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Charities Donít Need Celebrities

You canít turn the television on without seeing at least one charity plea from some huge celebrity. Youíve got Michael J. Fox pushing Parkinsonís research, Angelina Jolie and her U.N. work, and George Clooney fighting the genocide in Darfur. All across the Food Network, its star chefs pushed viewers to fight hunger during the holiday season. But, a 2006 study by Cone, a company that matches celebrities with causes, found that celebrities are not the draw that many charities hope for.

Donít get me wrong. Celebrities are great at attracting attention. As a matter of fact, it was the United Nations that first conjured up the idea of celebrities as spokespeople back in 1954 when it hired Danny Kaye to help push its cause.

But when it comes to asking donors to dig deep into their pockets, there are very few that are influenced by celebrities. In the Cone study, only 15% of Americans said that a celebrity spokesperson made a difference in their giving. Who does influence a person to give? Donors are most influenced by family members (77%); friends (64%); charities (63%); places of worship (60%); co-workers (40%); and companies (30%).

So what does matter to donors? What are the driving factors behind a personís decision to donate money to a charity? Well, according to the research, the overwhelming reason why people donate money, with 82% of respondents weighing in on this, is whether or not they trust the charity. Charities must make potential donors truly believe how they will spend the money.

The next most important issue is whether or not a potential donor can see the difference a charity makes, to the tune of 81%. That means the more localized the charity is, the more likely a person is to give. And 78% of respondents indicate that when a trusted friend or individual is involved in the charity, theyíll be more likely to give. That means charities need to concentrate on helping their advocates expand their reach.

Finally, if a person has a personal relationship with the cause or charity, they are more likely to give. When charities make it easy to donate, 68% of respondents say they will. When the cause is in the news often, 45% say they are influenced to give. And that is followed by the final reason why a person will donate to charity: 28% say when a celebrity or company they admire is a supporter, they tend to also lend their support.

Based on these findings, it is easy to see how celebrities are not the reason why people are giving money to charity. However, it is equally easy to see why so many charities are attempting to secure celebrity endorsements. They attract attention, and sometimes attention is all you need. Get someone to look at you, and maybe theyíll look twice. If they never look, theyíll never care.

The bottom line Ė if celebrity endorsements are working for your charity, then continue what youíre doing. However, if youíve never worked with a celebrity before, donít rush into a huge celebrity commitment because of a perceived benefit to you. Do your research first to make sure your organization is meeting all of the other needs of your potential donors.

Cone 2006 Nonprofit Research
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