Patreon Silver Badge Special | Reading | Should Celebrities Promote Charities?


Regardless of how famous they are, and despite the star treatment the receive, many celebrities make it a point to give back to charities. Every year, musicians, actors, authors and top athletes share a proportion of their fortunate to help those in need, amount to millions in total. Some have even set up their own private foundations. 

1. According to Jane Cooper of Unicef UK, celebrities have a unique ability to reach huge numbers of people, many of whom might not otherwise be engaged in charitable causes. When asked about their relevance, she pointed out that famous faces had played a significant role in raising funds in recent years, and their energy had produced concrete results, such as enabling millions of children in poorer countries to attend school. 

2. When shown a list of well-known organizations and famous people who represent them, over half of respondents were unable to match the celebrity with the cause. What’s more, three quarters claimed that they didn’t respond to celebrity advocacy in any way. That’s not to say that all endorsements were ineffective. The survey also showed that a few names did stand out as being associated with particular charities, but the presence of a celebrity in a campaign, was not a significant factor when it came to a decision to donate time or money. 

3. This seems to contradict the general assumption that teenagers are particularly influenced by famous people. One possible explanation is that there is a general fatigue with celebrity culture. There is also a suspicion that the stars are the ones who benefit most when they offer to do charity work. Some critics have accused celebrities of using charity events as promotional opportunities to further their own careers, which might have the effect of actually discouraging potential donors. And even when their commitment is evident, there is always the danger that celebrities might actually take attention away from issues by attracting more attention than the causes they represent. 

4. While Jane Cooper agrees that the celebrity touch isn’t everything, she insists that the support of an impassioned celebrity for a cause can still have an impact. Though every campaign, whether big or small, must have a convincing message, she says, the fact remains that millions of people are inspired by music, sports, and film. And by tapping into that inspiration, charities are able to engage new supporters. 

5. However, she concedes that the choice of celebrity to front a campaign is crucial. Celebrity advocacy has been shown to produce the best results when there is a personal connection between the famous individual and the cause they represent. 

6. Whichever point of view you favor, there seems to be scope for more research into how charity campaigns might cultivate relationships with celebrities to maximize their potential. This in turn will open up more engagements, and better targeted campaigns – which can only benefit those who really matter – the people and animals that are in need of assistance. 

A. So taking all these issues into account, is it time for charities to rethink their campaign strategies and look for alternative ways to reach new audiences?

B. The widespread attention that Angelina Jolie receives for her humanitarian efforts, for example, is due in part to her high-profile celebrity, but this helped by the fact that she publicizes issues that affect her personally. 

C. They also act as ambassadors for non-profit organizations. Their widely publicized visits to troubled areas of the world help to raise awareness of issues such as famine and poverty. Given their ability to attract attention, it seems to make sense for charities to seek out celebrities to support their causes. But how difference do they actually make?

D. Many celebrities are also instrumental in furthering causes away from public attention. In the case of Natasha Kaplinksy, another ambassador for Unicef, for example, she was successful in lobbying behind the scenes for vaccines that could prevent diseases and save the lives of up to four million people. 

E. What’s more, for many people working in charities, the benefits outweigh the potential drawbacks in order to achieve the changes that are needed. Whether it’s partnering with judges from music competitions on TV, or posting a message on social media, celebrities are a way for charities to get their message across. 

F. Instead, the majority of people contribute, it seems, because of personal connections in their lives and families which make a charity important to them. In another study aimed at young people, most participants cited a compelling mission as their main motivation to give. The second most important incentive was if a friend or peer recommended supporting a particular cause. Campaigns that leveraged the community aspects of social media were also shown to be successful. Only two per cent of respondents said they were motivated by endorsement. 

G. But in spite of these successes, there is evidence to suggest that celebrity endorsement may be overrated. In a survey of members of the public to ascertain if celebrity involvement would encourage people to donate, researchers found that the impact was not as great as previously thought. 

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