The  Effectiveness  of  Celebrity   Spokespeople  in  Social  Fundraisers  

A  White  Paper  by  Geoff  Livingston  and  Henry  T.  Dunbar,  Zoetica   Presented  by  PayPal  


  Section  1:  Executive  Summary  
  Examination  of  several  online  fundraising  campaigns  that  combine  celebrity  and  online   personality  (or  weblebrity)  presence  with  social  media  reveals  that  many  celebrities  do  not   effectively  raise  money  for  nonprofits.    Instead,  lesser  known  celebrities  and  weblebrities  fair   better,  in  particular  those  that  1)  have  a  personal  story  to  tell  about  the  cause;  2)  are  willing  to   engage  a  pre-­‐existing  tight  knit  community  that  interacts  with  the  spokesperson  on  behalf  of  the   cause;  3)  and  have  an  authentic  tie  to  the  cause  that  resonates  with  that  community.       As  time  has  progressed,  social  media  based  online  fundraising  best  practices  have  uncanny   similarities  with  traditional  fundraising  best  practices.    First  and  foremost  is  finding  that  truly   engaged  personality.    Moving  forward,  helping  the  celebrity  or  weblebrity  cultivate  donations   with  their  community  is  reminiscent  of  the  white  glove  service  large  donors  receive  from  their   favorite  causes  in  organizing  private  events.     In  traditional  fundraising,  having  great  name  recognition  and  devoted  fans  can  generate   increased  awareness  and  raise  funds  if  a  celebrity  cares  about  the  cause  and  invests  time.  Yet,   online  celebrity  efforts  are  hit  and  miss,  and  often  get  outpaced  by  lesser  known  web-­‐based   personalities  or  weblebrities  who  have  deep  ties  to  their  communities.     With  an  almost  ubiquitous  presence  on  social  media1,  more  nonprofits  are  experimenting  with   social  network  fundraising.  Nearly  half  (46%)  of  nonprofits  in  the  study  reported  some   fundraising  via  social  networks  in  2010,  up  from  38%  in  2008.  The  vast  majority  of  the  nonprofit   social  fundraisers  raised  less  than  $10,000  in  2010.  A  tiny  group  of  “Master  Social  Fundraisers”   (just  0.4%  of  the  study’s  participating  nonprofits)  raised  more  than  $100,000.     Nonprofits  have  turned  to  their  celebrity  partners  with  fans  and  followers  in  the  millions  to  raise   money.  The  numbers  can  be  astounding,  both  positively  and  negatively.    Save  the  Children  just   ran  a  celebrity  campaign  on  social  media  with  the  likes  of  Lady  Gaga  and  Justin  Bieber  that   raised  $100,000  in  the  first  day.  However,  deeper  analysis  showed  the  fundraiser  achieved   $0.0001  per  celebrity  follower.     As  with  traditional  media  and  development  practices,  nonprofits  wrestle  with  how  best  to   leverage  their  celebrity  relationships  in  order  to  derive  tangible  benefits  for  their  organizations.       Though  the  medium  is  new,  the  lessons  from  traditional  boards  and  fundraisers  apply.  Online   celebrities  work  best  when  you  recruit  individuals  that  are  already  passionate  about  the  cause,   and  are  willing  to  engage  on  your  behalf.  Nonprofits  need  to  vet  these  online  celebrities  for   deep  and  strong  ties  in  their  online  communities.  Many  web  celebrities  have  a  presence,  but  not   strong  engagement.                                                                                                                               1  Nearly  90%  of  nonprofits  have  a  presence  on  Facebook  in  2011  according  to  the  3rd  Annual   Nonprofit  Social  Media  Benchmark  Report  by  NTEN,  Common  Knowledge  and  Blackbaud      


Several  recent  social  fundraising  campaigns  and  contests  that  used  celebrity  participants  to   generate  interest  and  donations,  have  shown  that  lesser  known,  but  better-­‐engaged,   personalities  produced  stronger  results  for  nonprofits.  Some  of  the  campaigns  include:     • A  campaign  on  Facebook’s  Causes  to  raise  money  for  a  new  children’s  hospital.  In  it,  a  9-­‐ year-­‐old  cancer  patient  with  virtually  no  online  presence  generated  more  donations   than  any  other  individual,  including  television  star  Ashton  Kutcher.   • A  fundraising  competition  among  bloggers—including  TechCrunch’s   Michael  Arrington  and  All  Things  D’s  Kara  Swisher—was  dominated  by  a  blogger  offering   to  parade  around  in  a  tomato  suit.   • The  launch  competition  of  Kevin  Bacon’s  Six  Degrees  social  giving  website.  Despite   recruiting  more  than  60  celebrities  to  create  “charity  badges”  on  the  site  —  including   Nicole  Kidman  and  Ashley  Judd—  the  top  fundraiser  was  a  woman  who  blogs  about   scrapbooking  and  has  an  autistic  son.   • The  PayPal-­‐sponsored  Regift  the  Fruitcake  campaign  on  Facebook  was  won  by   Operation  Smile  with  the  help  of  Filipina  singer  Charice  and  her  engaged  fans.  Other   more  notable  celebrities  participated,  but  didn’t  deliver  Charice’s  impact.   • TwitChange,  which  hosts  charity  auctions  where  fans  buy  mentions,  follows,  and   retweets  from  celebrities  on  Twitter.  Through  three  auctions  in  2010,  two  of  the   celebrities  drawing  the  most  attention  and  highest  bids  have  been  actor  Zachary  Levi  (of   TV’s  Chuck)  and  celebrity  photographer  Jeremy  Cowart,  beating  stars  such  as  country   singer  LeAnn  Rimes  and  celebrity  gossip  blogger  Perez  Hilton.     Our  review  suggests  a  universal  theme  across  social  fundraisers:  The  best  results  do  not  come   from  the  most  well-­‐known  celebrities  and  bloggers,  but  the  most  engaged  ones.  Real  success  in   social  channels  occurs  by  cultivating  influencers  (celebrities,  bloggers,  etc.)  with  the  same  skills   typically  used  for  high-­‐value  donors.     The  rest  of  this  paper  examines  best  practices  gleaned  from  these  examples.  PayPal  hopes  that   nonprofits  can  learn  from  these  examples  and  extend  them  to  their  own  efforts  on  and  offline   to  produce  online  fundraisers  that  achieve  maximum  impact.  



