SUPERSTAR Sports, Entertainment, Celebrity and Influencer Charities: Good for Image, But What About Good Works?

Branding is one reason for a SUPERSTAR sports, entertainment, celebrity and influencer to attach his name to a foundation or good works of some sort. In fact, it is essential if the celebrity wants to build a brand out of himself. And it would be crazy not to brand oneself these days if one is to be a mega star.

Elton John Oscar Party

Some stars who have entangled their images so completely with good works that they are basically untouchable, at least in certain communities: Rosie O’Donnell, George Clooney, Bono, LeBron James, Tyler Perry, Oprah, JayZ and Beyonce, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Magic Johnson, Matt Damon, and the list goes on and on and on. It’s awfully hard to criticize someone who raises money to oppose genocide or wipe out poverty or educate people about AIDS.

The question is: Are celebrities who embrace charitable works, who dole out their money in charitable contributions, who found their own or become spokesmen for charities all good, or is that sneaking suspicion that maybe there is something in it for them relevant? I don’t know that anyone could answer with certainty. But the truth suggests that charitable contributions equal tax breaks, and revealed that when a star has his own foundation the money can be used to his advantage, say reserved until the star needs some sort of a boost for a premier or saved for use when the star is losing some of that star power.

I have to admit, however, that some celebrities are way beyond the need of a “boost” from their charities. And it is not as if the charities aren’t advanced from association with a star. Especially in the social media age where we can follow our favorite celeb on Facebook and Twitter; we are alerted to our favorite stars’ causes and influenced to give in a cycle, whether good or bad, that the celebrity gets great PR from supporting a charity and the charity needs the celebrity to reach the masses and to get a little press.

And some stars are legitimately involved in changing the world at a very deep level. Some are so committed that they use their power to sway not only their everyday fans, but also the United States government.


Government and World Leaders. It is reported that Natalie Portman was shocked when she was granted a meeting with congress. She was the new ambassador for Finca, and she was their ticket to Capitol Hill. She asked why she was the one who had access to congress rather than the head of the foundation or the public who had elected their representatives, and the sad fact was that members of congress already “knew” her and were anxious to meet her because she is an actress. And other celebrities use their power in the same way. Bono is versed in lobbying, and he took George Clooney with him to the 31st G-8 summit.

The top celebrity charities and foundations are in a unique position to quite literally change the world, given the clout of their endorsements and the amount of exchanged funds at stake. The subject may be related to social, economic, or other issues, but in any case there are many causes that have managed to leave a notable imprint on their intended target, partly thanks to the name power behind famous backers.

Not all celebrities give large sums to the charities. In many cases the celebrity is simply a paid face to attract donors. In some instances the celebrity’s appearance fee is more than the money given to the charity’s mission. Some fail to continue to be associated with the charity that used their name that brought the attention to the nonprofit.

So perhaps stars and charities are neither entirely good nor entirely bad but necessary. After all, who else has the kind of sway to influence the public, the government, and the world? Maybe it doesn’t matter that not all celebrities are in it for their fellowman but rather for self-promotion. It could be that we shouldn’t care that celebrity charities are sometimes like the Kim Kardashian wedding: We don’t know if we are to believe the charity work is for real, or if they are there simply to brand, promote, and use an otherwise sacred institution for ratings. It doesn’t matter because stars reap positive results in a way that nothing else and possibly nobody else can.

And what does all of this say about humanity? What does it mean that we rely so heavily on our stars for moral guidance rather than our teachers, our parents, our peers? You be the judge. In the meantime, there are some celebrities who we should thank because they are doing the most for the best causes, and the betterment of mankind has never looked so good, and felt even better.

Where is the Board?

In virtually all instances illustrated above, the board has been nonexistent or deficient in exercising its responsibilities. The board has been blinded and a sleep at the switch when they simply follow a charismatic celebrity. Boards have not set the “tone” for the organization. These charities fail to have strong independent leadership and typically no separation between the board and the staff.