Leveraging celebrity for contribution and connection

Like lots of people, celebrities (musicians, artists, authors, actors, etc.) often support various charities and causes.  Sites like Look to the Stars and Celebrity Charity Magazine document celebrity giving, as do special sections of more general sites, from Charity Navigator to Celebrity

But celebrities are special cases (aside from their relative wealth).  Although some celebrities are private about their charitable contributions, others take advantage of their popularity to influence their fans to join them in supporting causes they care about.   And, when this happens, everybody wins. 

  • The charity, of course, raises more funds and broadens their donor base. 
  • The celebrity leverages her own support to have a greater impact, and also builds  a potentially meaningful connection with her fans. 
  • And the fans themselves enjoy that same meaningful connection with their celebrity (and with fellow fans), in addition to the warm feeling of helping a good cause.

Celebrities try to persuade their fans to reach into their pockets in a number of ways.  They may appear on TV, endorsing their favorite charity.  Or they may appeal to their fans when they are gathered together and paying attention.  (Alicia Keys persuaded 90,000 American Idol viewers to text-donate $450,000 to Keep a Child Alive.)   And this is all great. 

But as any marketer knows, it’s easier to appeal for money when consumers already have their wallet out – like in the supermarket check-out line.

So, why not combine these two phenomena… Enable celebrities to invite fans to support their cause of choice at the point of a pending transaction?

fergie-coupons1Imagine going to iTunes to download I Gotta Feeling from the Black Eyed Peas, and seeing an appeal from them asking if you’d like to add $0.10 to your purchase to support Green For All, one of their favorite charities.

Or when you pick up a Harry Potter book from Amazon, and J.K. Rowling asks if you’d like to add a dollar to your purchase for one of her causes, like Book Aid International.

Or being asked by Andre Agassi for an extra $5.00 for Education Africa when you buy his Nikes from Zappos.

The big role here is played by the vendors, who present the interface and handle the transaction. And let’s push their role even further.  Imagine if the vendors enabled celebrities (or any of the creative voices whose products they sell) to submit or modify their appeal details directly, sans intermediary, thereby making the potential connection between celebrity and fans more direct and transparent. … and if the vendors didn’t charge a handling fee, so that 100% of the incremental contribution went straight to the charity.  Why would the vendors do this?  Because they just might sell more product – especially if they build this into their image, and artists urge their fans to buy from them.

I’m sure I’m glossing over (or totally ignorant of) plenty of technical and financial details.  But I like the idea of reducing the friction of charitable contribution, while at the same time increasing the opportunity for meaningful connection.  What do you think?

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