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Good Question: Do Celebrities Help Charities?

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(credit: CBS) Jason DeRusha
Jason DeRusha filed his first report for WCCO-TV on April Fool's D...
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By Jason DeRusha, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Michael J. Fox has a foundation that fights Parkinson’s disease. Lance Armstrong fights cancer. Celebrities and charities have been working together for more than eighty years in the United States. But do celebrities cause us to donate more to charity?

“Without a doubt, without a doubt,” said Jean Gorell, President of the Minnesota chapter of the Association of Professional Fundraisers.

A celebrity endorsement “provides increased awareness and credibility,” said Gorell, as people think, “so and so is attaching his name to the event, so it’s a good cause.”

Michael J. Fox started the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research with a relatively small amount of money in 2000. But over the past a decade, his foundation has funded more than $200 million dollars in Parkinson’s research.

Lance Armstrong’s “LIVESTRONG” bracelets raised more than $70 million dollars at $1 each. His foundation has generated $325 million since its founding, after being diagnosed with testicular cancer.

“He elevated the awareness of it, because he is who he is. People rally around him,” said Gorell.

But the biggest money-maker isn’t in the money you or I spend. It’s the money that comes from corporate and especially federal grants.

Christopher Reeve brought his spinal cord injury story straight to Congress, and it worked. Before Reeve: the American Paralysis Association had zero money from federal grants. Since Reeve’s testimony, the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation has earned $55 million in government grants.

According to Gorell, celebs can help in the one-time hit, the United Way commercial or the fund-raising gala. But nothing compares to the personal story of someone we’ve watched for years.

“They put the face to the issue. All the sudden it makes it real,” said Gorell.

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