  About  Zoetica    
  A  national  organization  with  personnel  in  San  Francisco,  Washington,  D.C.,  and  Houston,  Texas,   Zoetica  teams  are  experience-­‐based  leaders  with  grounding  in  the  traditional  public  relations   and  advertising  communications  disciplines.  Zoetica  serves  nonprofits  and  socially  conscious   companies  with  top-­‐tier,  word-­‐of-­‐mouth  communication  services.  Zoetica  creates  measurable   and  sustainable  results  by  helping  organizations  build  relationships  and  network  with  their   communities  through  the  strategic  use  of  online  social  media  and  communication  tools.  

About  PayPal  
  PayPal  is  pleased  to  present  this  white  paper,  to  support  better,  more  effective  fundraising  by   nonprofits  everywhere.     PayPal  is  the  faster,  safer  way  to  accept  donations  online.    The  service  allows  donations  to  be   made  without  revealing  a  donor’s  financial  information  and  provides  the  flexibility  to  donate   with  PayPal  account  balances,  bank  accounts,  debit  or  credit  cards.    PayPal  enables  nonprofits  to   tap  into  donors  at  the  moment  they  are  most  motivated  to  act  by  accepting  donations   from  mobile  phones,  social  media  sites  and  widgets.    With  more  than  100  million  active   accounts  in  190  markets  and  24  currencies  around  the  globe,  PayPal  helped  over  200,000   nonprofit  organizations  raise  more  than  $1.8  billion  in  2010.    Learn  more  about  PayPal  for   nonprofits  at:    

Vetting  Celebrities  and  Weblebrities  
  The  power  of  celebrity  has  never  been  lost  on  marketers  or  nonprofit  organizations  seeking  to   increase  awareness  and  support  for  their  cause.  The  benefits  of  having  celebrities  promote  their   cause  has  kept  nonprofit  managers  open  to—even  eager  for—associations  with  famous  people   so  long  as  the  celebrity  is  vetted  to  ensure  success.  Traditional  guidelines  for  vetting  celebrities   include  asking:     • Is  the  individual  truly  committed  to  the  cause?   • Will  they  invest  real  time  and  effort  in  promotions?   • Are  they  simply  trying  to  enhance  their  own  public  image?     • Are  they  prone  to  scandal?     • Will  they  bring  unreasonable  demands  to  the  relationship?       With  a  truly  committed  celebrity,  the  community  tends  to  view  their  inclusion  in  the  cause   favorably.  When  questions  about  the  integrity  of  the  celebrity’s  involvement  arise,  causes  can   experience  difficulties.  Michael  Vick’s  trial  for  dog-­‐fighting  was  a  national  media  event,  and  his   subsequent  support  of  the  Humane  Society  of  the  United  States  was  equally  controversial  within   the  media  and  particularly  the  animal  rights  community.      


  Because  of  the  egalitarian  nature  of  the  Internet,  talented  individuals  have  risen  to  the  top  of   influencer  and  have  become  celebrities  in  their  own  right,  or  “weblebrities.”  They  dispense   writings  and  blog  posts  that  are  picked  up  and  linked  to  by  many  others  creating  an  exponential   effect.  Gossip  monger  Perez  Hilton,  marketing  maven  Seth  Godin,  and  inspirational   communicator  Guy  Kawasaki  all  reach  millions  of  readers  every  day  in  their  respective  fields.   This  is  achieved  almost  exclusively  through  their  blogs,  which  are  then  linked  to  and  tweeted   across  the  universe  to  millions  of  others.       Thousands  of  other  bloggers  have  become  extremely  influential  in  smaller  niche  communities   such  as  “mommy  bloggers”  (Heather  Armstrong’s  Dooce;  1.5  million  followers);  tech  bloggers   (Michael  Arrington  of  TechCrunch;  26  million  page  views  a  month;  1.5  million  Twitter  followers);   and  wine  bloggers  (Gary  Vaynerchuk,  of  Wine  Library  TV;  began  by  posting  daily  YouTube  videos   drawing  100,000+  views).       Even  a  father  who  posts  a  two-­‐minute  video  of  his  son’s  post  dental,  doped-­‐up  musings   (YouTube’s  David  After  Dentist  video,  92  million  views  and  counting)  can  parlay  that  into  more   than  just  15  minutes  of  weblebrity  fame  (see  photo  above).  “David”  now  has  a  merchandise   website,  2,800  Twitter  followers,  53,000  Facebook  fans,  and  was  a  weblebrity  fundraiser  for   Operation  Smile  in  the  2009  Regift  the  Fruitcake  contest.  People  are  literally  cashing  in  on   themselves  and  their  kids  in  this  increasingly  personal  brand  focused  society.     All  of  these  voices  now  must  be  considered  as  micro  celebrities  from  a  cause  perspective.   Whether  people  acquire  their  fame  through  traditional  media  or  built  their  reputations   completely  online,  their  potential  to  use  social  media  for  nonprofits  can  really  help  a  nonprofit   galvanize  a  community  during  a  fundraiser  or  other  initiative.       Social  media  use  by  celebrities  and  well-­‐known  bloggers  and  online  voices  has  added  a  new   wrinkle  in  weighing  the  benefits  of  these  relationships.    But  as  we  have  seen,  many  celebrity  and   weblebrity  campaigns  fall  flat.  Many  nonprofit  managers  are  learning,  getting  a  star’s  faithful   followers  to  move  in  the  right  direction  is  not  easy.       In  fact,  social  fundraising  sites  such  as  Six  Degrees  and  Crowdrise,  created  respectively  in  part  by   movie  stars  Kevin  Bacon  and  Edward  Norton,  initially  sought  to  leverage  the  influence  of   celebrities  to  raise  money  and  awareness  for  causes.  But  they  also  sought  to  empower  the   masses,  enabling  anyone  to  employ  the  same  techniques  on  behalf  of  their  favorite  charities.   Sometimes  the  crowd  fares  better  than  the  stars.     In  its  study  of  online  giving  from  2003-­‐2009  (about  30%  of  it  via  social  media  in  2009),  Network   for  Good  emphasized  the  need  to  focus  online  fundraising  campaigns  on  engagement  with  the   donors,  and  that  new  technology  won’t  change  what  makes  a  campaign  successful.  “What  the   new  breed  of  professional  fundraisers  quickly  discovered  was  that  the  path  to  success  was   getting  relational  with  donors—being  as  much  like  the  old-­‐line  personal  methods  as  possible,”   the  report  says.  To  drive  home  the  point,  the  introduction  is  titled  “It’s  Still  About   Relationships.”        



