.com
Williams was well-known for being an activist. He supported more than 50 separate charities over the course of his life in a huge range of different areas, including health care, human rights and environmental protection, CBC News reported.
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital was one of his most passionate projects. He recorded commercials and even visited patients battling cancer to raise their morale. In addition, Williams was a close friend of Christopher Reeve and was an advocate for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Spinal Cord Injury Resource Center, according to Billionaire. Williams used his tremendous popularity to raise awareness for different causes.
Disaster relief was another important area of advocacy for Williams. After 9/11, he participated in a benefit concert to increase donations for the victims, and he donated proceeds from stand-up shows in New Zealand to help those affected by the Christchurch earthquake in 2011. He toured with the United Service Organizations five times to visit American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. He created the Robin Williams Scholarship at Juilliard to help other aspiring actors and actresses. Williams is probably best remembered for his charity contributions through his work with Comic Relief.
Charitable donations skyrocket around the world in memory of Robin Williams
As a way of paying tribute to the beloved comedian, many people have been motivated to give to the charities Williams was involved with. His daughter Zelda was involved in a video game fundraiser for St. Jude, and her fundraising page surged with donations after his death, according to CBC.
However, because Williams died in a suicide, many fans have been inspired to give to mental health organizations to raise awareness about depression and suicide prevention. There has been a longstanding stigma of talking about mental health issues, but Williams’s suicide is bringing the conversation into the open, and many organizations have seen a corresponding increase of donations. Time magazine researched the organizations that use the majority of their funds toward their missions rather than administrative costs and found a few that have the greatest impact for donors who want to support this important health care cause.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention looks at the underlying causes of suicide and provides support for those at risk. The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation provides grants to scientists who are studying better treatments for mental illnesses. The Trevor Project has a LGBT focus to offer crisis intervention for at-risk teens and young adults.
While the loss of Williams has touched people all around the world, it has brought the discussion of mental health into the open. Though often viewed as separate from traditional medical fundraising, this is an important cause. Many mental health organizations have seen an uptick in gifts. Some experts the rise to last for longer than a week, according to CBC. Social media has been instrumental in raising awareness, and starting the conversation is what has led to the significant increase in giving. This is a testament to Williams’s lasting reputation as a dedicated humanitarian.
By Shelley Wenk, Head of Customer Success