FirstGiving, Online fundraising, fundraising websites, peer-to-peer fundraising

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FirstGiving, Online fundraising, fundraising websites, peer-to-peer fundraisingFirstGiving, Online fundraising, fundraising websites, peer-to-peer fundraisingFirstGiving, Online fundraising, fundraising websites, peer-to-peer fundraisingFirstGiving, Online fundraising, fundraising websites, peer-to-peer fundraising 

FirstGiving, Online fundraising, fundraising websites, peer-to-peer fundraising

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5 Ways to Make the Most of Celebrity Fundraisers

At FirstGiving, we’ve recently had a spate of celebrities using our online tools to raise money for causes they care about, including Britney Spears, Twilight’s Kellan Lutz, and even Jersey Shore’s The Situation.  So Mashable’s recent series analyzing the relationship between celebrities and social good definitely caught our attention. The first post of the series sheds some light on whether celebrities actually hurt or help online causes.

We’d love to hear more from non-profits as to the successes and pitfalls of using high-profile spokespeople and celebrity fundraisers – it’s not for us to say.  But we can glean some insight into how to conduct a successful online fundraising campaign with a celebrity (or harness their enthusiasm on a grassroots basis), based on our observation of what works:


1)   Personalize the star’s connection to your cause. Actor Kellan Lutz blew past his $40,000 fundraising goal on behalf of the St. Bernard Project, an organization that rebuilds homes for victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, in large part to a heartfelt message that explained what drove his desire to get involved.  His fundraising page also included photos of the star on site in Louisiana, working with other volunteers on a construction project. His fans could see this was a cause he felt passionately about and gave time as well as money and publicity to make a difference – a fact the organization reinforced when they posted a personal message from Kellan asking fans to donate to the Project to honor his birthday.

2)   Cultivate a regular commitment. It’s one thing to lend your name to a cause on a one-time basis…quite another to extend yourself regularly and publicly, especially for a local cause that might not be well known.  Country singer JoDee Messina has committed to an ambitious goal of trying to raise over $2 million to help expand a Montessori school in her hometown of Nashville – the Million Doors campaign video is front and center on her website, and she even recorded an original song that would serve as the centerpiece of the campaign.  Visitors to her site know right away that Holy Trinity Montessori is a cause close to Jodee’s heart and that she maintains an ongoing, close connection to the school’s efforts.

3)   Partner with your fans. Likewise, actor Kevin McKidd has created a relationship with Save the Children, and uses his notoriety to draw attention to the organization in times of great need.  His fan site, Kevin McKidd Online, conducted a fundraising campaign and eBay auction of signed paper hearts to raise money for earthquake relief in Haiti last year, and this year the actor is taking a two-pronged approach to raising awareness to the famine in the Horn of Africa: Kevin fasted for a day, and is also fundraiser for a Tough Mudder event.

Kevin shared with us how the relationship between him and the fan site came about:

“I first became aware of KMcKonline when my friend Danny from the UK became fan on the site, which at first was a little weird... You know, a friend becoming a member of a fan site. But Danny and Leanne (administrator extraordinaire of the website) struck up a friendship. Quickly we began to cook up ideas to use the site to raise money for charitable ends. Ben Stiller (@stillerstrong) told me about Save the Children and their Haiti effort to raise funds and support, so we chose that as our first fundraiser. It went better than we expected, in no small part due to the brilliance of the FirstGiving site and donation pages that we use. We are now raising money for Save the Children again and the fight against famine in #eastafrica. I feel lucky to have Leanne and her team at KMcKonline and FirstGiving as huge supports in the effort to help kids around the world."
4) Take it viral. It’s hard to know exactly what will cause a campaign to go viral, but humor and some public, good-natured bickering between celebrities can’t hurt. When actress Alyssa Milano made a silly YouTube video challenging the Old Spice Guy to be a real man and donate to the National Wildlife Federation, 30 Rock actor Keith Powell jumped in on the action and created his own video and fundraising page in response.  All of the good-natured joshing on Twitter kept the conversation going, and Powell took the extra step of creating a personal video dedicated to one donor, every day for a month.  The campaign appeared spontaneous and authentic and kept contributors engaged for the length of the campaign.

5)   Give something away! Fans crave interaction with their celebrity crushes, so offer an incentive to donate. Donors to Messina’s Million Doors campaign receive a free song download with their emailed tax receipt, while donors to McKidd’s page could receive everything from a screensaver to an online chat with the actor. The incentive doesn’t have to be something physical – fans were just as happy to donate for the chance to get a Twitter shout out from Lutz or Powell.


In short, authenticity, personal connection and creativity are some of the most important factors driving fans of celebrity fundraisers to get behind a cause.  Ensure you are taking advantage of a wide variety of touch points – celebrity Tweets are very effective, but so is a regular call to donate on the celeb’s website, fan sites and Facebook page.


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