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Charities, celebrity endorsements and slacktavism

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I’ve written a number of times about charitable use of social media, and just how effective it is in raising awareness of a particular campaign or issue.  The general gist of the research is that whilst social networks, such as Facebook, can be effective, it’s generally only because of their sheer size.  Other mediums offer much better return for your buck.

In a similar non-profit related vein, it was interesting to read a recent journal article that explored the use of celebrity endorsements for particular charities, and how much they actually deliver in terms of raised profile for the charities involved.

The paper, authored by a trio of UK academics, surveyed over 1,000 people across two surveys, in addition to running a couple of focus groups.  It emerged that whenever a celebrity endorsed a charity, it tended to do much more for the awareness of the celebrity than it did the charity.

Some 66% of respondents could not link any celebrity with a list of 7 charities and NGOs, despite the celebs working closely with each of them.

“Our survey found that while awareness of major NGOs brands was high, awareness of celebrity advocates for those brands was low,” they said in their article, published online in the International Journal of Cultural Studies.

“Instead it was plain from the focus groups that most people supported the charities that they supported because of personal connections in their lives and families which made these causes important, not because of the celebrities.

“The evidence suggests, therefore, that the ability of celebrity advocacy to reach people is limited, and dominated in Britain by some extremely prominent telethons and the work of a few stars.”

Now, it should be said that few of the celebrities actually aimed to promote themselves rather than the charity (hopefully?), but that was nevertheless the unintended outcome.  Indeed, the focus groups uncovered a degree of cynicism around celebrity involvement, with doubts raised about the validity of their concern for the causes they would support.

The second story I thought was interesting was also centred around getting people involved in worthy causes, and also involved them doing as little as possible.  I came across a new service called Amplifyd, which hopes to make it easier for the general public to participate in lobbying of politicians.

Say you have strong feelings on a particular topic, and would love to lobby your local MP, or whoever has influence on that topic, and hope to change things.  Except you either don’t have the time or energy to do so.  Amplifyd will offer to do so on your behalf for a donation of $7.  Of this $7, $1.50 will go to the campaign itself, somewhere between $2-3.50 will go to the person making the call, and the remainder to Amplifyd.

I can’t quite decide if this is a great idea of slacktavism in action again.  After all, sites such as AskThem.io, which I’ve written about before, offer a much easier route towards lobbying your local political representatives.  Of course, it does raise money for the cause as well, but it does seem rather lazy, and a small portion of your $7 actually goes to the cause itself.

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