Lady Gaga & Celebrity Philanthropy | npENGAGE

Lady Gaga & Celebrity Philanthropy

By on Jun 9, 2011 | NONPROFIT-FUNDRAISING

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Lady Gaga & Celebrity Philanthropy

No doubt about it, Lady Gaga is a conversation starter.  But did you know she topped the list of most charitable Celebs in 2010, as ranked by Do Something, by how much energy celebrities devote to cause?  Notice the operative word here: energy. If you want to know which celebrities gave the most that’s another list.   

With an audience of over ten million Twitter followers– more than any other twitting being on Earth (and two million more than our President) Lady Gaga can evangelize to a massive crowd.

What I find transformative about Lady Gaga’s celebrity philanthropy is that while she definitely has favorite causes, a significant part of her message is encouraging people to volunteer and take action.  As part of her Monster Ball tour, she partnered with Virgin Mobile and Volunteermatch to give free premium concert tickets to volunteers who gave eight hours or more lending a hand to organizations serving homeless youth.  Her call to action inspired over 30,000 hours of community service and a new wave of attention on homeless youth.   It also engaged a younger demographic of primarily 18-24 year olds in supporting the cause. 

Another example is her successful efforts to repeal the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell where she galvanized her fan base to take part in an advocacy campaign.  She released a video statement explaining her views on the policy where she actually picked up the phone and called New York Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and then asked her fans to do the same.  Then she sent out links to 30 videos her fans made calling for its repeal.  She modeled how easy it is to take action and contact your elected officials, galvanized her fans to get involved and then put the spotlight on their grassroots efforts. 

The risk and reward of celebrity endorsements

Celebrities can attract large audiences to your mission, use their fame to shape public opinion, promote global citizenship, and draw in multiple audiences like donors, volunteers, and consumers.  But if getting celebrities were easy we’d all have one, right?  5 things to consider while you are fantasizing about that famous face falling in love with your cause:

1. The time investment.  It takes considerable time to find, recruit, and motivate a celebrity to serve with your organization.   And let’s face it; celebrities are busy people with lots of gatekeepers.  The more personal connections you have to the star and more manageable your request (i.e. asking for a quote or to shoot a PSA) with clear and finite time commitments the more successful you may be.  
2. Is this a win win?  Taking compatibility and a strong connection to your cause as a given, what will the celebrity get out of it?  Consider how inundated with requests they might be.  Are they a rising star who could use the publicity?  Do you have a huge twitter following that you are offering them, or visa versa?  What will you get out of it?  Are your expectations clearly documented and agreed to by the celebrity?
3. The expense.  Even if a celebrity agrees to promote your cause for free, you will likely still have to spring for first class plane tickets, hotel rooms for the them and their entourage, special meals, a limo, and while celebrities are typically not paid for their celebrity service they are often paid an honorarium which could range from $1,000 to several hundred thousand.  Public reaction to this compensation can backfire and be a source of controversy like the one over Bristol Palin when it was leaked she was paid $262,500 for work at an abstinence non-profit shooting PSA’s, print and Internet ads, and doing town hall meetings.  You can also add in what you will spend just wooing them before they say yes. 
4. Fleeting flame.  Will today’s sweetheart stand the test of time?   
5. The risk of scandal. Are you, and your cause, prepared to handle the headlines when your celebrity takes a fall?

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