‘We Are the World’ Charity Tops the $50-Million Mark

Times Staff Writer

Fifteen months after the all-star rock hit “We Are the World” fell off the charts, the pop charity financed by the record’s sales has topped the $50-million mark in royalties and revenues.

About two-thirds of that money has been spent on aid for the African famine victims that the USA for Africa Foundation vowed to help, said the foundation’s executive director, Marty Rogol.

At a press conference Wednesday in West Hollywood, foundation President Ken Kragen addressed criticisms of the foundation’s slow spending process by saying the organization made a promise to those who bought the record to spend “every dollar” wisely on African relief and development.


“It’s important to note that that promise has been lived up to,” he said.

Kragen said a $2.5-million royalty check from CBS Records had boosted the foundation’s African relief, recovery and development fund to $51,265,721.

He also said that Hands Across America, the foundation’s second major charity effort, has earned $32.5 million to date in corporate and public donations. That effort was intended to raise $50 million for America’s homeless and hungry by encouraging millions to pay $10 apiece to link hands from coast to coast last May.

After meeting $16.3 million in overhead, the organization will have about $16 million to give to the poor. The first grants will be announced at Thanksgiving, Kragen said.

Rogol said about 80% of the “We Are the World” monies have been committed, even though only about $36.5 million has been spent. About $19 million has gone to emergency food, medicine and survival supply shipments to the drought-stricken countries of East Africa. The remainder has been spent on recovery projects, such as the $1.5-million rebuilding of a bridge over the Lare River in Chad, or development projects, including the construction of a $1-million maintenance garage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

About 70 grants worth about $8 million for African development projects were revealed. They range from truck repair in Niger to oven testing in Chad to vegetable gardens in Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta). Another $5 million in grants for Sudan and Ethiopia, where the African famine began, will be announced in November.

Budgeted office overhead for 1986--such as postage ($24,000), payroll taxes ($12,000), parking ($10,500) and an annual payroll at $240,000--is paid out of interest earned on unexpended funds. The organization’s Century City high-rise office space is donated.