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The GiveSmart Blog

Your home for fundraising ideas, tips, and inspirations.

Host the Oscars of Charity Events: Get Stars to Your Fundraiser

In case you haven’t seen advertisements everywhere for the last who knows how long, the Oscars are on Sunday! It’s that time when we get to see the best of the best of Hollywood elite walk down the red carpet and collect a lot of swag.

But awards shows aren’t the only time stars get together in their fancy wear:

They all also seem to hop from charity event to charity event.

The Golden Age of Fundraising

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Courtesy of Flickr.

I am a big fan of biographies of celebrities from the 50’s and 60’s:

Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall, Audrey Hepburn, and on and on.

These people led fascinating lives with a lot of intrigue and crisis. And in between one fight or the other (and sometimes just during, not between), Sinatra took the time to bring Ava Gardner to so and so’s fundraiser where they’d sit with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall at a table in front of Doris Day...or something.

And today’s stars aren’t that much different.

Imagine the money you could raise if you could get Hepburn (Katherine or Audrey) at your event. (And not just because by this point you’d have to get their ghosts.)

Stars draw crowds and crowds raise money. But how can you get a star to your event?

I’ve got a few ways for you to get stars to your fundraiser.

No Business Like Show Business: Use Your Network

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You’d be surprised who you know.

Or who you know knows.

Or who you know knows knows.

And isn’t this the best time to call in any favors you’re owed?

It’s pretty much a win-win for everyone.

You get a star to attend your event (and also, you get to meet a star!). The people who helped you out can feel good about their actions - presumably the star’s appearance will raise a lot of money for a good cause. And the star gets to help out a cause they care about (an altruistic reason) while getting some great PR (a non-altruistic reason).

So if you really want to get someone great, start feeling around your connections. They might know someone who knows someone who is best friends with Justin Bieber’s manager.  

Roll Out the Red Carpet: Give Them a Reason to Want to Attend

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You’ll have a better chance of getting an A-Lister’s attendance if you give them reasons to want to attend.

Having a barbeque in your backyard to raise money for your school?

That sounds good to me, but you probably aren’t trying to get me to headline your event. And you may need to do more to get a George Clooney to your fundraiser.

If you really want to attract an A-Lister, get to know that A-Lister.

  • When are they touring? If they are off in Europe singing, they may not be as willing to detour back to Somewhere, America for an event.
  • What causes do they care about? Up your chances at getting an celebrity attendance by targeting a star who cares about your cause. Fighting for animal rights? Invite a star known for their promotion of vegetarianism. Raising funds for a school? See if there are any big name alums who might want to support the place they came from. (And look at the interests of their spouses too.)
  • What are you offering? Do they get to speak about something they love? Hype their new book? Is your venue the new hot spot that a big celeb would want to be photo’d at? Think about your overall package, and make sure you highlight the benefits of attending when you pitch your invite.    

What Price Fame? Be Willing to Make Investments

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Let’s face it:

Big events that attract big name stars costs big money.

If you want to get the biggest of the best, then you have to be willing to invest in big expenditures.

Things you may need:

  • An incredible venue.
  • Extra-impressive swag bags.
  • The best technologies to make your event as smooth and modern as possible.
  • Professional marketing to get the most out of your star-studded appearance.
  • Maybe even some steep appearance fees (plus some weird celebrity dressing room demands).

If you really want to get the A-listers, then you may have to be willing to spend A-lister money. (But then, the money you raise through the event and the publicity you get from the event can more than make up for your output!)

And if you don’t have the budget for such an event, don’t worry and keep reading….

I’ve got tips for smaller budgets here too!

I want to B/A Star: Beyonce’d Be Nice - But Anybody Could Do

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In using all of my tips above, remember something pretty important:

Your choices aren’t Beyonce or bust.

There are a whole slew of celebrities out there, and you may not be able to get an A-lister, but a B- or C-lister isn’t unimpressive.

Don’t get so stuck on getting someone uber-famous that you forget what great things a star of any power can do for you and your cause.

Everybody’s Got 15 Minutes: Re-Define Star Power

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Following up on my last point (but moving past it), it is also a good idea to simply re-define “star power.” The local A-list stars in your small town are unknown to me, but they are still A-listers to your donor base.

Let’s look at the wonderful Parks and Recreation for a good example here:

When Leslie Knope is running for office and wants a big-wig to attend her event, she, of course, invited Oprah, but she didn’t sit idle while waiting for that RSVP:

She also went after “Pistol” Pete Disellio - who rose to mega-Pawnee fame in 1992 when his game winning dunk helped them beat arch-enemy Eagleton - the game is still aired every Friday night on Pawnee Cable Access.

And that’s not the only example Parks and Rec gives us. Just watch the episode “Telethon,” where every local celeb you can think of comes out to help raise money for Diabetes Awareness.

And I won’t even get started on Lil’ Sebastian.

So be like Leslie...realize you can get a popular, well-known celebrity to your event even when you are hosting a relatively small affair in Nowheresville, Fly Over State.

Just look around you -

  • at the stars of your local broadcasting station,
  • at the guy who walks everywhere and has become somewhat of a local legend (this was Dancing Dave in the small town where I grew up),
  • at the guy who made it onto the big state school’s football team, becoming the first alumni to play D1.

Whatever it is that defines stars to your local base, take advantage of it. Get some local stars to really make your event impressive.   

VIP Treatment: Take Care of Your Celeb Guest

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No matter who your guest star is, you need to treat them right.

That doesn’t mean that you need to hire men in togas to carry them around on a couch, all while feeding them grapes.

But remember:

  • How you treat a guest before they accept will make or break whether they attend.
  • How you treat a guest during and after an event will make or break whether they (or other stars) attend next year or any year that follows.

At the very least, make sure you do the following:

  • Be appreciative and show it.
  • Be nice and friendly.
  • Stand by your promises. If you promised them they’d have their 10 foot ice statue of George Washington, you need to have it - no matter how weird it looks.
  • Market and advertise their appearance in the manner agreed upon. They don’t want to be embarrassed by an empty room, but they might also want a night away from the paparazzi.
  • Take care of security needs.
  • Send them a thank you note (and/or gift) when it is all over.
  • Let them know how much good they did for a great cause.

Take a Bow: Some Final Thoughts

Getting stars to your fundraiser doesn’t have to be impossible. And while it may take some work, the benefits it can have for your event can more than make it worth it. So don’t let the stars get together only on Oscars’ night. Have them align at your fundraiser - and raise even more for your amazing work.

For even more tips on getting a star to your event, check out this article from Kelli White, a pro event thrower over at the Event Manager Blog.

And for more tips on running an amazing event, download our free guide to event planning.

Get Free Event Planning E-Book

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