Celebrities and Charities

Is it wrong for a celebrity to donate to charity just for publicity's sake? Here's Modern Manners Guy's take.

Richie Frieman
3-minute read

The other day, a coworker was complaining about how a “certain celebrity” was only donating money to a charity because they wanted the publicity. I asked how much they were donating, and she said $15,000. Holy, hotdogs, Batman! $15,000! That’s major dough. I do a lot of charity work, and I know for a fact that $15,000 can go a very long way.  So, followed up with a question: why did that bother her? She said, “Because donating to charities should be selfless, not for publicity.” Okay, I hear you … but who cares?

That’s right, who cares? If a charity I care deeply about gets a $15,000 donation, does it bother me if the person wants to spread the word? Not at all - spread away, dear celebrity. Do I care that someone ONLY did it for publicity? Heck no! They could have rolled up in a tour bus with KISS playing on a stage behind them, with fireworks going off, and a crew of reporters. In the end, the goal was met: the charity got money they desperately needed.

When a celebrity - or you and I! - make a difference in someone’s life, they are doing more than just helping people out – they’re raising awareness.  This practice is called the echo chamber. The echo chamber works when people tell others, who tell others, and tell more people about whatever it is you’re working on, like an echo bouncing off one wall to the next. Whether it’s on social media or not, it’s about getting the word out, in any way possible. And the echo chamber is free!  When a celebrity tweets to their ten million followers that they just donated to XYZ charity, that is insanely valuable attention going right to the charity that needs it.

Whether you like it or not, people will pay more attention (and likely open their wallets) when George Clooney or Brad Pitt make a donation. And in the end, the winner – whether anonymous or via a billboard – is always going to be that charity. How can you say that’s wrong?

That said, you also can’t expect celebrities to solve everyone’s problems. Yes, Clooney and Pitt could donate a million dollars a piece, and feed tens of thousands of people, without even seeing a dent in their wallet. However, if they did that, psychologically people (with lesser bank accounts, like you and I) would think there is nothing left to do. “Who needs $50 from me, when Clooney and Pitt just dropped a million a piece?”  That’s the worst result, but it happens more than you think.  Plus, they have done enough! Celebrities get hit up right and left from everyone asking them to donate money, and when they finally do, they deserve proper recognition. They deserve to be tweeted, Instagrammed, or whatever else it takes to get the word out. After all, without publicity, a charity can’t get the word out.

So settle down, Mr./Mrs. Celebrity Basher: not every celebrity is a selfish millionaire scrounging for attention. Some actually care, and those are the ones that we should be emulating. And even if they don't, the charity comes out on top in the end.

As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at manners@quickanddirtytips.com. Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.

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