Prince Charles has just launched his 19th Charity – the Prince’s Countryside Fund. It aims to improve the sustainability of British farming by raising the profile of countryside issues with the general public and by providing emergency funding to farmers when crises occur.
Given the trials and tribulations that have beset British farming in recent years, this is a worthy mandate. Prince Charles should be applauded. Furthermore he is a man of many missions. In addition to the 18 other charities established in his name, he is also Patron to over 400 other charities – more than willing to promote causes in which he believes and use his position and influence to achieve social good.
Personalities, royal or otherwise, become involved in charities in a variety of ways for a variety of different reasons. In a culture which is in equal measure both obsessed with and disdainful of the cult of celebrity, the involvement of well-known personalities within charitable activities invites a number of questions.
Can charities be manipulated by the agents of ‘celebrities’ intent on generating column inches of positive publicity? Or is this an irrelevant consideration provided that there is clear benefit to the charity concerned?
Should charities provide opportunities for those who have fallen from grace to redeem themselves? Or does the need to protect a charity’s reputation make this too great a risk?
Should charities really depend upon the endorsement of famous people in order acquire credibility – and media attention? Cannot good causes speak for themselves and shouldn’t the media be persuaded to take an interest without the lure of an exclusive interview?
And whilst on the subject, can anyone name a celebrity who begins to compete with HRH Prince of Wales when it comes to involvement in charities? To find out which celebrities are supporting which charities, see www.looktothestars.org