11 June 2012

Celebrities and Charities in the UK: Survey Says...

Love them or hate them, celebrities are a major part of charity culture. Despite that, citizens from the UK say they don't care whether celebrities support a given a charity. Some are even turned off by such advocacy. They are also more likely to make a one-off donation following a celebrity appeal and give credit to the celebrity.

Wait a minute

People don't care whether celebrities support a charity, but say that they gave because of celebrity advocacy? That seems a tad contradictory.

According to the UK Public Monitor survey:
50 per cent of respondents indicated they take no notice of the message presented when celebrities promote charities and organisations and 14 per cent were put off their message.
Around 68 per cent of respondents had made one-off donations following a celebrity's message for a good cause indicating that the main impact of celebrities is to stimulate donations.
It seems a bit hard to make any real conclusions from the information gathered. People say they generally don't care, but do follow up with the action of a donation. Furthermore, they indicated that hearing from celebrities lead to seeking further knowledge about the issue at hand.

The data is still in the intrepretation phase, say the surveyors, but it has not prevented some from running with certain findings. Marina Hyde focuses on the negative aspects of the findings in her post for the Guardian Development site:
But it's not just that a near-universal celebrity-driven approach fundamentally changes the nature of people's engagement with causes, or that it over-empowers entertainers. It's that genuinely expert voices are crowded out of the debate, which effectively denies progressive forces the chance to create their own "celebrities" organically. There's a tireless and impassioned Indian woman named Sunitha Krishnan campaigning on trafficking in India – but convention demands you never hear of her, and the likes of Lindsay Lohan get the gig. 
Even more troubling than the heroes who remain unsung are the arguments left unheard. Despite their self-images, most stars – particularly the biggest US ones – tend to be extremely conservative in their choice of causes, acutely aware that anti-establishment messages put off paying fans who may sit on a different part of the political spectrum. The effect is to anchor the debate firmly on the middle ground, leaving completely in the dark the sorts of more radical arguments that have always been a crucial element of change. And therein, perhaps, lies the most unthinkable question. Do celebrities actually legitimise the status quo?
Though I am one of the first to raise concerns with celebrity advocacy, I am careful not to entirely condemn the practice. The fact that 68% of respondents say they gave following having seen a celebrity advocate for a cause. That seems quite good in terms of raising money. On the other hand, it is concerning that 50% say they don't care and 14% are turned away.

What is unfortunate is that the survey asks questions generally. I would love to see an even closer look into specific celebrities, various messages and the organizations with which celebrities are paired. Finally, I think a behavioral study on attitudes is in order. I am not a fan of celebrity culture, but seem to have an abundant knowledge about seemingly insignificant things about celebrities that betray my actual interests.

That is another way of saying that I am taking in and remembering information even though I am not actively seeking it. People may say they do not care what celebrities say, but they may end up learning about an organization or a specific issue because they heard about it through a celebrity appeal. Since the use of celebrity is so widespread, it is important to analyze the impact through more comprehensive information.