LeBron and Charity
Posted by Allison Fine on July 13, 2010
LeBron James is not just a basketball player, but in the slow news days of July has also become a one-man editorial industry. His decision to join the Miami Heat, and how it was announced, has filled the airwaves and news columns.
One aspect of interesting to us nonprofity folks is the issue raised by the Chronicle in this post as to whether it benefits or detracts from the Boys and Girls Clubs of America to have been recipients of the ad revenue from the “Decision” telecast. Here is the Boys and Girls Club announcement of the decision.
Mitch Albom, the long-time sports columnist for the Detroit Free Press, was outraged, OUTRAGED, by the show. He wrote,”Only in America could we keep inventing reality TV that fantastically outshames the previous low mark. A prime-time event? To announce a free-agent signing? And don’t point out that some proceeds go to charity. You want to give to charity, quietly write a check. Don’t get a network to do it for you so it gets to pump its shows and you get to shower yourself in international coverage — while calling it philanthropy.”
My turn to weigh in – why not, everyone else has! However, I’m not going to weigh in on what LeBron did and how he did it (although it was unseemly, IMO!) rather on the role of the nonprofit in this equation.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the Boys and Girls Clubs associating itself with the broadcast or LeBron. They have done nothing unethical or even unseemly. It is not the same kind of ethical decision that organizations have when a company that produces ethically questionable goods or services wants to donate to them. For instance, the decision to take tobacco money is an ethical dilemma.
The area that does concern me is the zero-sum game that nonprofit organizations play with celebrities. Recruiting a celebrity to support a cause has taken on mythical proportions for many nonprofits. And, yet, the cost of the time and energy spent recruiting them and the opportunity cost of doing so at the expense of not building relationships with other donors and volunteers.
Last year, The Daily Beast analyzed the payoff of having celebrities support nonprofits. The bottom line is that very few of them did much and what they did didn’t add up to much. Joanne Fritz does a great job here of outlining the pitfalls of celebrity endorsements.
A better use of organizational time would be building strong relationships with bloggers and other free agents who will add value to the organization and its outreach efforts over a longer period of time.
This entry was posted on July 13, 2010 at 7:29 am and is filed under Social Media. Tagged: Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Joanne Fritz, LeBron James, The Daily Beast. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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