Whenever disaster strikes, people want to help their fellow man, and ask “What can I do to help?”. Sure enough, within the hour interchangeable spokespeople from major charities will be on TV, radio and online news outlets to answer the question. Invariably the answer will be “Send us money”. When the same helpful people follow-up with “But isn’t there something I can personally do to help?”, the response is a similar “No. Just send money”.
Following on from this, it was no surprise to read an article that appears today, 6 December 2015 on news.com.au titled ‘The problem with celebrity charities‘ by Jason Murphy. The target was a bit more towards the high-end of town than the usual though.
Sarah Davies, CEO of Philanthropy Australia is quoted in the article as saying:
“The first thing celebrities should do is look at helping existing charities.”
“I don’t think the default position should be ‘I want to contribute, I’m going to set up my own’. I think that is an ineffective use of precious assets.”
Well that is what she’d say, isn’t it? With that viewpoint, the charity sector may as well trade up spokespersons to Rhianna. I imagine the board meetings would look much the same.
What’s not quite as obvious is that doing what Ms Davies wants will not get you appointed to the Order of Australia.
Taking a look at all of the Australian celebrities listed in the article:
Shane Warne – The Shane Warne Foundation
I don’t think Australia is quite ready to grant membership of the Order of Australia to Warnie, and he holds no such awards. His official Australian honours are the Australian Sports Medal and the Centenary Medal (which “commemorates 100 years of federation and acknowledges the challenges of the new century by recognising citizens and other people who made a contribution to Australian society or government.”) in 2000 with the citation: “Player 1985-current”.
Ricky Ponting, AO – Ponting Foundation
Officer of the Order of Australia
Citation: For distinguished service to the sport of cricket as a leading player at the national and international level, and to the community through the establishment of the Ponting Foundation.
Glenn McGrath, AM – McGrath Foundation
Member of the Order of Australia
Australian Sports Medal
Citation: For service to cricket as a player and to the community through the establishment of the McGrath Foundation.
Chris Judd – No personal charitable foundation
No Australian honours
Former AFL player who helps the Mirabel Foundation rather than having his own charitable foundation.
Looking through the membership list of Philanthropy Australia, none of the celebrity charities listed above are part of it. I didn’t notice any others, although there are a lot of “celebrities” out there whose names I may not recognise.
In a former line of work, I would often see people start up their own charities, and within 18-24 months, the Order of Australia nomination forms would go out, and calls from the Council for the Order of Australia would come in, background checking various nominees. Call me cynical, but I suspect those events are related.
An appointment within the Order of Australia is quite prestigious, and it’s understandable that people aspire to join its ranks. Creating your own charitable foundation is one of the easier ways to get appointed. Assisting someone else’s charity wont make you stand out from the crowd and wont get you the same smooth pathway to an appointment. I make no assertion that this was the motivating factor for those celebrities mentioned in this post.
The problems of the world are many and varied, and I have no problem with celebrities or anyone else choosing an area of concern and working to make a difference as per their vision rather than someone else’s.
Even if OAM bait, defining your own involvement and contribution sounds better than the same cries from the usual suspects: