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Ask Andrea: Celebrity Challenges

Ask Andrea: Celebrity ChallengesDo you have a question to ask me? Email me, Andrea Kihlstedt, at for your chance to be featured in the column!

Now, let’s get to this month's important question about celebrities.

Dear Andrea,

One of my board members has a personal connection to a very famous Hollywood celebrity, and she is willing to approach this person to support our organization. What's the right ask for a donor prospect like this?

Hoping against Hope.

Ask Andrea: Celebrity ChallengesDear Hope,

A celebrity! How exciting. Celebrities are alluring. Just the other day I almost bumped into the opera singer Renee Fleming walking down the sidewalk here in New York, and I was excited!

I understand the sense of 'WOW!' that comes when your organization has personal access to someone famous. You are right to think carefully about how to handle that relationship.

What’s the right ask for your board member's celebrity friend? There are some “right asks” but, “Can you give $xxxx?” is probably not one of them -- at least not yet.

You see, just because people are famous doesn’t mean they care a fig for your cause. And if they don’t, then you're barking up the wrong tree. In fact, you’re putting your board member in the awkward situation of having to ask a friend for money just because she's her friend.

I don’t take kindly to that approach to fundraising. And when your board member thinks about it carefully, neither will she.

The Challenges of Asking Celebrities

Fame doesn’t guarantee that someone has gobs of money or that they are in the least philanthropic.

Being a celebrity is expensive. Really! All those great cars and houses and clothes and first class tickets cost money. And so do agents and publicists and managers and attorneys. Not to mention family members and friends who need help. So, don’t count on lots of extra wealth.

Celebrities have many friends.

Keep in mind that most celebrities get asked by their friends to support their causes more than they'd like. And when you're famous, you'd be surprised how many "friends" you have.

Finally, a word of warning. If your board member's celebrity is an actor, keep in mind that actors' schedules are just about impossible to pin down. An actor can promise to headline for your big gala event, but then have to cancel two days before because the schedule for their next shoot was changed.

That’s the way an actor’s life goes. So don’t count on them to show up even if their interest is high and their intentions are the very best.

What Should Your Board Member Ask For?

Knowing all of that, what should your board member ask her celebrity friend?

Foremost, she should ask if her friend is interested in your cause. And if the answer is yes, then she should ask the celebrity how she’d like to help. It's that simple.

A serious and open conversation about ways the celebrity might help will lead to the right "ask." And both your board member and her celebrity friend will feel good about the conversation.

What fundraising questions do you have?

Send your questions to Andrea at


Ask Andrea: Celebrity ChallengesAndrea Kihlstedt loves to help people solve their fundraising problems. She has provided advice and friendly encouragement to lots of people over her 30+ years in the fundraising business. She’s also written four books on fundraising. Andrea lives in New York City with her husband and her old cat, Hairy Potter. You can find her at Capital Campaign Magic.
Topics: Fundraising