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From Bono representing (RED) to Bryan Adams and Sarah McLachlan supporting War Child to former politicians speaking at cause-related events, nonprofit organizations have been advantageously partnering with celebrities for years to bring attention to critical issues. Celebrity spokespeople have a way of rallying support and making this support seem “cool” in a way that can’t be done with quite the same impact through other means.

On a more local level, movers and shakers within your community, like well-known business owners or connected politicians, who are willing to speak at a nonprofit event or publicly endorse a cause can have a similar effect on a nonprofit campaign.

But how does your organization reach out to these celebrities and once they are on board, how can your organization ensure that you’re leveraging the relationship? Consider these tips…

  1. Pop culture for $1,000, Alex.  To successfully identify, recruit and work with celebrities—local or national—as spokespeople for your organization, you need to know who they are, who their audience is and what they do. You’ll also want to be after information that demonstrates that the celebrity is aligned with your cause and credible. Keep current on pop culture news through local lifestyle columns, celebrity magazines and blogs. Ask your target audience who they would consider a “celebrity” through casual conversations or more formal surveys.
  2. Make a list and check it twice. Create a master list of all potential celebrities that you are interested in recruiting for an event or cause. Be realistic and categorize the list into sections such as “real possibilities” and “reaching for the sky.” Use further online research to remove candidates due to background, availability or bad press. Your list will naturally narrow itself down due to the process of elimination.
  3. Know who to call. If you are asking someone to appear for free, you’ll get the best response from a publicist or a manager. They are looking for opportunities to get additional positive exposure for their clients. For national and international celebs, websites such as Who Represents?, Contact Any Celebrity, or IMdBPro can start you on the path to connecting with your celebrity and their representatives. If you’re sending a letter, grab their attention and whet their appetites with Disappearing Truffles or a Sweet and Savory Tower.
  4. Negotiate time and be respectful of a spokesperson’s schedule. A spokesperson’s schedule is tight. One cannot assume just because they are your organization’s spokesperson that they will just drop everything for you because they believe so much in your cause. Prioritize your lists of requests beginning with the most important items and go from there. Like any PR campaign, you want to get the biggest bang for your buck.
  5. Don’t be pushy. As a nonprofit organization we may expect a national spokesperson to fall all over us and our cause, but being pushy can backfire. Like any other relationship, you are required to give and take. Start off on the right foot with your spokesperson’s publicist. Look for ways to work together.
  6. Maximize your opportunities.Maximize opportunities with what is happening around your celebrity’s professional life. Is your celebrity opening a movie soon? About to release a book or an album? Offer press support tied to your event around the same time and it could benefit everyone involved. Take it a step further and offer to create and distribute co-branded giveaways like sports fliers or bandanas featuring their name and your logo at events.
  7. Expect to provide extras. Hotel and airfare, car service and other expenses are often part of the deal, especially when utilizing spokespeople for specific events. While you should never assume that a celebrity expects a makeup artist or limo service, don’t be surprised if they do.
  8. Hot off the press. Get your talking points or an event script to your celebrity as soon as possible. It will help them prepare and advance your overall event and communication goals.
  9. Promote, promote, promote. Once you’ve got a celebrity on board, don’t waste an opportunity by under-promoting. Make sure to get the word out through a variety of channels—direct mail, video, social media, e-mail and promotional items like, T-Shirts or hand fans.

Celebrity spokespeople—local, national or international—can help your organization get the word out about a cause or an event.

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