Our  review  of  the  successful  celebrity  driven  social  fundraising  campaigns  reflects  those   findings,  that  real  success  in  social  channels  occurs  by  cultivating  influencer  relationships   (celebrities,  bloggers,  etc.)  with  the  same  skill  sets  used  in  traditional  development.       In  this  report,  we  examine  several  cases  where  nonprofits  or  their  celebrity/weblebrity   spokespeople—particularly  campaigns  run  by,  Operation  Smile,  and   TwitChange—use  traditional  skill  sets  to  cultivate  relationships  to  assist  with  social  fundraising   campaigns.  In  essence,  they  treat  their  primary  influencer  relationships  like  high-­‐dollar  donors.    

The  Anatomy  of  a  Successful  Weblebrity  Fundraiser  
  Our  results  show  a  universal  theme  across  social  fundraisers:  The  best  results  do  not  come  from   the  most  well-­‐known  celebrities  and  bloggers,  but  the  most  engaged  ones.  In  fact,  charities  can   get  similar  results  from  engaged  bloggers  as  they  would  from  a  celebrity.       In  the  Six  Degrees  social  fundraising  launch  initiative,  a  contest  awarded  matching  grants  to  the   six  causes  who  raised  the  most  funds  over  a  10-­‐week  period.  Network  for  Good  saw  similar   patterns  with  scrapbooking  blogger  Ali  Edwards.  Edwards,  whose  son  has  autism,  created  a   Charity  Badge  in  support  of  Autism  Speaks  and  began  promoting  it  on  her  blog.  She  posted   almost  every  week  and  engaged  with  the  readers.  Her  badge  quickly  rose  to  the  top  of  the   leader  board  over  thousands  of  others  created.       After  the  10  weeks,  Edwards  had  generated  2,313  donors  giving  $47,849  to  the  charity.  In   contrast,  none  of  the  60  celebrity-­‐supported  Charity  Badges  in  the  campaign  finished  in  the  top   10  and  many  were  embarrassingly  low.  A  Charity  Badge  sponsored  by  Kanye  West,  which  lacked   a  personal  story  or  tight-­‐knit  online  community,  failed  to  generate  a  single  donation.       The  UCSF  Challenge  for  the  Children  produced  a  similar  result  (the  effort  sought  to  raise  money   for  UCSF  Benioff  Children’s  Hospital  and  was  run  by  Network  for  Good  partner  Causes  on   Facebook).  Many  celebrities  agreed  to  promote  the  campaign  through  their  personal  social   media  accounts,  including  Ashton  Kutcher  and  tech  luminaries  Loic  Le  Meur  and  Robert  Scoble.       Despite  their  considerable  social  media  followings,  9-­‐year-­‐old  cancer  patient  Paddy  O’Brien   brought  the  most  donations  of  any  individual  (1,058),  outpacing  celebrity  Kutcher  (114),  Le   Meur  (128)  and  Scoble(48).  O’Brien’s  giving  page  highlighted  his  personal  battle  with  Ewings   Sarcoma  bone  cancer  and  how  treatment  he  received  saved  his  life.  This  Causes  on  Facebook   story  illustrates  how  a  common  bond  between  the  winner  and  the  cause,  a  level  of  authenticity,   and  tying  a  true  story  to  the  need  can  trump  celebrity  endorsement.  These  elements  can  be   seen  in  other  stories  of  engaged  successes.     With  its  focus  on  celebrity  auctions,  TwitChange  demonstrates  similar  tangents  between  less-­‐ known  celebrities’  relationships  with  engaged  communities,  and  its  highest  donations.  Of  all  the   big  stars  that  get  on  TwitChange,  it  was  stars  like  Zachary  Levi  (of  TV’s  Chuck)  and  photographer   Jeremy  Cowart  who  end  up  garnering  higher  bids.  In  the  first  auction,  Levi  received  $5,900  in   total  bids  for  him  to  follow,  mention,  and  retweet  the  winner  bidders.  Cowart  dominated  the   third  auction  netting  $12,157  in  bids.  A  more  impassioned,  engaged  fan  base  —  with  stronger      


ties  —  equals  more  yield  in  comparison  to  the  LeAnn  Rimes  ($1,282)  and  Perez  Hiltons  ($1,786)   of  the  world.     Further  demonstrating  Zachary  Levi’s  fan  and  community  power,  in  recent  months  he  has   started  working  with  Operation  Smile  as  an  official  Smile  Ambassador  and  has  demonstrated   strong  results.  Zach's  most  recent  fundraiser  for  Operation  Smile  raised  $40,000  in  just  four  days   during  ComicCon  in  San  Diego.  Zac  organized  "Conversations  for  a  Cause,"  hosting  various   celebrities  and  TV  actors  to  speak  on  panels  at  NERD  Headquarters.  All  the  proceeds  from   “Conversations  for  a  Cause”  benefitted  Operation  Smile.  “The  event  demonstrated  great   engagement  and  awareness  for  us  and  was  all  Zac’s  idea,”  said  Operation  Smile’s  Kristi   Kastrounis.    

