The Double-Edged Sword of a Celebrity Spokesperson

A celebrity spokesperson can be a huge boon for a nonprofit organization, but on the other hand, they can also be a huge roadblock. Take Tom Hiddleston, for example. Hiddleston recently earned the wrath of the Internet for expressing pride that a show he worked on was appreciated by medics from Doctors Without Borders.

Twitter users accused the actor of being a “white savior” because he was trying to bring attention to humanitarian efforts in the South Sudan. The whole debacle was taken out of context and blown way out of proportion. But that’s not the point.

Because he now has some negative press about him, so does the United Nations Children’s Fund (the nonprofit organization that he was serving as spokesman for). It goes to show that high-profile allies can and will be criticized for everything they do, and any affiliated organizations will have to suffer those consequences as well.

Angelina Jolie is another good example. She has done a great deal of good work with the United Nations since 2001. However, if social media worked then like it does now, that career would have been cut short because at some point she probably would have said or done something that the Internet could jump all over.

Social media is a powerful tool, but it’s far too often used to bully people, famous or otherwise. When a nonprofit teams up with a celebrity, they have to carefully consider what kinds of social media fallout they might have to face.

While there are some celebrities who are obviously not worth working with, there are others who would make for excellent spokespeople. The downside is that it’s impossible to predict the future and what could happen down the line at an awards show or red carpet event.

In considering whether or not to partner up with a celebrity, it’s important for nonprofits to have an eye on social media, which is where any little mistake is going develop into a full-blown scandal. The cult of celebrity status is much more fragile now that news spreads like wildfire. It’s important to think ahead, and be ready for “damage control” should something go wrong.

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore at Flickr Creative Commons. 

Organizations Resources

Philanthropic People: Entertainment Industry Foundation

Entertainment Industry Foundation
To worlds. One Dream. IMG: Facebook via EIF.

We often profile celebrities like Beyoncé Knowles, Shakira, and Ryan Gosling, who have spearheaded many philanthropic projects to raise funds for charities they care about it. One organization that seeks to unite high profile entertainers and celebrities is called the Entertainment Industry Foundation, a blanket organization for Hollywood’s biggest givers.

The Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) is considered to be “Hollywood’s leading charity,” and was created by industry heavyweights Samuel Goldwyn, Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, and the Warner Brothers in 1942. EIF “harnesses the collective power of the entire industry to raise awareness and funds for critical health, educational and social issues in order to make a positive impact in our community and throughout the nation,” explains the organization. With an annual charitable budget of more than $100 million, EIF’s impact is huge.

EIFCurrently, EIF supports many charitable organizations including Stand Up To Cancer, Hunger Is, Rise and Honor, and The Julian D. King Gift Foundation. EIF has also created many of its own social change initiatives such as its Women’s Cancer Programs, The Broadway Education Project, and the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance. With a huge emphasis on the arts, cancer research, and education, EIF has attracted some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry who have used their star power to raise vital funds for incredible causes.

Viola Davis, Robin Roberts, Meryl Streep, Giada De Laurentiis, The Black Eyed Peas, Halle Berry, and Rihanna are just a handful of the famous figures that have supported causes through EIF recently. In addition to the celebrity donors and partners EIF works with, the organization has historically received donations from dozens of major U.S. companies as well. MasterCard, Major League Baseball, Revlon, The Safeway Foundation, AARP, and United Healthcare are some of EIF’s longtime donors, and have definitely helped the charitable organization make such a significant impact.

Learn more about EIF’s work by visiting

Organizations Profiles

Elton John & Billie Jean King Raise $700K for AIDS Support

Elton John Helps Raise $700K for AIDS Support
anyamuse /

The 21st Annual Mylan World TeamTennis Smash Hits charity event had many famous faces this year: Venus Williams, Elton John, Billie Jean King, Andy Roddick, Marion Bartoli, and more. The celebrities participated in a variety of singles and doubles tennis matches on Nov. 17th in Orlando, FL, to raise money for the Elton John AIDS Foundation and the Hope and Help Center of Central Florida.

A total of 3,662 guests were in attendance at the event, which raised more than $700,000 for the two organizations. And though there were pros like Williams and King playing in the matches, the event was lighthearted and fun.

“It’s not your typical tennis match, said John Isner, who is the top-ranked American male tennis player. “It’s more of a basketball game type feel.”

“It brakes the monotony of just going out there and playing a typical match with your typical crowd, where it’s very quiet,” he added. Indeed, music played between points, the crowd cheered, and players egged each other on throughout the day. And celebrities like Elton John might not have been up to par with the pros, but the crowd went just as wild for his big plays—like hitting the ball for the first time.

The Hope & Help Center of Central Florida aims to save lives through treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS in Central Florida. It was established in 1988 and today has eight locations throughout Florida. The Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) was established by Sir Elton John in 1992, and has headquarters in both New York City and London. The U.S. and U.K. organizations function as separate entities with the same mission: “to reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS” through various prevention programs, treatment, support services, and more.


Three Prominent Philanthropic “Power Couples”

Meryl Streep and Donald Gummer
s_bukley /
Meryl Streep and Donald Gummer have given millions to different philanthropic organizations.

