Most people take no notice of celebrities promoting charity messages, survey finds

Majority of poll respondents have never been prompted to support a cause by a famous person's endorsement or have been put off by it

Celebrities promoting charity messages
Celebrities promoting charity messages

Almost two-thirds of people take no notice of celebrities who promote charity messages or even find them off-putting, according to new research.

A poll of 2,842 people found about half took no notice of the celebrity’s message and a further 14 per cent were put off it. A third said they became more aware of the problem or charity and a small number were motivated to support the cause or change their behaviour.

The research, commissioned by the Institute of Development Studies at Sussex University and the University of Guelph in Canada, found that 79 per cent of respondents had never been prompted to do anything for a good cause by a famous person’s message. Of the 21 per cent who had been motivated to act, 44 per cent had tried to learn more about the cause and 43 per cent had visited a website or clicked on a link.

The survey asked some questions about reactions to famous people and others about responses to celebrities to see whether there was a difference between the two in the public mind.

Of those people who acted in response to a message given by a famous person – rather than a celebrity – 68 per cent made one-off donations, a further 8 per cent gave clothes or possessions and 7 per cent made regular donations. Few joined a campaign, attended a meeting or changed their voting habits in response to the message, the survey found. "This suggests that the chief impact of celebrities is to stimulate donations rather than bring about deeper commitments and actions by members of the public," a report based on the research says.

Only 11 per cent of respondents said they paid more attention to campaigns fronted by celebrities but 55 per cent thought others noticed such campaigns more than they did. The report says this dichotomy indicated "a certain degree of lack of recognition, or even denial, of the level of attention given to messages for good causes by celebrities".

Most people thought famous people helped to raise awareness of poverty elsewhere in the world and in doing so put their fame to good use. However, a slim majority also said that celebrities should give more of their own money to combating poverty abroad, and a significant minority said celebrities spent too much time fundraising rather than challenging the reasons why global poverty existed or supported the fight against poverty as a means of self-promotion.

Dan Brockington, a reader at Manchester University who is analysing the data, said the relatively small percentage of people who made regular donations prompted by a campaign endorsed by a famous person was not an indication that the campaigns could not create long-term relationships, because the endorsements might not have been intended to prompt regular donations.

The next stage of the research would be to analyse the data according to demographic patterns and results from focus groups, he said, and to ask charities to suggest questions they would like answered by the data. "I want people to know the survey exists and that the data could be useful for them and their charities," he said.

Chloe Stothart recommends

University of Guelph

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