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Celebrity Giving: Is It Always For The Cause?

Last Friday’s Comic Relief raised £75 million according to Simon Pegg’s Twitter celebration this morning. The amount raised is truly astounding and the fact that our great British public has achieved something so great for charities both home and abroad. Comic Relief is one of the most famous annual charitable events, with projects and challenges being set months before. Since its founding in 1985, this charity and others like it has raised millions and according to Justine Greening MP, Secretary of State for International Development, child deaths have halved in the last 20 years. This is a fact that is undeniably fantastic for improving the state of world poverty in the next generation.

One reason why we all recognise Comic Relief as being such a huge moment to be aware of in the calendar is the celebrity involvement. It has provoked some of the silliest and most challenging actions from our nationally loved comedians, performers and presenters in the past 25 years. This year we now have a bald Jessie J and in 2009 Eddie Izzard ran a bonkers 43 marathons in 51 days for Sport Relief. These are examples of seemingly genuine efforts to use their well-known names to attract attention to a cause needing all the public support it can get.

It should always be the case that there is genuine effort made and dedication to a philanthropic cause from celebrities, otherwise surely it is an abuse of power rather than a positive use. In Hollywood with big A-lister, million dollar-earners this may be more the case. There are organisations which are enormous businesses in themselves because they help celebrities fulfil their philanthropic urges. There will always be criticism of those who can simply afford to sign a 6-figure cheque without having to bat an eyelid but who perhaps do not make their involvement in the chosen charity sustained. It is arrogant to presume as someone with an internationally recognised name that this will automatically create revenue for a charity, there must be work put in to make this a certainty.


However, for those of us that can just about cope with giving £10 to a friend running a local marathon, perhaps we should be more forgiving of those who are at least understanding that their disposable income is vast and as a result could be making a real difference to many people’s lives. Although the PR benefits that will undoubtedly be received after a few Tweets and promotional articles in the press, ultimately, money is needed by non-profit organisations and without celebrity stunts and dedicated fundraising efforts the good that they hope to achieve will not be realised.

Everyone loves a reason to celebrate the Beckham brand even more, but I recently read an article that fervently supported David Beckham’s claim that he would give away his new incredible £3.4 million salary to a yet-unnamed Parisian children’s charity. As every move by someone with his reputation, this was cynically criticised as a ‘PR stunt’ and compared with their overall wealth this is merely pennies to give away. This is ignoring the blatantly obvious fact that whichever charity he chooses will instantly and over the long-term feel the positive effects of his donation. Furthermore, many may not know that there is a David and Victoria Beckham Charitable Trust, which stipulates with many of its recipients a ‘no publicity’ clause.

I am using Beckham as an illustration that we can still have faith in our simultaneously loved and hated celebrities for their efforts in the way of philanthropy. It is not simply a cheap shot at regaining popularity in the media but may actually be an honest and heartfelt decision. It certainly felt like that last night when Miranda Hart was told that as a result of her ‘Mad March’ campaign for Comic Relief she had raised over £1 million; hands over face and smile wider than ever before, the pleasure and surprise was clear.

There is something rather more dubious about charitable Hollywooders than the British spirit that we saw in the build-up to Red Nose Day, there must be an obligation to give time and a personal work as well as simply money. But, for we students who are not able to give on this scale in both time and money, perhaps we should not be doubting their reasoning but just be thankful that there are those who can make serious steps to tackling poverty and ill health around the world, until we can maybe catch up.

Images: comicrelief.com and mirror.co.uk


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