How can a celebrity effectively support a cause?

Sharing good practice with NGO colleagues in the Accelerate Success! Forum IV

On June 8 we participated in the fourth edition of the “Accelerate Success” Forum, organized by BCause Foundation. Our long-time PR expert – Aneta Tsvetkova, shared our experience in working with the actor Alexander (Alek) Alexiev and explained how our relationship grew into a long-term partnership. In a ranking made for the first time in Bulgaria in a joint initiative of BCause Foundation and Forbes magazine, the actor was awarded as one of 10 celebrities with a public position in support of a charitable cause.

In a brief presentation Anny talked about our experience from the joint initiatives with Alek Alexiev and summarized the most important aspects of our work with the actor so that it is useful for the participants in the forum.

We are sharing our practice here so that other NGO colleagues who were not able to attend the event can get ideas from it.

How did it all start?

Our partnership with Alek started in 2017. A year earlier we had invited him to host our charity ball, but he was busy and then his wife, Yana Titova, agreed to support us. She invited Radina Dumanyan to host our event with her. The following year, already knowing Yana, we contacted her again and then both she and Alek joined our ball.

Giving their time is a good way for a celebrity to support a cause. In this case, providing a host for our event could have cost us a serious amount of money, but thanks to the partnership with the actor, we did not have any expenses for that.

To contact the actor, we used a personal contact – the husband of a colleague of ours had shot a movie with Yana and Alek. It’s important to use all of our contacts and look for personal connections with people, because that way we can reach a lot more people and the chance of being successful is much greater.

Thanks to the good mutual work, this one-off support deepened and grew into new projects. After a while Alek Alexiev reached out to us – he was invited to participate in the “Bulgaria Gives” campaign and out of various causes, he chose to support us. It was important for both Alek and us to show him our work up close, for him to meet the children and young people and our colleagues who care for them. Coming to our centers, Alek got to know the children, interacted with them and was very impressed with the relationship between them and our team. As part of this project we filmed a video of the visit, and Alek shared how impressed he was with the care and affection between the team and the children.

It is very important to be aware that the people who support us, including celebrities, do not know in depth what we do in the civil sector. So our role is to “educate” them, to get them up to speed on what our organization does, to speak to them in an accessible and understandable language so that they get an insight into our work. It is our role to show them what we do and why it is meaningful. Thus they are able to promote the cause well and, most of all, they are able to talk about it in a meaningful way through their own experiences of it. We believe that our partnership with Alek is successful because he resonated with what we were doing and recognized our cause as one worth supporting.

Our most recent initiative with Alek is his participation in the Legion Run, with our Run with the Stars team. We invited celebrities to take part in the Cedar Legion Run team and to motivate people to buy charity tickets to support us. This was another example of Alek’s commitment to our work. He was very responsible as usual and helped us a lot with various activities – running, training, taking part in a photo shoot, posting stories and promotional videos, etc. At the event itself he brought a friend – another popular actor, with whom they were to be at a theater premiere in Pleven in just a few hours. This impressed us a lot because he was committed to us and to the people who came to run alongside him and although there was a risk of him getting injured or not making it in time for the premiere, he participated to the end and motivated all the other participants not to give up with shouts like “Come on! Run for the kids!”

PR or something else

Our partnership with a celebrity undoubtedly has a good PR effect and this applies to both parties. It has helped us to reach a wide audience and raise funds for our cause, which is very valuable to us as in order to provide this level of care in our centers we have to raise a significant amount each year.

Beyond the obvious impact for both parties in this partnership, for our colleagues who work on the ground, the contact with a celebrity, their support and human interaction, add meaning and weight to their work. To see a popular actor who speaks on national TV admiring their work is a huge motivation especially for people working in the social sphere.

And what does the celebrity “gain” from partnering with us besides the satisfaction of supporting a meaningful cause? Aside from personal satisfaction, we provide them with access to our business partners. It is important to understand that such a partnership can benefit both parties.

In conclusion, our recommendations to anyone planning to seek the support of a celebrity are:

  • Seek out a person who fits your values. Research them, see what other causes they support and make sure you have common understanding about the charity initiative they are getting involved with.
  • Educate them about your cause, because it’s sometimes hard for an outsider to get to the heart of our work. When they understand how valuable you are in what you do and the impact your work is making, they will believe in you and support your cause not only with their name, but also with their heart, and will be eager to contribute.

We are grateful to Alek for his commitment and for understanding that caring for the vulnerable is everyone’s responsibility.

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