Three  Critical  Factors  to  Social  Fundraising  Success  
  Katya  Andresen,  Chief  Strategy  Officer  of  Network  for  Good,  (a  partner  organization  of  Six   Degrees  and  Causes)  noted  in  an  interview  three  critical  factors  largely  determine  whether  a   social  fundraising  effort  will  be  truly  successful:       A  personal  story.     The  Paddy  O’Brien  and  Ali  Edwards  successes  were  clearly  not  due  to  any  fame  or  previous   notoriety.  Through  their  compelling  first-­‐person  stories  of  struggles  related  to  their  causes,  they   were  able  to  generate  tremendous  results.  Edwards’  blog  posts  about  her  Six  Degrees  campaign   were  often  forwarded  by  her  fellow  scrapbooking  enthusiasts.  Many  of  her  readers  sent  updates   about  the  campaign  and  links  to  related  stories.  Late  in  the  campaign,  Edwards  also  wrote  about   how  Six  Degrees  had  to  make  technical  adjustments  to  accept  the  donations  from  foreign   countries  being  generated  by  her  campaign.  Talk  about  reach!     A  tight  knit  community  that  interacts  with  the  spokesperson.       When  Operation  Smile  sought  to  win  PayPal’s  Regift  the  Fruitcake  campaign  in  2009,  social   media  specialist  Kristi  Kastrounis  cites  Filipina  pop  singer  Charice  Pempengco’s  network  of  loyal   fans  as  largely  responsible  for  Operation  Smile’s  success.  Her  fans  “are  very  loyal  and  generous,”   Kastrounis  said.  “When  she  puts  a  call  out  there,  her  fans  responded  in  tweets,  retweets,   donations  and  fruitcakes.”     Kastrounis  said  the  campaign  was  promoted  by  a  long  list  of  celebrities  Paris  Hilton  [4  million+   Twitter  followers],  Billy  Bush  of  Access  Hollywood,  the  NBA’s  Lamar  Odom  and  his  reality  TV  star   wife  Kloe  Kardashian,  and  weblebrities  alike  such  as  YouTube  star  David  After  Dentist  [100K+   daily  views,  92  million  total  views]  and  AdventureGirl  blogger  Stefanie  Michaels  [1.5  million   Twitter  followers];  but  none  had  the  sustained  influence  of  the  more-­‐engaged  Charice.  “For   longevity  throughout  the  campaign,  Charice  and  her  fans  were  in  it  to  win  it,”  Kastrounis  said.     Authenticity  of  the  messenger.       Andresen  notes  that  fans  can  tell  when  celebrities  are  just  going  through  the  motions,  for   example  lending  their  likeness  to  a  cause  or  have  boilerplate  promotions  retweeted  over  their      


accounts.  “Publishing  photos  isn’t  authentic,”  she  said  “Engagement,  closeness  to  the  cause,   closeness  to  their  own  fan  base,  and  the  amount  of  energy  the  celebrity  displays  [all  add  to   authenticity],”  she  said.    

She  points  to  the  research  of  Rebecca  Ratner,  Min  Zhao  and  Jennifer  Clarke  on  the  “norm  of   self-­‐interest,”  which  means  people  expect  that  other  people’s  support  for  a  cause  is  guided  by  a   personal  stake.    “Think  of  Michael  J.  Fox  and  his  support  of  research  on  Parkinson’s  disease  or   Cicely  Tyson’s  anti-­‐smoking  advocacy  after  her  sister  died  of  lung  cancer  -­‐-­‐    When  people  have  a   personal  connection  to  a  cause  (or  know  someone  who  does),  that  can  lead  them  -­‐  and  others  -­‐   to  be  more  supportive,”  she  says.    “People  are  more  deferential  to  advocates  of  a  cause  who   have  a  clear  stake  in  that  cause.    People  feel  guilty  and  disrespectful  turning  away  from   someone  with  a  clear  self-­‐interest  in  their  position.    Advocates  for  a  cause  are  granted  special   standing  to  ask  for  action  if  they  have  that  self-­‐interest.    If  they  don’t,  the  deference   disappears.”     Applying  Andresen’s  insights,    consider  Stephen  Colbert’s  collaboration  with  Reddit  users  to   raise  money  for  in  the  Restoring  Truthiness  campaign.  The  tongue-­‐in-­‐cheek   effort  was  a  spinoff  of  Colbert’s  March  to  Keep  Fear  Alive,  itself  a  reaction  to  conservative   commentator  Glenn  Becks  Rally  to  Restore  Honor.       A  group  of  Reddit  users  launched  the  campaign  initially  without  Colbert’s  involvement.   However,  the  ‘fake  news”  star  was  impressed  by  the  group’s  ability  to  quickly  raise  money— more  than  $100,000  in  one  day!—that  he  soon  signed  on.  He  engaged  on  several  fronts   including  mentioning  the  campaign  on  his  show  The  Colbert  Report,  submitting  to  an  interview   with  questions  from  Reddit  users  after  the  campaign  raised  $600,000,  and  promoting  the   campaign  via  Twitter  and  Facebook  accounts.  Colbert’s  authenticity  was  bulwarked  by  his   service  on  the  Board  of  Directors,  which  predated  the  Reddit  movement.       This  authenticity  of  cause  to  the  celebrity  or  weblebrity  cannot  be  underestimated.  A   forthcoming  Journal  of  Consumer  Research  study  by  Carlos  Torelli  revolves  around  the  primary   thesis  that  consumers  are  confused  or  don’t  believe  in  cause  campaigns  when  affiliated   corporate  brands  and  celebrities  demonstrate  an  inconsistency  between  their  product  and   public  beliefs  and  the  cause  they  support.    

