At times of austerity, charities rely, more than ever, on the generosity of their supporters. At BHT we have an annual Christmas Appeal and, once again this year, have been delighted by the generosity of individuals, churches and other groups.
Many charities, particularly national ones, rely on the famous or celebrities. Fame is an enduring characteristic that lasts because the individual has done something of worth for which they will, rightly, be remembered. Celebrity on the other hand, is bestowed on someone who often appears out of nowhere and disappears again after their 15 minutes of fame.
Some charities offer large appearance fees to celebrities to show up at events. Celebrities are often in it for themselves and you work with them at your peril. Famous People are usually conscious of reputation and only endorse a cause or charity when they believe in its values and objectives.
Philanthropists, on the other hand, are rich by most people’s standards. They’re driven by a belief that through their financial support they can make society a better place and through their giving can relieve individual hardship. Many seek no publicity even though they more than deserve recognition.
Many charities, BHT included, rely on philanthropy as well as the generosity of ordinary people to sustain charitable activities that are not funded. But charities that want to survive, indeed thrive, in these challenging times need to look at all potential income streams. I have written previously on the need for charities to engage with social enterprise. Charities also need to look at the stewardship of their resources, diversify their activities, and also look at coming together with other, like-minded organisations in order to achieve efficiencies and ensure that there is no duplication, not least in back office costs.
Apparently, there is already a race to sign up Kate Middleton, soon-to-be Princess Katherine. My advice to her is to take time before hitching her wagon (if you pardon the expression) to any particular cause organisation. She should spend the next two or three years familiarising herself with good causes and only then decide who she is going to support.