Focus: Fundraising - Celebrity Patrons - Charity asks staff to suggest a star

The Children's Society will also ask children to make a choice, writes Indira Das-Gupta.

The Children's Society is launching a unique survey to find out who its employees, clients and supporters would most like as their celebrity patron.

The charity's 125th anniversary this year has prompted it to look at the way it works and consider areas for improvement.

Before now the society has not had celebrity patrons or ambassadors, although it has received the backing of stars such as singer Ms Dynamite and presenter Vanessa Feltz for specific campaigns.

The first phase of the survey will focus on its employees, who will be asked to name their three favourite celebrities, as well as one they wouldn't like to see supporting the Children's Society.

It is a common misconception that charities gratefully embrace any opportunity to work with a famous face. Mungo Denison, celebrity liaison manager at the charity, argues that choosing the right celebrity can be a painstaking process.

"There are times when the presence of a huge star can overshadow an event or launch and shift the focus away from the event itself," he says. "Alternatively, inviting someone with a strong regional visibility to a local event can be far more effective than inviting someone who, despite their star status, has no connection with the area."

Securing the right celebrity can also lead to unexpected media coverage.

"We recently got a piece in the Daily Star because Alex Curran, who is the girlfriend of Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, agreed to run the Hydro Active Women's Challenge for us," says Denison. "It's probably the first, and maybe the last time we have got anything in the Star."

Once the Children's Society has received responses from its staff, it plans to collate the views of its volunteers, stakeholders and even the children who attend its projects. However, the intention is not to draw up a 'wish list' of celebrities and then try to sign them up as patrons.

"It's a more fluid process than that," says Denison. "But we feel it is important that everyone, including the children and young people we work with, have a chance to register their views about who they wish to see representing their charity.

"Who knows what surprises this survey could throw up? In today's climate, the appetite for celebrity is all around us. The key is to harness this at the same time as maintaining the integrity, values and aspirations of both the Children's Society and those associated with it."

indira.das-gupta@haynet.com.

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