New  Fundraising  Best  Practices  
  Throughout  the  research,  there  were  several  themes  that  we  saw  that  might  help  those  running   online  giving  campaigns  through  social  networks.  The  celebrity  blogger  effect  was  seen  most   clearly  with  the  effort.  reduced  its  blogger  challenge   participants  by  95%  to  focus  on  its  top  weblebrities  and  work  with  them  directly  to  cultivate   best  practices  and  maximize  outreach.  The  result  was  more  donation  revenue  from  the  5%  than   the  collective  100%  from  past  efforts.  Anna  Doherty,  Marketing  Manager,  Engagement  and   Social  Media  at,  leads  the  organization’s  social  media  efforts.       “We  identified  the  power  users,  multiple  tiers,  and  focused  on  smaller  campaigns,”  she  said.  By   using  techniques  traditionally  employed  for  cultivating  large  donors,  Doherty  said  the  blogger   challenges  have  been  more  effective.  “We  know  that  not  everyone  is  a  natural  fundraiser.  Now      


we’re  working  on  ways  to  point  people  to  resources.  We  can  send  them  information  and   provide  them  steps  to  participate,”  she  said.  “When  we  split  them  out  on  their  own,  each   campaign  was  more  successful.”       Operation  Smile  has  a  similar  success  coming  from  its  most  effective  celebrities.  Kristi   Kastrounis,  who  runs  their  online  outreach,  says  they  work  with  celebrities  (or  their  managers)   to  provide  content  and  information  to  make  supporting  Operation  Smile  easy  for  the  celebrity  -­‐   even  sending  pre-­‐written  sample  tweets  for  celebs  to  use  as  inspiration  or  copy  and  paste  to   their  Twitter  or  Facebook.  Kastrounis’  technique  of  cultivating  influencer  relationships  mirrors   that  of  DonorsChoose,  with  its  focused,  hands-­‐on  support.       TwitChange  managers  have  also  begun  to  be  more  selective  in  who  they  include  in  their   campaigns.  “Initially  the  only  thing  a  celebrity  had  to  do  was  say  they  were  on  board,”  said   Shaun  King.  Though  this  helped  build  out  the  number  of  involved  celebrities  and  add  to  the   publicity,  King  said  managing  the  relationships  and  fulfilling  the  hundreds  of  auctions  where  fans   purchased  mentions,  follows  and  retweets  on  Twitter  was  hard.    “Vetting  has  reduced  the   number  of  donations,  but  there  is  much  less  on  the  headache  front,”  he  said.       There  are  certain  critical  skills  and  habits  that  nonprofits  should  consider  in  their  vetting   processes.  Some  of  the  nonprofits  reviewed  in  this  report  have  identified  these  key   characteristics  to  screen  for  when  considering  celebrities  and  weblebrities  for  social  fundraising.       • Personal  connections  and  authentic  passion  for  the  cause.  As  demonstrated  by  cancer   survivor  Paddy  O’Brien  in  UCSF’s  Causes  and  blogger  Ali  Edwards  in  the  Six  Degrees   launch  contests,  personal  connections  are  critical  in  generating  donations.   DonorsChoose’s  Doherty  notes  the  vital  connection  between  passion  and  success.  “It  is   more  about  identifying  the  person  who  would  be  a  strong  advocate,”  she  says,  “It’s  not   social  media.  The  base  level  [for  successful  campaigns]  is  really  a  passionate  advocate.   Social  media  just  helps  them.”         • Willingness  to  ask  their  personal  friends  to  get  involved  and  not  just  their  ‘publics.’  For   its  blogger  and  social  media  challenges,  Anna  Doherty  at  said  they   have  learned  that  this  is  critical  for  social  fundraising  success.  She  said  the  celebrity   champion  should  be  willing  to  go  beyond  their  public  contact.  “Once  we  know  that   person  is  willing  [to  contact  friends  and  family]  then  we  know  it  is  going  to  be   successful,”  she  said.       • Identify  avid  users  of  social  media,  both  by  the  celebrity  and  their  social  networks.   TwitChange’s  King  said  they  now  look  for  celebrities  who  are  better  engaged  with  their   fan  based,  specifically  citing  Zack  Levi  as  a  model.  “His  followers  are  part  of  a   community,”  King  said.  “He  engages  with  them  a  lot.  They  feel  personally  connected.”     Another  example  is  Colbert,  who  had  twice  promoted  social  fundraising  campaigns  for,  raising  $190,000  and  $167,000  respectively.  His  collaboration  with   the  Reddit  community  was  much  more  successful.  By  adding  his  star-­‐power  to  the   already  engaged  social  network  on  Reddit,  the  Restore  Truthiness  campaign  raised  more   than  double  his  first  two  efforts,  netting  $610,000  from  11,000  donors.  Finding  this  kind      


of  nexus  of  celebrity  combined  with  a  passionate  online  community  can  be  huge  benefit   for  nonprofits.     Operation  Smile’s  Kastrounis  said  they  sought  out  singer  Charice  because  of  her   engagement  with  fans.  “She’s  young  and  social  media  savvy,  and  she  had  just  joined  our   cause  as  a  Smile  Ambassador  so  we  figured  she  would  be  great  face  for  the  campaign   and  mobilize  her  fans  to  support  us  in  this  campaign,”  Kastrounis  said.     • Welcome  the  non-­‐traditional  celebrity.  TwitChange’s  King  notes  that  they  kept  being   surprised  by  which  celebrities  had  the  most  response  in  their  auctions.  “Having   followers  is  not  the  same  as  a  fully  devoted  fan,”  King  said.  “We  have  learned  that.”   Additionally,  blogger  Ali  Edward’s  and  cancer  patient  Paddy  O’Brien’s  success  on  Six   Degrees  and  photography  Jeremy  Cowart’s  on  TwitChange  have  shown  that  lesser-­‐ known  and  even  “unknown  celebrities”  can  be  extremely  effective  fundraisers.  

  As  celebrity-­‐based  social  fundraising  campaigns  continue  to  proliferate,  nonprofit  fundraising   managers  have  found  clear  patterns  of  success.  Engagement  matters  with  social  media,  often   much  more  so  than  having  a  large  online  fan  base  at  the  beginning  of  a  campaign.  Unlike  a   personal  appearance,  photo  op,  or  scripted  PSA,  where  just  showing  up  will  get  it  done,  social   fundraising  requires  an  active,  authentic,  and  continued  involvement  from  the  celebrity  or   weblebrity,  even  if  only  for  a  short  time.       Many  of  the  campaigns  reviewed  in  this  report  reveal  that  very  famous  celebrities  have  begun   social  fundraising  campaigns  only  to  have  minimal—sometimes  zero—results.  Embracing   personalities  understand  social  media  and  have  invested  in  a  cause  personally—  denoted  by   inserting  their  authentic  selves  into  a  campaign,  and  involve  personal  contacts—will  go  a  long   way  toward  making  a  social  media  campaign  successful.     Predicting  which  celebrity  campaigns  will  ultimately  succeed  is  still  more  art  than  science  as   many  nonprofit  fundraisers  continue  to  be  surprised  at  the  results  of  social  fundraising  contests.   At  least  now  there  are  key  indicators  that  can  help  forecast  performance.    



