Random Thoughts on Life and Work

April 10, 2008

A Reflection On “Idol Gives Back”

Filed under: Non-Profit — Darren Mullenix @ 8:30 am
Tags: , , , , ,

I imagine this week’s show will be discussed ad naseum throughout the blogosphere today and tomorrow.  Oh well.  Thought I would add my two cents.

While I am impressed with the effort that is put forth into highlighting the plight of so many in Africa and here in the US, I still can’t help but wonder how the mix of celebrity “pitchmen/women” truly feel about the situation.  I suspect that combining one year’s income from 3 or 4 of them would outstrip the GDP of one country in Africa.  And yet they continue to appeal to “common” America to open up the purse strings and give.  Just seems a little disingenuous to me. 

Which leads me to a question.  Is it the cause, the pitch, or the show that leads people to give?  In development we often quote the phrase, “People give to people not to projects.”  But how does that play out in this case?  Are people giving because of the images they see on tv or because of the celebrity pitch?

Which leads to another question.  How do we in the non-profit world truly feel about the celebrity pitch?  A number of organizations use them to great effect.  But where do we draw the line and say, “Put up or shut up!”  Where is the break even point between the value of their giving and the value of their name associated with a cause? 

Okay, I am done ranting for the day. 



  1. Hypocrisy will always exist, but if the overall costs can be kept to a REASONABLE amount, celebrity endorsements are worthwhile, since they get the message OUT.

    Apply the same principle as any other event. Events overall are W-A-Y too costly to justify them as fund raisers if the only purpose was to raise funds. They must raise awareness, generate publicity, affect change. If it doesn’t act as / get seen as an investment in future goodwill, volunteers AND fund raising, there’s no point in doing it.

    I remember as a child wishing that Jerry Lewis wouldn’t smoke while doing the telethon. A few years later, he stopped. THAT was hypocrisy to me. The stars should have done their performances for free or at a drastically reduced rate, sans the five star hotels, limos, etc.

    The common folk are always the one who hold up the base of the pyramid, though, in any institution. Too bad annual giving professionals are afforded so little respect when they actually bring in so much.

    Comment by Bilou — April 11, 2008 @ 10:05 am | Reply

  2. Is it the cause, the pitch, or the show that leads people to give?

    I think the answer to these questions is still, as the originator quoted, “People give to people not to projects.” The show provides the viewer with AWARENESS of the cause, enables them to develop an AFFINITY for the cause through the performers that represent it, and the IMMEDIACY to act/donate.

    My bet is that those same people will not continue to support the cause. The show provided an environment that brought all of these elements together and enabled the viewers to participate.

    Celebrity pitchmen/women also provide awareness and a human connection for people to associate with a cause. I think research demonstrates, at least in the healthcare area, that causes associated with celebrities are more successful fundraisers.

    The quote “People give to people not to projects” still applies whether celebrity, successful alum, or your local board member friend. People are more likely moved to give as a result of association with another person/personality, even if they don’t actually know them personally, because making a human connection with a person you respect and who genuinely believes in the cause is the most powerful appeal…unless of course, you or your family or close friends have been touched directly by a circumstance that would provide affinity with a specific cause.

    Comment by Joe Hunt — April 13, 2008 @ 12:33 pm | Reply

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