Friday, October 12, 2012

Fourth blog, wherein I defend celebrities creating charities

Nancy Lublin, CEO of "Do Something" took to LinkedIn today to criticize celebrities creating NGOs.  As examples she cited recent troubles of Wyclef and Kanye's foundtions being shuttered and the trouble Madonna has had starting a school in Africa.

But surely celebrity-founded NGOs are not the only to fail at their task, but perhaps those failures are just more newsworthy.

The Time of India, for example, reported in June, 2011 that an internal evaluation determined 8 of 10 NGOs "unable to meet key parameters to prevent spread of HIV or AIDS" in India, rating the majority of their projects "failures."

The fact is, there are many advantages to having celebrities involved in the founding of these organizations.  As John Prendergast, a longtime activist on African issues told The New York Times Magazine, “Celebrities are master recruiters. If you’re trying to expand beyond the already converted, there’s no better way to do instant outreach than to have a familiar face where people want to know more about what they’re doing in their personal lives,”

In a sense, celebrities can leverage their brand equity as a force for social good.

Not on Our Watch, co-founded by George Clooney, has given over $9 million to aid the crisis in Darfur.  Kevin Bacon used the notoriety of tongue-in-cheek college game "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" to start, ‘social networking with a social conscience,’ as he told Variety in July 2007.  Of course Princess Diana is well-remembered for her work on behalf of the disabled, homeless, and those with HIV/AIDS, as well as working actively against the use of landmines.

And, ironically, even Ms. Lublin's NGO was co-founded in 1993 by actor Andrew Shue, then of the hit TV drama "Melrose Place."  As her success attests, his pioneering spirit may have lacked some specificity at the time, but he helped create a force for good that is going strong 20 years later.  Seems to me that if celebrities can "do something" to help the world, they ought to.  If the Shue fits, wear it!