Should Celebrities Lend Their Names to Educational Causes?

Sep 29, 2011

It's not uncommon to see charities taking advantage of the name recognition of some of their celebrity supporters. The Education Insider takes a look at if this is a good practice or if celebrities should be keeping their names to themselves.

By Jessica Lyons

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Big Name Support

There are many education non-profits that have very notable supporters. For instance, supporters of Rock Stars of Science include B.O.B., Bret Michaels and Timbaland. The musicians posed alongside scientific researchers in a photo spread in GQ that was meant to help raise awareness about the importance of science while encouraging students to enter the field. A large number of celebrities, including actors, athletes, musicians and politicians, have also shown their support just by competing on NBC's 'Celebrity Apprentice,' where Donald Trump has the participants take part in a variety of challenges. The pay-off is winning large donations for the charities they're supporting.

Plenty of notable figures have also created their own non-profit organizations. Former President Bill Clinton has the William J. Clinton Foundation. One of its initiatives is to address obesity among children through its Alliance for a Healthier Generation, which includes the Healthy Schools Program. As another example, professional baseball player David Wright of the New York Mets has also created his own charity, the David Wright Foundation, which focuses on helping needy children in areas like education and health.

What's in a Name?

Having well-known names behind a charity can certainly give it a helpful boost and aid in getting it more attention. With all the causes out there, it can be difficult for non-profits to find a way to get the public involved in their particular organizations. Using the name recognition of celebrities is one way to get people to notice them and possibly get involved in the organization. Showing their support of charitable causes can also be a way for celebrities to show that they care while improving their public image.

When it Could Be a Bad Thing

Although on the surface celebrities supporting important causes seems like a win-win, there could be some downsides. First of all, there needs to be a balance between using celebrity power and having it overshadow the actual cause. After School All Stars, which provides academic support mostly to middle school students, boasts having celebrity ambassadors like basketball players Kobe Bryant and Chris Bosh, rapper Fabolous and football player Shaun Phillips. Although it surely benefits the organization to have these famous people attached to it, it could be a problem if the public is so focused on the celebrities and possibly trying to meet them that they don't take the time to genuinely learn about the work being done by After School All Stars.

Something else that could make a significant difference is if the celebrity actually cares about the cause, or if their sole reason for supporting it is because they want to look good. Support means more when it's genuine, so celebrities should only lend their names to causes they truly believe in.

Situations involving politicians connected to charities could also be a little complicated, particularly if the elected official is still in office with plans of running again. In a March 2011 article, The New York Times reported that companies that could need assistance from Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal were contributing to the Supriya Jindal Foundation for Louisiana's Children, which was created by his wife. Charities need to protect themselves and make sure donors don't start to expect special favors.

Some celebrities like James Franco play the dual role of being stars and scholars.


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