The Comm Network’s Gone Hollywood, Should Foundations?


Philanthropy411 is currently covering the Communications Network and CommA Fall 2010 Conference in Los Angeles with the help of a blog team, which is part of the conference’s 2nd annual Gorilla Engagement Squad.  This is a guest post by Adam Coyne, Vice President, Director of Public Affairs at Mathematica Policy Research.  Follow Adam on Twitter:  @adamcoyne

by:  Adam Coyne

How can we be gathered in Los Angeles and NOT be talking about celebrities?  Even here at the hotel, folks have spotted Magic Johnson, Cheryl Hines, and our own Eric Brown – go ahead, ask him about his acting past! (Sorry Eric, but that episode of Remington Steele is a classic).

But we’re not gathered together to gawk at famous folks, we’re here to talk about social change, social impact, and the role communications plays in furthering foundation goals. Communications in philanthropy is all about ensuring our messages are heard and understood by the right people at the right time. So where do celebrities come in?

It depends. How many of you were paying attention to global warming and what you could do before Al Gore and an Inconvenient Truth? Would you have watched (or even known about) last week’s migrant worker hearing if Steven Colbert hadn’t testified? Would Parkinson’s be getting the same attention in the public if it weren’t for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research? Would the Kaiser Family Foundation’s new cartoon on health reform gone viral if it hadn’t been narrated by Cokie Roberts? (OK, Cokie was great but I think the “YouToons” video would have gone viral anyways – if you haven’t seen it, check it out!)

The bottom line is that celebrities get noticed and so do the issues and causes they choose to champion and associate themselves with. That’s why I’m looking forward to hearing Neal Baer’s talk later today on “Where Entertainment and Social Change Can Mix,” and why I’m happy to be joining up with Kaiser’s Matt James to talk about why you’d want to consider working with a celebrity and some of the nuts and bolts to actually do it. There’s a great how-to resource online that was put together by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Your Issue Here: Working with Hollywood to Deliver Your Messages to Millions. It’s an easy read and a good place to start if you’re pondering whether your organization should consider going Hollywood.

Kris is a sought after philanthropy advisor, expert and award-winning author. She has helped over 90 foundations and philanthropists strategically allocate and assess over half a billion dollars in grants and gifts.

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