Survey Reveals 'Love-Hate' Attitude toward Charities' Celebrity Endorsements

( [email protected] ) Oct 26, 2007 12:37 PM EDT

Most Americans believe non-profits need celebrities to grab people’s attention but expressed skepticism over the influence of star status on their decision to donate, revealed a new poll.

Half of Americans (51 percent) say it is necessary for non-profits to partner with celebrities or it would be difficult to get most people’s attention, according to the survey released on Wednesday.

However, the poll also found that over half of adults (53 percent) said they personally have a hard time believing celebrities who endorse causes and non-profit organizations.

“Americans have a sort of love-hate relationship with celebrities who pitch nonprofit causes,” said David Kinnaman, president of The Barna Group, which conducted the survey commissioned by the Christian child-sponsorship organization Compassion International.

“They believe famous people help to focus people’s attention – and they claim such individuals are effective at raising funds. Yet, they also hesitate to admit they are, themselves, influenced by celebrities,” he continued.

“In fact, Americans seem to look down on their peers for being influenced by celebrities, even while most indicators suggest that adults in this country can’t get enough of the opinions and lifestyles of the rich and famous.”

The poll showed only one out of eight donors (13 percent) listed an endorsement from a celebrity as being important in deciding what organization or cause to support in the last two years.

Americans say family, friends, and religious leaders have more influence on their decision to help the poor.

In particular, evangelicals were less likely than the average adult to say celebrity endorsements affected their decisions to give. Rather, a majority of evangelicals (53 percent) said their giving was influenced by their pastor or church leader.

Overall, the average American said recommendations of family and friends (49 percent) were more influential than encouragement from pastors and church leaders (36 percent).

“It reminds me of a great African proverb, 'If you think you're too small to make a difference, you've obviously never spent the night with a mosquito,’” said David Dahlin, Compassion’s senior vice president and chief operation officer. “Our findings underscore the potential that each person has to influence others to take action in helping those less fortunate."

The survey was the fifth annual Compassion International Poverty Poll, a public-opinion survey conducted among a random, representative sample of 1,000 Americans 18 years of age or older from July 27 to Aug. 6.

Compassion is one of the world's largest Christian child-development organizations, working with more than 65 denominations and nearly 4,000 indigenous church partners in Africa, Asia, Central and South America and the Caribbean.

Since 1952, Compassion has reached more than 1.6 million children and has been recognized for its financial integrity.