Appendix:  Case  Studies  
Operation  Smile:  Regifting  the  Fruitcake  

      Operation  Smile  (  won  three  PayPal  Twitter-­‐based   “#CharityTuesday”  challenges  in  December  of  2009,  and  won  the  overall  Regift  the  Fruitcake   Challenge  that  holiday  season  with  a  series  of  smaller  donations.  The  cause,  (which  seeks  to  heal   children’s  smiles  by  correcting  cleft  lips  and  cleft  palates  with  free  reconstructive  surgery),  won   in  the  face  of  significant  competition  from  other  charities,  some  of  whom  raised  more  money,   but  none  of  them  surpassed  the  amount  of  fruitcake  ‘regifts’  or  overall  number  of  donations.  A   critical  component  of  Operation  Smile’s  success  was  active  celebrity  engagement  from   celebrities,  singer  Charice  Pempengco  and  TV/radio  host  Ryan  Seacrest.       Twenty-­‐five  of  the  best  causes  in  the  world  teamed  up  with  a  fruitcake  to  make  something  viral   something  good.  A  social  media  platform  called  Regift  the  Fruitcake  allowed  users  to  create  a   virtual  fruitcake  for  charity,  promote  their  fruitcake  in  Facebook  and  receive  donations  using   PayPal.  The  fruitcakes  with  the  highest  number  of  donations  received  awards  throughout  the   program,  which  generated  1,500  fruitcakes,  100,000  regifts  and  over  $150,000  in  donations.     Including  $23,000  in  prizes,  Operation  Smile  generated  $35,360,  which  translated  to  new  147   new  smiles.  They  also  increased  their  Twitter  and  Facebook  followings  significantly.  Though   email  was  used,  it  was  the  social  networks  that  seemed  to  shine.  Operation  Smile  saw  a  10%      


increase  in  its  Twitter  following  that  month,  and  because  of  the  Fruitcake  contest  and  an   American  Express  “Take  Part”  Facebook  campaign  in  April  2010,  Operation  Smile  increased  its   Facebook  fan  base  six  fold,  from  1,505  to  10,804  fans.         Operation  Smile’s  Kristi  Kastrounis  credits  her  celebrities  for  the  successes.  But  not  just   anycelebrities.  Operation  Smile  has  great  stars  like  Jessica  Simpson,  Lamar  Odom,  Kloe   Kardashian,  Alyssa  Milano  and  Paris  Hilton  who  will  retweet  on  their  behalf  (but  who  generated   very  few  regifts  or  donations).  Yet  it  was  “American  Idol’s”  Ryan  Seacrest  and  “Glee’s”  Charice   that  drove  the  most  engagement  online.  Unlike  many  of  their  peers,  these  two  stars   demonstrated  a  level  of  personal  engagement.     Seacrest  promoted  Operation  Smile  on  his  website,  Facebook,  Twitter  and  MySpace   simultaneously  with  an  episode  of  American  Idol,  which  in  turn  drove  a  significant  spike  in   traffic.  Charice  went  further,  actively  embracing  Operation  Smile  as  a  personal  cause  and   promoting  it  widely  on  her  social  accounts  through  the  life  of  the  campaign.  The  two  showed   that  a  star  with  an  engaged  community  and  a  genuine  passion  for  a  cause  can  do  much  more   than  someone  with  a  large  following  online.   Celebrity  engagement  worked  with  compelling  but  simple  calls  to  action.  A  majority  of   Operation  Smile’s  promotion  occurred  on  Facebook  with  fruitcake  posts  and  heavy  promotion   on  Twitter  using  the  #CharityTuesday  hashtag  during  the  Tuesday  challenges  and  messaging   about  reaching  donation  goals  and  wins,  but  not  overwhelming  promotion  the  other  days  of  the   week  as  the  cause  of  Operation  Smile  is  first  and  foremost   In  all,  Operation  Smile  cultivated  307  new  donors,  92  of  which  were  at  $100  or  more,  in  spite  of   a  $5  basic  donation  minimum.  $240  is  the  price  point  for  one  child’s  surgery;  so  many  people   donated  that  amount  because  they  wanted  to  give  a  “smile.”  There  were  quite  a  few  $120  and   $240  donations.  However,  only  three  percent  of  these  donors  have  returned  to  give  again  to   Operation  Smile,  indicating  the  celebrity  pull  is  a  community  attraction,  and  not  necessarily  a   cause  specific  one.    


