A celebrity endorsement can raise awareness of your favorite cause, setting it apart from others that compete for attention and donations. Star power “is really a form of advertising and marketing,” says James Ferris, director of the University of Southern California’s Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy.
While a big organization such as the U.N. Children’s Fund can recruit world-famous celebrities, smaller nonprofits seeking publicity are better off asking for help from a local sports hero or an up-and-coming performer in the community.
Ferris, who has observed trends in charitable giving over two decades, says that pop-culture celebrities, especially, are aligning themselves with causes more often. For the nonprofit that deftly uses star power, there is a big increase in attention from people who are fans of celebrity endorsers.
If you are aligned with a cause as a volunteer or as a nonprofit employee, consider harnessing star power. First ask whether anyone in your group has a personal connection to a celebrity. (It’s easiest to ask for help from someone you know.) If you don’t find a connection, reach celebrities through their agents or managers. For instance, ask for the contact information of an athlete’s representative from a sports team’s front office, or look for the name of a rock star’s agent on the performer’s website.
Keep the following in mind when asking public figures to help your cause:
You are not unique
“Your organization is probably not the only one asking for a celebrity’s time and energy in the name of social good,” says Colleen Dilenschneider of IMPACTS Research and Development. “Make a compelling ask.”
Stand in the star’s shoes
“Come knowing exactly why your mission fits with the celebrity’s mission,” Dilenschneider says. Research his or her interests, and then design an event around an area where they overlap with yours.
Don’t try to impress a celebrity with how many people your organization reaches. Dilenschneider points out the person you are approaching is the one with all the followers — that’s why you are contacting him or her. However, you may have something that can be extremely valuable to a celebrity: credibility.
Jeff Franco, who heads the volunteer organization City Year in Washington, suggests that if you succeed in recruiting a notable figure to kick off an event, use photos of that person with members of your organization to promote your next event. Franco’s nonprofit received help with a day of service from President Obama and his family.
ShareAmerica writer Stephen Kaufman contributed to this article.