Celebrities are a part of our pop culture no matter where you are in the world, and they can have some serious clout! Movie actors or rock stars may use their power to promote clothing or shoes, but some choose to use their fame to promote worthy causes or champion movements close to their hearts.
These types of celebrities are our favorites!
When famous folks use their celebrity as a force of good, it shows a big heart, strong will, and selflessness. It also has an interesting effect on donors. A celebrity aligning themselves with a charity works much the same way as brand marketing does. Someone with a certain level of fame promoting a nonprofit gives that organization a halo of value and credibility.
— U2 (@U2) January 5, 2017
This clearly isn't a new phenomenon, but the awareness of celebrity-charity partnerships is growing. An article for Charity Village titled "The Oprah Effect: The value of celebrity-charity partnerships" examined how celebrities partnering with charities can provide a boost in awareness and support for various nonprofits.
One of the strongest examples they use is the case of the Canadian Cancer Society and Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie, who was diagnosed in 2016 with incurable brain cancer. Our own Director of Digital Philanthropy here at FrontStream, Claire Kerr, is quoted as explaining that many donations are made out of love for a person rather than recognition for a cause, and that "in a case like Gord Downie, many Canadians gave because they felt a strong emotional tie to him."
It's not just an emotional connection - it's the fact that having a celebrity tied to a cause tends to raise credibility in the eyes of potential donors. The article goes on to discuss Sheway, a community outreach program for women and children in Vancouver, and how it benefited from a visit from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Although many people hadn't heard of Sheway before, its presence got an awareness boost from the visit, which led to additional partnerships.
If you're in the nonprofit business, you'd likely love to have a celebrity align themselves with your cause - particularly if you're not well-known. Unfortunately, it's not so easy as simply waiting for celebrities to come to you; it's more effective to do your research and pitch wisely.
The right fit is crucial
Look into which celebrities might be interested in your cause - whether it aligns with their personal lives, their professed beliefs, or other factors. Be prepared with a clear mission statement and goals, and an explanation of how this celebrity's endorsement can help you achieve them. It's great to have a firm goal and a number of successes that you can point to in order to legitimize your nonprofit in their eyes (again, particularly if you're not well-known).
Another important thing to remember is to think locally as well as globally. Local celebrities like newscasters have a huge reach, and could be far more accessible - both for you and an audience. As Claire noted, "Think about researching and stewarding these people to be ambassadors for your cause — the return on investment could be potentially huge from their extensive but hidden network." Just because they're not a household name doesn't mean their clout won't be valuable for your cause!
Think about the future
When you've landed a celebrity who wants to represent your charity, determine if this will be a one-off occasion or an ongoing partnership. In the case of the latter, look into making them an ambassador of your cause to spread the word about your organization. If it's a one-off, make sure you capture as much collateral as you can in the moment which you can then use at length afterward.
It may seem intimidating to try and recruit a celebrity for your cause, which is why it's important to remember that they're people too, and they definitely have causes they care about. (If they don't, then they wouldn't be a partner you'd want anyway!) Try making 2017 the year where you bring a celebrity on board - you might be surprised at the long-term value it could bring.