When it comes to donating funds to worthy causes, two givers are always better than one. Happily, there are many charitable foundations backed by two philanthropic people, most commonly a husband and wife team. Leading businesspeople, celebrities, and entrepreneurs have donated millions of dollars, as well as their time to important causes, and more often than not, their philanthropically-likeminded partner helps to make the impact of giving that much stronger. Here are three notable “power couples” committed to philanthropy right now:

Meryl Streep and Donald Gummer: Academy Award-winning actress Meryl Streep and her husband, sculptor Donald Gummer, are two of the most generous philanthropists in Hollywood, and also perhaps the most discreet. Their philanthropy might come as a surprise to many; the two never seek praise or recognition for their monetary donations, but have given millions to organizations like Oxfam America, Partners in Health, and Vassar College, to name a few. Through their privately established Silver Mountain Foundation for the Arts, Streep and Gummer have created education and arts-based grants, helping charter schools, people seeking higher education, and arts initiatives.

Bill and Melinda Gates: This power couple is known for their remarkably generous contributions to charity through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other outlets. Reportedly having a net worth of $72 billion, the couple has publicly pledged to eventually donate as much as 95% of their wealth to charity. With a primary focus on improving education, and impacting global health and development programs, as of 2007, Bill and Melinda Gates had already donated over $28 billion to worthy causes around the world. To learn more about this philanthropic duo, read our detailed profiles of Bill Gates and Melinda Gates.

Pierre and Pam Omidyar: Pierre Omidyar is known as the founder of the online auction site eBay, but has become even more of a prominent figure as a philanthropist. In 2004, Pierre and his wife Pam created the Omidyar Network, a philanthropic foundation that invests in and assists innovative organizations that will eventually impact social, economic, and political change. Bloomberg Businessweek reports that “the goal of their work is to make a social impact,” and that they have already donated hundreds of millions of dollars to organizations that will impact the most societal change.

These are just three of the many philanthropic-minded couples that have generously donated time and money to worthy causes. What other philanthropic “power couples” can you think of?

Organizations Resources

Star-Studded Love Ball a Success

Natalia Vodianova
IMG: via natasupernova Instagram

“Love is in the air.  It’s everywhere you look around.”  You may recognize the words to the famous song.  Yet, love really was in the air on July 27th at the “Love Ball.”  Partiers and players came out to support a good cause and take part in the merrymaking.

The “Love Ball,” an annual event that changes location each year, ended up in glitzy Monte-Carlo this year.  The event was attended by celebrities and many members of the Monaco royal family.  Andrea Casiraghi, Princess Caroline’s oldest son and second in line to the Monegasque throne, was in attendance with his socialite fiancé, Tatiana Santo Domingo.  She is also the niece of Andres Santo Domingo.

Celebrities such as Bono, Karl Lagerfeld and Margherita Missoni kicked up their heels. However, the recent Marie Claire cover girl, princess Charlene of Monaco, was the most glamorous of all.  She turned heads wearing a sparkling, pink strapless gown with a lace hem.  In fact, she may have overshadowed model Natalia Vodianova, clad in a red dress, for whose organization the ball was thrown.

Vodianova’s organization, the Naked Heart Foundation, aims to raise money to support families raising children with special needs.  They also build play parks and playgrounds around Russia.  The “Love Ball” raised four million dollars for the cause.

Entertainment included performances from prima ballerina Diana Vishneva, Grammy award-winner Ildar Abdrazakov, and world-renowned violinist Maxim Vengerov.  The evening concluded with a performance from maestro Valery Gergiev, flown in for the evening following the world premiere of the opera “Levsha” in St. Petersberg.  James Corden, British actor, played host for the night.

The auction was supposed to remind attendees of the story of a couple in love on a magical trip around Monaco.  Some prizes included a private tennis lesson with Rafael Nadal, an internship at Chanel under Karl Lagerfeld’s direction, afternoon tea with Prince Albert, a round of gold on the 2014 Ryder Cup course and a Rolex watch.

The Ball will be remembered long after the decorations have been taken down and the champagne drunk.  The Naked Heart Foundation will reach out to families in need and pass on the generosity that comes from love.

Organizations Resources

Olivia Wilde and Emma Stone Support Revlon Run/Walk for Women

IMG: via

The EIF Revlon Run/Walk For Women event was created in 1994 by Lilly Tartikoff, Ronald O. Perelman, and the Entertainment Industry Foundation. Since its inception nearly a decade ago, the event has helped Revlon raise and distribute over 68 million dollars to help fight women’s cancers.

This year, actresses Olivia Wilde and Emma Stone participated in the New York City five-kilometer event, which was held on Saturday, May 4th. Both women are Revlon brand ambassadors. Stone’s mother, Krista, is a breast cancer survivor, so the charity strikes home for the actress. The two participated among other friends and family on team “Stone – Wald – Sullivan Warriors” and raised a total of $32,790, exceeding their $25,000 goal by far.

“Our team is named in honor of some very special people who were diagnosed with cancer since our team walked last year,” team captain Krista Stone wrote on the team page. “If you can’t join us in the walk, you can join us in the fight by making a pledge or donation on behalf of one of our team members.”

Wilde teamed up with Alyssa Bricklin to form “Team Badass.” Together, the two raised their goal amount of $20,000.

“Together, we will run or walk to raise funds that fuel ground-breaking research, provide diagnostic services, and support women facing cancer,” the team’s page reads. “Every step and every dollar brings us closer to the ultimate Finish Line – an end to women’s cancers.”

The next Revlon Run/Walk for women will be held on Saturday, May 11th. Registration is still open for interested participants, and even those who can’t attend the event can help by donating and spreading the word.