12  Blogger  Challenge  
  In  2008  and  2009,  held  Blogger  Challenges  featuring  some  of  the  world’s   biggest  social  media  voices  in  a  fundraising  competition.  With  mastheads  like  TechCrunch,   Mashable,  Twitter  co-­‐founder  Biz  Stone  and  Craigslist  founder  Craig  Newmark  participating,  the   competition  was  thick.  Yet  it  was  lesser  known  voices  like  Tomato  Nation’s  Sarah  Bunting,   raising  $383,528  in  the  first  two  challenges,  and  venture  capitalist  Fred  Wilson  (beating  all  other   tech  bloggers  with  $36,033  in  donations)  who  won  these  challenges.     In  all  five  percent  of  the  participants  drove  90   2009  DonorsChoose  Social  Media   percent  of  donations,  beating  out  these  well-­‐known   Challenge  Leader  Board weblebrities  and  bloggers.   noted  several  characteristics  of  the  winning   bloggers.  First,  they  were  actively  engaged  with   their  community,  a  proverbial  power  user  on  their   blogs  and  social  networks.  Second,  they  were  true   advocates  and  believe  in  the  cause.  Finally,  they   were  willing  to  reach  out  to  friends  and  family.’s  Anna  Doherty  says  the   organization  looks  at  these  factors  today  before   actively  supporting  a  fundraiser.  “Once  we  know   that  person  is  willing,  we  know  it  will  be   successful,”  she  said.  “The  mark  of  a  good   grassroots  campaign  is  that  it  is  actually  grassroots.   The  base  level  is  a  really  passionate  advocate.   Social  media  just  helps  them.”     Instead  of  continuing  its  Blogger  Challenge   (renamed  the  Social  Media  Challenge  in  2009),  elected  to  focus  on  the  five   percent  of  successful  voices  from  Challenges.  By  working  with  these  web-­‐based  activists  on  best   practices,  saw  increases  exceeding  the  total  donations  over  an  annual  year   with  individual  campaigns  than  it  did  collectively  with  a  Challenge.  allocates  75-­‐80  percent  of  Doherty’s  time  to  cultivating  best  practices  in  the   challenges.  These  include  running  four  week  campaigns  (shorter  or  longer  campaigns  did  not   yield  as  much),  branding  the  Giving  Page  with  that  blogger’s  logo,  and  seeding  the  Giving  Page   with  eight  specific  projects  to  fund  to  give  people  specific  education  initiatives  to  work  toward.       Additionally,  started  to  help  people  with  their  cultivation  techniques.  For   example,  they  point  fundraisers  to  resources,  send  them  information,  and  provide  to  steps  to   participate.  They  help  fundraisers  develop  incentives  to  donate.  For  example,  Fred  Wilson  held  a   Meet-­‐up  for  those  who  donated  to  his  campaign.  Apartment  Therapy  used  videos.  In  a  celebrity-­‐ centric  fundraiser,  Stephen  Colbert  answered  questions  from  the  Reddit  community  after   joining  a  campaign  they  started  in  support  of  his  March  to  Keep  Fear  Alive.  By  lending  his      


support  and  engaging  with  an  already-­‐motivated  community,  Colbert  leveraged  his  celebrity  to   help  boost  the  campaign  donation  totals  to  more  than  double  of  any  other   campaign  in  which  he  had  been  involved.       Communications  are  also  refined  with  regular  touches  and  best  practices  to  help  cultivation.   Whether  it’s  a  tweet,  Facebook  update  or  blog  post,  encourages  smart   outreach.  sends  the  bloggers  emails  to  remind  them  to  communicate  on   their  social  properties  to  help  ensure  these  outreaches  occur.    




TwitChange  and  Celebrity  Auctions  
  Popular  celebrities  love  Twitter.  It’s  a  place  they  can   directly  engage  fans  without  necessarily  cultivating   long  blog  posts  or  massive  amounts  of  content.      As  a  way  to  leverage  the  celebrity  phenomena,   TwitChange  auctions  activities  on  stars’  Twitter   accounts  as  a  means  to  raise  money.  Based  on  the   eBay  platform  MissionFish,  TwitChange  was  founded   in  2010  in  the  aftermath  of  the  devastating   earthquake  in  Haiti.  After  most  of  the  media  attention     disappeared,  the  TwitChange  team  conceived  the  idea     of  celebrity  auctions  as  a  way  to  refocus  awareness  to   the  needs  of  Haiti  and  raise  funds  for  a  school  being   built  there.  The  organization  hosts  four  to  six  auctions   a  year.     Many  well-­‐known  stars  sign  on  for  TwitChange.  But  of   all  the  big  names  that  get  on  TwitChange,  its  stars  like   Chuck  star  Zachary  Levi  and  ace  photographer  Jeremy   Cowart  who  end  up  garnering  higher  bids.  Levi   outpaced  his  competition  in  the  first  TwitChange   auction  with  bids  totaling  $5,900,  while  Cowart   dominated  the  third  TwitChange  auction  netting     $12,151.  A  more  impassioned,  engaged  fan  base— Despite  having  many  celebrities  with   stronger  relationship  ties—equaled  more  yield  in   higher  profiles,  Twitchange’s  third  auction   comparison  to  the  LeAnn  Rimes  ($1,282  total)  and   was  dominated  by  frequent-­tweeter   Perez  Hiltons  ($1.786)  of  the  world.   Cowart.     The  evidence  demonstrated  that  large  followers  do  not  equal  large  auction  bids.  For  example,   Levi  only  had  80,000  followers,  but  he  out-­‐grossed  some  stars  with  accounts  in  excess  of  one   million  followers.  The  fans  on  large  accounts  didn’t  feel  as  engaged,  and  thus  the  rallying  that   Levi  experienced  was  unique.  Levi  did  things  like  provide  surprises  and  contests  with  his   following,  completely  encouraging  them.     “Having  a  follower  is  not  the  same  as  a  fully  devoted  fan.  We  have  learned  that,”  said   TwitChange  founder  Shaun  King.     Another  involved  star  was  Eva  Longoria,  who  has  been  integral  to  TwitChange  on  the   organizational  front.  She  used  her  own  money,  and  networks  to  help  TwitChange  grow.  Founder   Shaun  King  credits  Longoria  for  taking  the  organization  across  the  $1  million  mark  to  $1.5  million   due  to  her  influence  with  stars  and  contacts.  “There  wouldn’t  be  any  TwitChange  without  Eva,”   said  King.          


At  the  same  time,  TwitChange  experienced  some  difficulties  with  celebrities  who  would  commit   to  participation  but  provided  minimal  or  no  support.  The  organization  has  implemented  more   filtering  to  ensure  participation,  and  is  encouraging  more  celebrity  contact.  Further,  TwitChange   reviews  celebrities  to  see  if  their  communities  are  engaged  and  have  donation  power.    



