Wise Giving Wednesday: US Olympic Swimmers Controversy & Charities
The allegations surrounding the behavior of Ryan Lochte and other Olympic swimmers during a stop at a gas station in Rio created an international embarrassment. It’s a sad result for these athletes who not only managed to tarnish their own reputations but raised questions about the professionalism of Americans participating in the Olympic games. Media reports reveal that major corporations will not renew their advertising ties with Lochte regarding promotions of their athletic wear and other products. In turn, one of the other swimmers agreed to a settlement with the Brazilian government and will donate approximately $10,000 to a designated charity.
This scenario, however, provides a helpful cautionary lesson for charities seeking to gain attention by engaging celebrities to advocate their cause or assist with fundraising efforts. A famous personality can help move the public spotlight to feature the charity’s efforts but can also harm the organization’s perceived trust if the celebrity gets in trouble. While organizations will do their best to vet potential partners, the unexpected can still occur and charities would be wise to have an action plan already in place should the relationship turn sour.
Donors also need to be realistic as well and not assume that questionable behavior of a celebrity is the responsibility of the charity that partnered with their famous friend, especially if the incident(s) were not previously demonstrated by the specified celebrity. In the meantime, donors should keep the following in mind:
- Don’t rely on a celebrity as the sole indicator of a charity’s reliability, check with outside sources such as BBB WGA.
- While some fundraising events featuring celebrities can be expensive, charities may value the public attention to their cause.
- Be wary of newly established charities that offer little beyond a celebrity connection.
- If a celebrity misbehaves, weigh the whole situation and especially how the charity handles it.
- While some altruistic celebrities have long histories with a charity, when you make a donation decision, the charity needs to gain your confidence as well.
On a separate note, as part of our Building Trust Video Series we are pleased to provide a video that features Lisa Marsh Ryerson, President of the AARP Foundation, a BBB Accredited Charity that seeks to serve vulnerable people ages 50 and older by creating and advancing solutions that help them secure the essentials – food, housing, income and personal connection.
We are always working with charities to publish or update reports for donors. Visit Give.org or local BBBs to check out any charity before giving. Our recently evaluated charities include:
Finally, remember to let us know by going to https://give.org/ask-us-about-a-charity1/ if you are interested in seeing a report on a charity not on the list and we will do our best to produce one.
H. Art Taylor, President & CEO
BBB Wise Giving Alliance