corporate responsibility

Tips from celebs on building your brand through charities

When you give to charities, do you want kudos back? While some people are happy to donate anonymously, others build brand value by promoting their generous actions. What can we learn from the world’s famous dogooders?

1. So you want to start a charity? Follow Bill and Melinda Gates’ lead and let the experts do the work. Don’t compete.

No matter how niche your idea for a charitable cause may be, chances are someone’s already addressing it. Having first mover advantage (or at least early mover) means your would-be rivals are armed with more experience and an established infrastructure that’s difficult to replicate.

Once the launch party is over and the first set of aspirational actions from the inaugural board meeting have been minuted, the real hard work begins … work that someone has usually already done at another charity, which raises money for the same people you are.

Philanthropy is an area where competition and fragmentation often lead to duplication of efforts, inefficiency, and less value for the beneficiaries.

Establishing yet another cancer charity can be equivalent to setting yourself up for failure, as competitive forces will put you on the bottom of corporates’ workplace giving registers, and your friends’ Christmas and end of financial year deductible gift recipient lists. There are hundreds of cancer charities, support groups and advocacy groups. In Australia alone, cancer fundraising and research is worth over $300m.

If it’s a legacy you want to leave behind, why would you jump in and start a charity that’s not going to last? Instead, consider which established charities you’d like to support and consult them on how you can leverage your generosity through promotional activities.

2. Put your name on the charity, or next to it.

So how can you get the personal brand recognition you deserve, when you’ve been advised to not set up your own charity and can’t have your name emblazoned on pink shirts? Or you’re not filthy rich like the Gateses or Richard Branson, and have a foundation that doles out millions to deserving charities carefully selected by a top-notch management team?

There is a range of marketing solutions for you. One way to build your brand is by becoming the naming sponsor of an individual fundraising event. Starting from a few thousand dollars, a business can secure naming rights, attendance by employees and clients and a speaking spot at a charitable event. The event management activities that charities carry out for sponsors and their guests can be well worth the donation.

3. Ensure the brand alignment is right.

An environmental cause is a good fit for an airline conscious about its carbon footprint – case in point, Virgin. Supporting Indigenous arts is a no-brainer for our national carrier Qantas.

Matt Damon made his ice bucket challenge more meaningful by delivering a message on first vs third world inequities – he scooped up water from several toilets in his New York home and tipped that on his head, making the point that it’s no big deal, considering that drinking water in third world countries is dirtier than water sitting in first world toilet bowls.

Choosing a charity that aligns with your personal or corporate values seems obvious, but it’s a point that’s often missed because donations are given impulsively, or through guilt trips or in a state of euphoric, wallet-opening frenzy at boozy fundraising galas. We’ve all been there.

Matt Damon co-founded the H2O Africa Foundation so used the ice bucket challenge to raise awareness on clean water initiatives in the Third World.

Matt Damon co-founded the H2O Africa Foundation so used the ice bucket challenge to raise awareness on clean water initiatives in the Third World.


At First Degree PR, we consider clients’ corporate social responsibility activities as part of their overall marketing and PR activities. Find out how we align our own corporate and personal values through our work in the community. 

Feature image sourced from