Six  Degrees  and  the  Citizen  Celebrity  
  Six  Degrees,  Kevin  Bacon’s  charitable  website  where  anyone  can  create  a  widget  to  fundraise   online  for  their  favorite  cause,  has  attracted  more  than  10,000  people  fundraising  for  their   favorite  charities  using  “charity  badges.”  Although  there  are  60  celebrities  participating  in  Six   Degrees  –including  Nicole  Kidman  and  Ashley  Judd  –  more  than  ten  thousand  “real”  people  have   become  “celebrity”  fundraisers  themselves.  Those  people  have  recruited  tens  of  thousands  of   additional  people  to  support  their  causes  totaling  $3.5  million  in  donations  to  2,500  charities   (many  of  them  small)—an  impressive  grassroots  ripple  effect  of  awareness.     Katya  Andresen,  Chief  Strategy  Officer  of  Network  for  Good  (Kevin  Bacon’s  partner  in  running   Six  Degrees)  notes  that  celebrities  sometimes  perform  worse  than  networked  individuals  who   know  how  to  use  the  web  for  grassroots  activism.  Andresen  noted  three  critical  factors  for  true   success  with  social  fundraising  platforms:       1) A  personal  story  that  matters     2) A  tight  knit  community  that  interacts  with  the  spokesperson   3) Authenticity  of  the  donor     A  great  example  of  the  networked  effect  includes  Ali  Edwards,  who  recruited  2,313  donors   totaling  $47,849  for  Autism  Speaks.  This  Oregon  mom  with  an  Autistic  son  had  never  asked   anyone  for  money  before,  but  learned  about  Six  Degrees  and  quickly  became  its  #1  fundraiser   by  getting  the  word  out  on  her  scrap  booking  blog.  Conversely,  Kanye  West’s  efforts,  which   lacked  a  personal  story  and  a  tight  knit  online  following,  underperformed  and  did  get  a  single   donation.     “It’s  an  interesting  study  for  social  distance,”  said  Andresen.  “People  were  far  more  likely  to   support  someone  if  their  causes  are  aligned  with  their  personal  experiences  and  they  believe  in   the  person.  If  celebrity  or  messenger  has  that  personal  experience,  they  can  drive  people   beyond  being  just  curious  or  simple  online  actions  such  as  Facebook  ‘likes’  or  Twitter  retweets.”     A  more  recent  example  of   social  fundraising  was  UCSF’s   fundraiser  via  Causes’   Facebook-­‐centric  platform   (another  Network  for  Good   client).  Raising  money  for  the   new  wing  on  children’s   hospital,  the  fundraiser   attracted  many  of  Silicon   Valley’s  weblebrities  as  well-­‐   known  as  some  celebrities  like   Ashton  Kutcher.  Zynga,  creator     Paddy  O’Brien  topped  the  Cause’s  Leader  board,  well  above   of  popular  online  games  like   Ashton  Kutcher   Farmville  and  Cityville,  did  a   whole  game  around  it  and  led   everyone  in  donations,  raising  $822,398  through  163,078  donations.        


  Yet  one  child’s  team,  fueled  by  his  experiences  going  through  treatment  in  that  hospital  placed   second  behind  Zynga  with  as  much  money  raised,  beating  out  all  of  Silicon  Valley’s  star  bloggers   and  Ashton  Kutcher.  Nine-­‐year-­‐old  Paddy  O’Brien  had  suffered  from  Ewing’s  Sarcoma,  a  rare   form  of  cancer,  and  his  story  compelled  1,058  donations,  three  times  as  many  as  the  third  place   finisher.  O’Brien  drove  home  the  need  for  authenticity  and  personal  connections  to  the  cause  in   addition  to  the  network.      



DonorsChoose,  Reddit  and  Stephen  Colbert  

A  Powerful  Team

  Showing  the  networked  weblebrity  effect  in  reverse,  a   community  of  Reddit  users  decided  to  rally  for  an  educated   America  as  a  response  to  the  Republican  movement  in  2010.   The  “Restoring  Truthiness”  campaign  was  centered  on   political  comedian  Stephen  Colbert  and  to  encourage  Stephen   Colbert  and  John  Daily  in  their  rally  countering  Glenn  Beck’s     Restoring  Honor  rally.  The  fundraiser  successfully  galvanized   Stephen  Colbert  Report/Daily  Show,  garnering  Stephen   Colbert’s  direct  attention.     The  Reddit  campaign  was  started  on  in  the   middle  of  a  Monday  night  in  September.  By  mid-­‐morning  the   community  had  raised  $15,000  donations.  By  the  end  of  the   day  the  campaign  had  raised  $100,000,  and  had  actually   caused’s  website  servers  to  crash.2     The  campaign  was  immensely  successful,  and  soon  garnered   the  attention  of  Colbert,  who  sits  on  the   board.  He  acknowledged  the  effort  on  his  show,  and  deferred     The  Reddit  Guy  and  Stephen   any  possible  rallies  until  Jon  Stewart  announced  his  Rally  to   Colbert  (Colbert  image   Restore  Sanity.  But  Colbert  decided  to  become  involved  with   copyright  Cliff1066)   the  campaign  because  the  Reddit  community’s  generosity  was   so  awe  inspiring.  On  his  October  5  show  he  said,  “Make  your   donation  to  show  support  of  my  march  and  to  support  America’s  kids.  And  keep  those   donations  coming  folks,  because  for  every  $100,000,  I  undo  another  button.”       Once  Colbert  engaged  that  fundraiser  went  much  further  than  it  could  have  possibly   beforehand.  It  was  the  perfect  storm  of  an  involved  celebrity  who  had  authentic  passion  for  a   cause  and  the  impassioned  Reddit  community.  The  combination  was  fire.  After  his  first  response   there  was  another  spike  in  donations.  The  rally  was  scheduled  for  late  October  in  Washington.   And  Colbert  made  himself  accessible,  and  even  answered  11  questions  from  the  Reddit   community  on  their  site.       The  final  totals  were  astounding.  11,461  people  donated  $613,580  and  291,985  students  were   reached  by  the  time  this  report  was  written.  The  Reddit  inspired  Stephen  Colbert  campaign   caught  lightening  in  a  bottle.                                

                                                                                                                          2­‐campaign-­‐for-­‐colbert-­‐rally-­‐breaks-­‐charity-­‐ records/