Celebrities shouldn’t capitalize on natural disasters

Emma Berdanier

A flood of donations to relief efforts in Houston followed Hurricane Harvey. Celebrities from the Kardashians to President Donald Trump tweeted about their sizable donations, but the efforts ended there. The tweets were merely a way for them to show their fan bases that they’re good people — not anything more sustainable. Actions like these, which are designed solely to capitalize on natural disasters, take attention away from legitimate relief efforts.

This larger issue comes in many forms. It can be celebrities merely using donations to exploit disasters in an attempt to appear more compassionate in the public eye without actually compelling their fans to donate as well. It also can manifest in sports teams capitalizing on the tragedy, as did the Texas Rangers when they declined a series swap with the Houston Astros and instead tried to have both series played in their home stadium in Arlington.

This response is rooted in selfish intent. Their intention isn’t to help victims of natural disasters, but rather to gain more time in the spotlight and be the subject of flattering headlines. The donations that celebrities make aren’t enough of a contribution to make an effect long term.

Rather than singular donations tweeted out to gain popularity, celebrity-run and celebrity-endorsed drives better help victims of natural disasters, according to Rutgers. With a celebrity endorsement, a drive is more likely to raise money in a shorter amount of time, such as the $500,000 J.J. Watt’s drive raised in just 24 hours. Celebrities from affected areas might also partner with local charities, which Beyonce and Watt both did. This ultimately increases donations to local charities that are often overlooked in favor of national organizations.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, both Watt and Beyoncé created drives to aid victims in Houston. Watt’s drive has surpassed $29 million from 194,000 donors as of Thursday night. It accompanies his foundation, which allows people to donate their time as well as their money to relief efforts. Beyonce’s drive is a part of her foundation BeyGOOD, and with it she’s reached out to her millions of followers on social media to donate to it.

Both drives do more than just donate to relief efforts in Houston: They encourage average people to donate as well as celebrities. Instead of a singular donation by a celebrity that ends there, these drives create a sustainable effort to garner more donations over time to help relief efforts, and they still give celebrities the benefit of having their names splashed across positive headlines in the media.

Drives like this also ensure that people donate money to good organizations that will actually contribute to relief efforts. These drives are better than organizations like the Red Cross, which has been called out for a lack of ethical standards and keeping 25 percent of donations from the 2010 Haiti relief efforts.

Celebrities shouldn’t capitalize on natural disasters for fame, and while monetary donations are a nice gesture, unsustainable ones don’t help in the long run. What celebrities should really do is use their status for good by creating drives that encourage people to donate money to relief efforts. Singular monetary donations by celebrities shouldn’t be praised, as they fall short of bringing in enough money to sustain charities in the long run post-disasters.

Berdainer is a philosphy junior from Boulder, Colorodo. She is a senior columnist. Follow her on Twitter @eberdanier.