Even celebs seek meaning in holiday-time donations
Published Wednesday, November 30, 2011 6:25AM EST
Even celebs seek meaning in holiday-time donations
The act of giving isn't anything new for the rich and famous. But there's something about the holidays that brings new meaning to charitable gestures, even for celebrities.
Take Justin Bieber, for example.
In October, the 17-year-old pop star got into the holiday spirit by donating $10,000 to the Stratford House of Blessing, a food bank in his hometown of Stratford, Ont.
Bieber's gift, and the surprising confession it elicited from the singer, made headlines prior to the Nov. 1 launch of his album, "Under the Mistletoe."
During his childhood, Bieber's mother had used the Stratford House of Blessing during the holidays when times were tough.
"I was less fortunate. I didn't get to have a lot, so we used to go there," Bieber told late night host Jay Leno.
Bieber used that memory to connect more personally to a cause. But he is not alone in that pursuit for connection.
In August, Lady Gaga teamed up with luxury retailer Barneys New York to launch her interpretation of Santa's famed workshop.
Stocked with special edition items, Gaga's Workshop is the largest holiday themed store-within-a-store that Barneys has ever mounted, taking up the entire floor of their flagship New York location. It's a big production suited to the outlandish singer and her cause, with 25 per cent of the items sold in Gaga's Workshop going to charities of her choice.
Yoko Ono is yet another star who has made a personal connection with her cause of choice -- helping eradicate world hunger.
In November, the artist and peace activist helped launch Imagine There's No Hunger, an annual program sponsored by Hard Rock International. The program benefits Hard Rock's philanthropic partner, Why Hunger. It also assists a dozen grass roots partners in Haiti, China, Kenya, Thailand and the Dominican Republic, to name a few.
"Yoko's dedicated tweets and posts on her social media sites to get the message out in November and December," said Annie Balliro, the senior director of global brand philanthropy for Hard Rock International in the U.S.
"Eliminating childhood hunger worldwide goes way beyond the holidays. But it's a goal that's personally important to us and Yoko," Balliro told CTVNews.ca.
The force for good is growing
Famous or not, we humans want to give and feel good about it. It's in our biology.
According to a 2006 study at the National Institutes of Health, scientists discovered that when people give to charities it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection and trust. That activation creates a "warm glow" effect.
Scientists also believe that altruistic behaviour releases endorphins in the brain, producing the positive feeling known as the "helper's high." This is just as true for Madonna, Bill Gates or the Average Joe.
"It is easy for people to be a little cynical these days about celebrities and their charity work. But fame can be a very useful tool," said Tim Saunders, the features editor of LookToTheStars.org, a website that features 2,100 celebrities, 1,500 charities, and a database where fans can learn about stars' good deeds.
"Every holiday season is traditionally a time when we see a large number of celebrities giving back to causes close to their hearts," said Saunders.
"Whether you're famous or not, we can all do something to make this world better. With seven billion people in the world, we make an awesome force."
That force for good is being felt around the world, according to executive business coach and author Susan Steinbrecher.
In her new book, "Kensho: A Modern Awakening -- Instigating Change in an Era of Global Renewal," Steinbrecher takes readers on a fascinating journey into the mindset that drives giving in the 21st century.
Steinbrecher interviewed some of the best thinkers in the fields of science, medicine, business, social media, and philanthropy. That roster includes futurist David Houle, destiny achievement expert Peggy McColl, "Happy for No Reason" author Marci Shimoff ,and physicist John Hagelin of the Maharishi University of Management in Iowa -- a school that includes the practice of Transcendental Meditation in its consciousness-based education system.
"Whether you're dealing with stars, billionaire CEOS or ordinary folks, being charitable and trying to do things in a better way is a day-to-day decision for all of us," said Steinbrecher.
"After writing this book, I do believe that people worldwide are asking questions that challenge our culture of materialism and acquisition," she said.
"People are looking for meaning in their lives. They want that reflected in the way they run a business or give to charity. That shift is bringing society to a critical juncture. But giving and working from the heart is the new business model. It's definitely the direction we're heading in as a society."
Check back every Wednesday and Friday for a new instalment in CTVNews.ca's gift-giving guide.