The best decision you can make when choosing a celebrity to endorse your non-profit is to find one who is passionate about your cause. When you do that, you find someone who doesn’t need a lot of external motivators for them to do a good job representing your organization because they already care about the changes you are trying to make.
Aside from finding someone whose philosophy fits with yours, don’t make the mistake of thinking that simply being a charity means people will want to help you. No matter what cause you represent, there are other charities representing the same or similar causes—you are one among many. And, that means you’ll need a compelling reason for why the celeb should be involved with your non-profit when you contact their representative. Even as a charity, you need to offer a mutually beneficial agreement. Understand that your cause may be what matters most to you, but you need to know what matters to the celeb in order to negotiate their cooperation. Let the celebrity know why your nonprofit fits with their brand.
Once you’ve narrowed down a list of possible celebrities to work with your charity, you’ll need to determine the best way to utilize their reach. Here are some of the ways we suggest for getting a celebrity involved with your charity.
Autographs are an easy way to get celebrities involved. You can often get autographed items from multiple celebrities to auction off or sell at your charity event. This way, they can sign the autographs when they have the time. They help out; you get extra appeal for your donors; and it doesn’t require much time commitment from the celebrity. That makes autographs one of the easiest activities to negotiate with a celebrity.
Alternately, you can get the celeb to show up for in-person autographs. This requires them to commit to a specific time and place, but they don’t need to prepare anything in advance. If your event doesn’t have the time or space for other types of appearances, a simple autograph signing can draw bigger crowds of supporters, and you can include several celebrities to garner wider interest.
Another way to get celebrity involvement without requiring them to appear at an event is to have them share news about your charity and its cause on their social media accounts. If they already post regularly (and they should if you are going to be utilizing their endorsement in this way), then it won’t take much time at all for them to simply write a few words and share your content.
Realize that a celebrity’s potential reach is not just about how popular they are. A celebrity with active followers on social media can open up other potential marketing avenues, and it’s not always the biggest celebrities who have the most active following.
Social media really draws on people’s niche interests. So, when you choose to go with this type of endorsement, it pays to know who your audience is passionate about. Utilizing a celebrity just for the sake of having a celebrity is not a good strategy. You need to do your homework about what moves your target audience, and select celebrities who would appeal specifically to those people.
The interesting thing about social media is that you don’t need a Hollywood A-lister to get a good response. It’s more about a well-crafted campaign that reaches the loyal audience of a niche celebrity. Big names have wide followings, but those followers are not necessarily as loyal and active on their feeds. As with marketing for any kind of organization, it is about more leads that convert, not just more leads in general.
When you bring a celebrity in on your charity project, you need to make the most of their involvement. You can’t simply have them appear at your event and wave at the crowd. The idea is to find a way to engage your audience. Create a story around your charity and the celebrity. You can do this by having the celebrity guest provide a speech or speak on a discussion panel. This gives the celeb the opportunity to discuss their personal reasons behind supporting your charity.
If you’ll be having a celebrity speak at your event, you want to do your research so you know which celebrities have a reputation for being well-spoken and whether they’ll be able to provide thoughtful answers and opinions. Additionally, find out ahead of time what kinds of relationships (past or present) guests may have if you are inviting multiple panel guests.
Guest Photo Ops
Another way to involve celebrities at your event is to offer photo ops for your supporters. This means that guests can pay to have a photo taken of themselves with the celebrity. You can arrange with the celebrity ahead of time that the proceeds from photo op sales will be donated to the charity. It’s a great way to get more support for your cause while providing value for your supporters.
Putting on a performance is the biggest commitment of time and energy that you can request from a celebrity. You are asking them to literally go to work doing what they do. So, this can be the most difficult type of involvement to negotiate. When you ask an artist to put on a performance for your charity event, it involves all the same preparations that would be involved for a performance anywhere. And, that means you’ll need to draw up a lengthy contract and review it carefully to know exactly what you’re getting and to ensure the celebrity knows exactly what is expected.
Many performers will donate the cost of performing back to the charity. That being said, don’t act unprofessional by requesting free endorsements, appearances, or performances. Just because you are a nonprofit doesn’t mean you are entitled to pro bono services, even if some people may be happy to give back after providing services. When you are requesting work from someone, you are expected to pay for it. Otherwise, they would be contacting you to donate their services.
Ensuring a successful charity endorsement
As you decide which method of celebrity involvement makes the most sense for your nonprofit, remember to keep your mind open to new possibilities for celebrity involvement. Not so long ago utilizing a celebrity’s social media account was unheard of—now charities utilize that avenue every day. You may come up with ways not listed here, so seize the opportunities that come your way.
And, don’t forget that even if the celebrity you’d like to negotiate with is known to be interested in your cause, you usually must go through their representative first. Treat them with courtesy. You can make the rep’s decision much easier by utilizing your own media connections for your campaign or event and researching ahead of time what will make the deal beneficial for their client. Your numbers probably won’t do much to sway a celebrity rep. After all, regardless of how many people you reach, the celeb’s reach is likely larger—isn’t that why you are working with them? What you can offer is your authority regarding the cause and your credibility regarding your reputation.
Finally, be sure to get everything in writing that the celebrity is committing to doing for your charity. That way there are no confusions or disappointments about exactly what you will get. This provides protection for both sides.