THE concept of celebrity endorsement is probably as old as marketing itself, or at least a century old. Take, for instance, Mark Twain, one of the most famous authors in the 1900s who endorsed Fountain Pens, his co-branded cigars, shaving accessories, clothing, Old Crow Whisky and more. Celebrity fundraisers are an extension of this, but for charity, and they are not a recent phenomenon. Whether war or calamity, movie stars and well-known personalities often pitch in with their star power.
Over the years, India’s film industry has organised several celebrity fundraisers. One of them was during the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war when actress Waheeda Rehman and her colleagues Pran and Shammi Kapoor formed the Bangladesh Sahayak Samiti of Maharashtra. Others in the group included Sunil Dutt, Nargis and Lata Mangeshkar.
Celebrity endorsements add unique value to charitable causes, raising both awareness and money. The most famous instance of this is Bono at the Live Aid concert of 1985 for African famine relief. When someone we admire or follow chooses to use their star power or platform to raise awareness, it has a far-reaching impact. Not only does it put a stamp of legitimacy and build the credibility of a cause, it gets a lot of attention to the cause and also widens the circle of support greatly.
The pandemic in India, especially during the horrific second wave, saw many nonprofits organising celebrity fundraisers to inspire collective action.
Fundraising in the times of COVID-19
India witnessed an unimaginably devastating situation during months of April and May this year, with COVID cases spiking to 400,000 per day.
Thousands lost their lives because of a shortage of resources like hospital beds, oxygen cylinders, medicines and more. Harrowing images and videos of patients’ families desperate for help, crying and crowding outside hospitals shocked India and made international headlines.
That’s when the well-known personalities from the world of art, entertainment, sports and business came together to instil hope and help those in dire need through virtual fundraisers. They drew global attention to India’s COVID crisis, and people worldwide donated generously to save lives when India needed it most.
Here are our top 5 hugely successful celebrity fundraisers:
Priyanka Chopra Jonas, actor, film producer and entrepreneur, along with her musician husband Nick Jonas set up a fundraiser campaign #TogetherForIndia in partnership with GiveIndia. Their initial appeal to help mitigate the health crisis – especially the gaps in oxygen supply – raised enough funds to provide 500 oxygen concentrators, 422 oxygen cylinders and support 6,000 vaccinations to hospitals and those most in need.
Then together on a video, the couple urged fans to donate to help provide long-term humanitarian aid to people affected by COVID-19. Their campaign has so far raised more than ₹17 crore which continues to help underprivileged families most affected by the pandemic.
The virtual fundraiser for COVID relief by Lara Dutta and Shayamal Vallabhjee in association with TiE, raised ₹20.3 crore through a little over 1,300 donors.
In a never-attempted-before initiative, the Breathe For India campaign brought together industry icons from Bollywood and across sports for a immensely successful fundraising drive for GiveIndia. TiE is a non-profit headquartered in Silicon Valley, USA, with the largest global network of entrepreneurs, investors and successful business leaders of Indian origin across the US, Europe & APAC. TiE members and partners pledged a matching sponsorship of $1 million to help India accelerate its fight against COVID-19.
Lara Dutta is an Indian actor, entrepreneur and the winner of the Miss Universe 2000 pageant and Shayamal Vallabhjee is a South African born sports scientist, psychologist, author and former monk. Celebrities such as Amitabh Bachchan, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Karan Johar, Rana Daggubati, Anil Kapoor, Samantha Prabhu, Tarun Tahiliani and Shikhar Dhawan pledged their support to the campaign.
A British vlogger, author, former monk, and motivational speaker Jay Shetty started the Help India Breathe fundraiser, and reached out to the Indian diaspora. It aimed at collecting $100k for GiveIndia and the amount was to be matched by IndiaSpora, a non-profit organisation.
The philanthropic initiative raised a whopping ₹10.3 crore. Vinod Khosla, an Indian-American entrepreneur and co-founder of Sun Microsystems offered $1 million. Celebrities including Kunal Nayyar, Willow Smith and Deepak Chopra took part in the event and urged people to donate and help India in its fight against the pandemic.
When the deadly second wave hit India in early April, it spread to rural areas too, exposing the lack of infrastructure to handle the crisis. Villages became COVID hotspots and many people succumbed due to a lack of medical personnel, equipment and medical supplies.
Moved by the plight of villagers, Indian singer and music composer Arijit Singh held a live streaming performance on Facebook. He partnered with Omidyar Network India which pledged to double the amount raised. This crowdfunding initiative raised an impressive ₹2.4 crore with generous donations from Gulshan Kumar Charitable Trust and music composer Pritam Chakraborty, among others.
The global sports community of athletes, their teams and fans joined hands to form the Team for Humanity fundraiser to provide cash support to low-income families who lost an earning member to COVID-19.
Team for Humanity alongside global athletes and celebrities like Usain Bolt, Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, Mary Kom, Dua Lipa, Lilly Singh and Kareena Kapoor have come together to help vulnerable communities. As part of the initiative, celebrities have auctioned valuable memorabilia to raise ₹1.7 crore so far, and continue to raise more to support families in dire need.
The funds collected through the celebrity fundraisers are being used to provide humanitarian aid to families in extreme poverty, helping with food and rations and cash relief for families who lost their an earning member to COVID; to procure and distribute medical supplies such as oxygen concentrators, oxygen cylinders, oximeters, ventilators and BiPAPs to hospitals and health facilities supported by government or charitable trusts; and to set up ICU units and COVID isolation centres and support vaccination drives in rural areas.
Established in 2000, GiveIndia is the largest and most trusted giving platform in India today. Our community of 2M+ donors and 250+ corporate partners and brands have supported 2,200+ nonprofits, impacting 15M+ lives across India.
Samar is a Marketing Communications specialist and freelance writer. She has a master’s in marketing and creativity from ESCP Business School. She is an avid traveler and likes to write about technology, travel, wildlife and sustainability.