Charities fear 'celebrity fatigue'

As stars continue to queue up to show their support for the tsunami relief effort, charities are bracing themselves for a subsequent dearth in celebrity backing for other good causes.

Alex Thomas, artist liaison manager for Great Ormond Street Hospital, said: "It's already having a knock-on effect. If celebrities have just received a lot of coverage for helping with the tsunami, they do not want to be seen supporting another cause straight away for fear of looking uncommitted."

David Piner, Thomas' counterpart at the British Red Cross, said that obtaining celebrity endorsements is difficult enough anyway. "We are involved in the tsunami relief project, so it doesn't affect us in the same way, but it's already a very competitive marketplace. That's why we try to establish long-term relationships with celebs, so that even if something unexpected like this happens, you can rely on their continued support."

This view is echoed by Michelle Benson, head of fundraising strategy at Mencap. "Regardless of the tsunami, it's always difficult for us to get celebrities to support us - that's why all our ambassadors have a personal connection. When I worked at Shelter, we had celebs calling us up, but at Mencap we have to hunt them down."

The rush to be associated with the fundraising effort has led to the inevitable implication that some celebrities are merely jumping on the tsunami relief bandwagon to boost their own popularity. Charlotte Church asked organisers of Saturday's tsunami concert at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff to allow her to take part, but any hopes of reviving her career apparently backfired after she was booed by the crowd.

Richard White, head of the celebrity team at NCH, is realistic about the apparent altruism of the famous. He said: "I don't care what a celebrity's motives are as long as the relationship benefits the charity."

However, Thomas believes many stars felt obliged to get involved. She explained: "There's a lot of pressure on them. If they are approached to take part in something like the concert and the press hear about it, they would look awful if they said no."

The concert, which was the largest ever gig since Live Aid 20 years ago, raised more than £1.2m.

- See Editorial, p22

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