Charitable celebrities need to be authentic

By Lauren Kelly

When you Google the term “charitable celebrities,” the top web result that appears is a page called Look to the Stars, a site dedicated to covering celebrity charity news and events. The site lists famous people who are involved in some type of charity work.

Ironically, it turns out that almost every celebrity is involved in some kind of charity work. There are thousands of people on this list. From Alicia Keys to Zach Braff, the alphabetical list makes it seem like all of them are involved in some philanthropic cause or another. It has become fashionable for stars to have the image of being altruistic. But do they do as much as they say, or is it just an image?

It seems that the vast majority of stars are involved in causes just to say they’re involved in causes. It makes them look good, plain and simple. When someone makes millions of dollars per year, it could be perceived as selfish if they don’t help others with their saturated bank accounts, especially if their peers are involved in charitable causes.

Don’t be mistaken—many famous people have done great things and have helped a lot of people through the work that they’ve done. For instance, George Clooney supports 14 charities, serves on the board of trustees for the United Way and he is a UN Messenger of Peace. He also co-founded Not on Our Watch, an organization dedicated to providing humanitarian assistance and ending international human rights abuses and genocide, along with Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle and Matt Damon.

This is just one example. Some famous people have truly made a difference in the lives of others, but I doubt the majority who claim they are authentically contributing to a good cause. But it has become trendy to participate in charitable causes. And who knows? They might just make a little extra money by branding a charity with their image.

Some stars will actively participate and give aid to a foreign country, then spend $15 million on a giant touring stage and ignore the problems plaguing their hometowns. Why don’t they donate that money and play a show on a stage that already exists instead of spending millions to promote themselves?

Many celebrities are following the trend of adopting children from developing countries. Why don’t they support an orphanage there instead of adopting a child then spending a few hundred thousand dollars on their birthday party and designer clothing?

Aside from being a representative for an organization or appearing at charity events, many celebrities donate money to causes. This is great and it gives funds to people who are really committed to making a difference, but there’s also a big incentive to do this—tax credits for charitable contributions.

One thing I do acknowledge is that every time a celebrity supports a charity, regardless of an actual commitment to the cause, they bring awareness about important issues to the public sphere. Because of stars, ordinary people are now cognizant of many problems in the world that they might not have known about before. Also, because of celebrities, the everyday citizens might be inspired to get involved themselves.

But do non-profits and humanitarian causes now need a famous face associated with them in order to succeed and make a difference? That seems like what’s becoming the reality more and more. If a non-profit organization or charity does not have a star representative, they may be at a disadvantage and feel compelled to seek out support from a famous face.

“Charitable” celebrities need to get serious and stop acting like they care about causes they really don’t. Starting a foundation just to say you have one is inauthentic and cheapens others that are truly committed to making a difference.