Reality Cheque – Is It Ever Ok For Charities To Pay Celebrities?

Though the less dubious among us may brush Friday the 13th off as a simple triviality, there can be no denying that last week’s ‘Black Friday’ brought particular bad luck to Made in Chelsea’s Alexandra “Binky” Felstead.

On Friday, the TV star posted a picture of herself holding a handwritten sign, stating “Please follow @barnardosretail on Instagram”; by Monday morning, she was on the front cover of the Sun, following the revelation that Barnardo’s – the children’s charity – had paid her £3,000 to post the image.

What followed was a social media explosion of unbridled outrage, with critics denouncing the Made in Chelsea star as being “vile”, “disgusting” and “morally repulsive”. Other irate Instagrammers highlighted that she herself did not actually follow the @barnardosretail account and some even resolved to boycott the charity altogether.

And for those who chose to delve deeper into this worrying frontier, a far more concerning question arose: Have other charities also been resorting to secret celebrity payment to promote their goals?


World Vision, an international children’s charity, have spoken out in the past about their decision to reward their ‘artist ambassadors’. They have previously admitted paying £28,000 to folk-rock band Sadie and the Hotheads, fronted by Downton Abbey actor Elizabeth McGovern. Their justification? They used part of their marketing budget, which is for fundraising and speaking directly to donors, as opposed to their media spend.

In the aftermath of Friday’s leak, there were also those who spoke out in defence of Barnardo’s actions. They argued that if performers and celebrities are being used by charities as marketing tools then, accordingly, they deserve payment.

Nonetheless, The British Red Cross, Oxfam and Save The Children were swift to their own defence, with spokesmen clamouring to various media outlets to affirm that these charities would never dream of paying celebrities to plug their cause.

However, in today’s celebrity consumed culture, perhaps the real question we should be asking ourselves is does this actually shock us? Yes, in an ideal world, celebrity involvement would be something that is donated freely, but when I’m A Celeb contestants are willing to consume spiders for cash, the reality, surely, is that money talks.


Perhaps where Barnardo’s have fallen foul then, is in their attempt to keep shtum; an act which automatically transforms any initially innocent payment into a dirty cash extravaganza. Would the British public be somewhat more accepting of these actions if charity’s celebrity payments were disclosed, rather than bolted behind closed doors? Or do we run the risk of a culture of payment forming, in which everyone would be required to participate?

No matter the outcome, there is a dominant message resounding from the eye of the Twitter-storm: when it comes to celebrity involvement, the British public is calling out for a charity supporter with a genuine belief in, and passion for, the cause. Barnardo’s, and other charities considering celebrity endorsement, may be well-advised to listen.


by Alicia Simpson