Getting a celebrity to donate money to your charity does far more than just boost the amount of cash raised. It also has a knock-on effect, bringing attention to your charity and giving a starry seal of approval that money really can’t buy. It can attract valuable media coverage and, in turn, encourage others to donate while at the same time spreading the important messages of your charity. Persuading a celebrity to donate requires subtlety, thorough research and perfect timing. That's not an easy task but, as many charities and fundraising events have proven in the past, it is possible with the right approach and a little finesse.
First, search for information on celebrities and what they're passionate about. Try to find out what causes they're interested in. Ideally, target those who already support charities with a similar ethos to yours. For example, Mary Tyler Moore was outspoken on diabetes, while Patrick Dempsey is dedicated to supporting a cure for breast cancer.
Next, make a wish list of people that you'd love to have associated with your charity. Who best fits the charity’s image and who would help to attract other donors? Write everything down and try to find out more about any charitable events they attended and their contributions.
Sometimes, timing is everything. If the celebrities on your list just got married or had a baby, this may not be the best time to ask for their help. Reach out to those that are actively engaged in charity work, had just made a film about domestic violence or child abuse or reached a new milestone in their career.
It might seem bold and brave to tweet directly at a celeb or to stop them for an in-person chat if you happen to see them walking down the street. But it could backfire if the star in question feels they’ve been put on the spot — some celebs prefer their donations to be anonymous. Or, they might agree to participate in principle, but their agent blocks all your attempts to follow up, annoyed that you didn’t go through him.
Obviously, if you do get to chat with Beyoncé at a party, you could mention your charity’s work if it seems natural to do so. But in most cases, it’s wise to go through the proper channels when making an initial approach to a celebrity. That usually means researching the names of celebrities’ agents or managers, then sending an introductory email or giving them a call to chat and present your proposal.
Think beyond hard cash. A donated item from a celebrity — whether Ryan Gosling’s T-shirt or a wand from the set of a Harry Potter movie — could raise even more money and attract attention if auctioned off at a fundraising event. Also, consider inviting the stars on your list the next charitable event you're planning. Their simple presence can help you increase awareness.
Some celebrities won't necessarily donate money, but rather volunteer. Angelina Jolie, for instance, has traveled all over the world to support the causes she believes in. She has volunteered in more than 20 countries, including Cambodia and Sierra Leone. Seth Green as joined forces with Doctors Beyond Boarders and other non-profits to help those in need.
As well as approaching stars through their agents, try contacting PR and marketing staff at television networks, Broadway shows, movie studios, distribution companies and book publishers that work with celebrities.
Being active on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram helps to boost your charity’s profile and raise awareness of its messages and aims. Share pictures, stories and information about fundraising events. If you’re lucky, celebrities with an interest in the particular cause might just come to you.
There’s a fine line between being persistent and being a pest. Be subtle and gently persuasive in your pursuit of celebrity donations and know when to back off. Celebrities and their reps will only get annoyed if they’re hounded by repeated requests for money. And, if they happen to share their annoyance on social media, that could be a disaster for your charity’s image and could even make you look a little desperate.
Have patience and don't expect to get donors overnight. It takes time to cultivate relationships with prospective donors, especially celebrities. Show that you believe in your cause and do your best to raise awareness for your charity's mission.