So, you’ve decided your nonprofit organization has good reasons to recruit a celebrity spokesperson.

As you begin your star search, be prepared to enter the relationship with eyes wide open. Answer these eight questions to find out if you are celebrity ready.

1. Who is your target audience and which celebrity would have the most impact with this group?

One celebrity spokesperson cannot possibly meet all your needs, so you should prioritize your target audience. If you want to attract more young people to your organization, consider approaching an athlete or a singer to take up your cause. If you want to engage seniors, an established television actor or news anchor would be a more appropriate spokesperson for this group.

Finding the right celebrity for your organization may be difficult but that doesn’t mean you should work with anyone. Even if a celebrity approaches your organization expressing an interest to get involved, or if someone in your nonprofit recommends a celebrity they know, you must take the time to evaluate if this person is suitable and will help you reach your goal.

2. Does the celebrity have a meaningful connection to your cause?

Like everyone else, celebrities have causes that are near and dear to them. Before approaching someone, find out if the work your organization does resonate with the celebrity.

A weak connection to your cause will make everything about the relationship and your PR efforts/campaign less powerful and more of a struggle. As well, a recent study proved that people are more likely to donate if the celebrity has a fit with the cause.

3. What do you want your celebrity spokesperson to bring to the relationship?

A celebrity spokesperson is not going to help you achieve all of your communication goals. Whether you are hoping to sell more tickets to your gala event or get national media coverage, determine your specific and measurable goals first.

4. What will your organization bring to the relationship?

Since you want to build a meaningful relationship with your spokesperson, be prepared to offer something valuable in return. Be proactive in arranging photo and video opportunities and share frequently on social media.

Don’t expect the celebrity’s PR team to take the lead. It will be your organization’s responsibility to execute the campaign, so make sure you have the resources, budget and time to develop and implement a comprehensive communications strategy for your celebrity spokesperson.

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5. Do you realize you will have to go through an agency?

Unless you personally know the celebrity, chances are you will need to first contact a talent agency or speakers agency. Agents are the gatekeepers to celebrities and it is their job to get their clients paid work, which leads to the next question…

6. Are you willing to pay your celebrity spokesperson?

No matter how worthy your cause is, many athletes and entertainers expect to be compensated for their time. If your nonprofit is not able to pay a fee there are many charities that can and will pay celebrity spokespeople for their efforts.

Last year, The Guardian published an article exploring this practice. Before approaching any potential celebrity spokesperson, it’s critical that you plan for and have a good understanding of your budget.

7. Are you prepared to cover expenses?

In addition to paying fees (or even if you are lucky enough to score a spokesperson who will waive her fees) you will definitely need to pay expenses such as travel, hotel and food as well as any hair or makeup expenses. In addition, you should also offer your celebrity complimentary tickets to any fundraising event you are hosting.

8. Do you have a worst-case scenario plan in place?

There may come a day that the relationship you built with your celebrity spokesperson might need to come to an abrupt end. It is best to have something in writing that allows you to end the relationship if it could put your organization’s brand at risk. Ensure your nonprofit has an up-to-date crisis communications plan in place. Here’s a great step-by-step resource for creating a crisis communications plan.

Is your nonprofit ready to work with a celebrity spokesperson?

Answering these questions thoughtfully and thoroughly will help you with your search. Or, your answers might be the reasons why you are not interested in pursuing a spokesperson when you get the inevitable request to bring a celebrity on board.

Suzanne Hallsworth

Suzanne Hallsworth

VP, Development & Communications at Oakville Hospital Foundation
Suzanne Hallsworth is the VP, Development & Communications for the Oakville Hospital Foundation. In her role, she leads the annual giving, community fundraising, and special events teams and develops marketing communication strategies to help the Foundation reach its fundraising goals. Suzanne has been working in the nonprofit sector for more than a decade following an earlier career in the book publishing industry.
Suzanne Hallsworth