Monetizing kindness and making public displays of attention to social injustice causes have become a bit of a trend. From overpriced programs to celebrities using charitable causes for hashtag-induced PR perks, we’re surrounded by a false state of “I am here for you” wherever we look around us. It’s disheartening and a conflict of interest.
This blog topic may come off a bit judgmental at first. It may border on critiquing people for “caring” about causes and bringing attention to marginalized communities. I am focused on calm living topics, and many people pursue charity as a way to make the world a better place for themselves and others, but not all people do that and by default, many causes and charities go underrepresented. My angle is coming from how that can and cannot stem from authentic and inauthentic philanthropy.
We certainly need people to care, and we really do want the exposure for issues in our world, but do we really want people to pretend to care for the wrong reasons? Do we want people to care more about being like a celebrity than the actual cause in question? Do we want people using charity and kindness to perform a state of caring when a public platform benefits them personally or professionally? It’s a thought I’ve been processing due to my own charitable work and the causes I support, and the tendency to scramble far and wide for a “big name” or “pull” marketing ploy to garner support. You know, because the cause itself does not stir people enough to donate or care.
Philanthropic PR – When Celebrities Ride Charitable Trends
There is nothing more distasteful to me in the charitable industries than philanthropic PR from celebrities with millions of dollars in income per project salary. We’ve all seen it. The social media post or paid sponsorship that features a favorite celebrity, dressed in overpriced cotton, featuring them shellacked with Botox and makeup artist-induced perfection, preaching to you about how important the tagged organization or hashtag is to them. And how it should be for you, too. Cue the insincere pout or voice inflection to really ram it down your throat. To prove their authenticity, they’ve donated $10,000, because that sounds like a lot of money to you and me. When celebrities ride charitable trends, it all follows very similar publicity patterns. Start paying attention, because this next part will (hopefully) upset you.
Where’s the problem?
Most people are not aware of the perks given to sponsors and celebrities who align themselves with a cause. Everything from hefty speaker fees that take up fundraising efforts to goodie bags full of wholesale-priced high end brand products and services cancel out donations. In effect, your favorite millionaire has ended up making a profit (or some sort of material gain) out of their donation, which they paid to simultaneously purchase positive publicity. There are now online services where regular people can pay small or hefty fees to buy a personal video made by a celebrity to make things look “personal” and legitimate. All are cool inventions in a world of social media!
But back to why this is a problem…
There are rare exceptions of philanthropic people who have a behind the scenes approach to volunteering and behave like you or I would if truly helping out. Some others with more wealth back their causes in (almost) secret, and donate extensive chunks of their wealth back to the communities that built them into the entertainment money landfills they’ve become. Some even bequeath most of their estates to philanthropic organizations instead of leaving the entirety of their wealth to children and family. A few names do come to mind: Dolly Parton , Sting, and Keanu Reeves. I dare not mention many others, because there is so much PR garnered by many famous names that it cancels out with public praise.
Praise People in Public
I thought about the purpose behind my post and topic here. It comes down to how we praise people in public. Why are we constantly praising complete strangers, assuming the best of them, while ignoring or minimizing family and friends who are doing the same, if not more, with far less means to do kind things in this world? I remember how often I’ve shared posts from various charities I support and seeing little to no interaction on the information. I’ve watched the same information posted by a celebrity receive exaggerated praise for them being such a kind-hearted person. For sharing. Does your Aunt Betty not share the same cause? When’s the last time you donated to her soup kitchen?
It’s true that fanbases get carried away, but we need to start considering the damage we cause when we hype and overhype total strangers for the sake of seeming cool. In a world with so much access and technological communication, there is no real reason to be in the dark about local charities and good causes to support from your own family and friends.
Local charities and smaller organizations in your area or those supported by people you actually know in person tend to operate with less corruption and lack the drama of big salaries soaking up donations. Don’t get me wrong – I support a number of large charities, too, but the point is more about listening to trusted loved ones about the causes you hold dear. Let the attention hog famous person do whatever they want with their money – it is the LEAST they could do with their wealth. They don’t need us to hype them for PR results. We need to hype organizations and charities, because they are the ones in need of attention.
The point of this blog – read the last sentence again.
Local Charities Need the Most Support
You exist within your community. Local charities need the most support from you and those around you. Surely, you know better about your community’s needs than some superficial self-absorbed celebrity who had an assistant fill out a donor form before sitting for their PR selfie. Surely, there are loved ones sacrificing $1 here and $5 there to support causes all year round, running or walking in fundraising events, donating sales from their small businesses, and sharing helpful information about causes that are dear to them. Not only are the charitable causes a person supports with their time and money insightful into their heart, they’re an opportunity to bond over a common passion to be kind and do good in this world. Keep it local.
When Monetizing Kindness Gets Out of Control
Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and other social media platforms are jammed full with content creators selling workshops, online courses, digital programs, and memberships for obscene prices. Simultaneously, you have generous kind people offering the same, if not better, products and services for free or far less cost. We see a chipper personality in a video with a gimmick and we fund their nonsense by the thousands of dollars. These aren’t even charities. They are business models mirroring service industries and education industries. We allow them to pretend to be kind. If you’ve found yourself spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on something online, but you struggle to remember the last time you donated $1 to a local fundraiser or charity, this blog is for you. We have to get out of this mindset that it is okay to monetize kindness. Help and share where and when help is needed by another. If you’re profiting off of that, excessively, you may want to sit with your long-term intentions and purpose in life.
Monetizing Kindness Slows Down Calm Living
Back to how monetizing kindness slows down calm living…
Waiting for trending approval of philanthropy delays help where and when help is truly needed. If we spent more time looking around our neighborhoods, neighbors, local communities, and action-based organizations, we would avoid feeling a sense of endless doom when it comes to global injustices that are still happening in front of your face. Paying attention to the causes your family and friends support allows for more impact to happen in an area while raising awareness where it matters most to you and your loved ones, too.
You don’t need to wait for permission from some famous person who likely does anything that sounds good by recommendation of their PR agents. Some of these people love showing off the donations they make and the “support” they give, but it’s a glass house covering a reality of a person who barely has time for their own family and friends, misses family funerals for work, secretly charges people for charitable appearances, makes every movement a photo opportunity or interview, and sees their own children a trackable number of times in a given year. They’re not charitable. They may not even be nice people at all. They’re strangers to you. They are simply marketing a cause that may or may not be legitimate and may or may not be using your money wisely because it buys them an image of humanity they left behind a long time ago. There’s nothing calm about that. This type of monetizing kindness adds to the stress of many by pretending to care and allowing for real problems to impact everyone else. Because really, how is it that those 10K donations never accomplish anything? Things that make you go hmmm…
Below is a list of charitable resources and ideas I know and support/supported. You don’t need to wait for your favorite celebrity to tell you from the script they’re being paid to say that you can be a generous person.