What Can Celebrity Muscle and Crowdfunding Do for a Detroit Elementary School?

Nonprofit crowdfunding is getting a bit of a publicity boost thanks to TV host Ellen Degeneres, who launched a GoFundMe campaign last week with a $1 million goal to rebuild and update a crumbling Detroit elementary school.

On her show last Thursday, Ellen introduced Spain Elementary School and the sorry state of its facilities, which require millions of dollars in renovations.

The campaign is also supported by Justin Bieber, who has promised to donate a dollar for every ticket he sells to an upcoming show, and Lowe’s, which has given $500,000 and donated supplies and labor to the effort. GoFundMe even kicked in $15,000 to start Ellen’s campaign off on the right foot. In just a week, the campaign has already collected over $63,000 in donations from nearly 1,500 people.

A few celebrities have donated publicly to crowdfunding campaigns, most notably Taylor Swift, who has made gifts and generated publicity for several GoFundMe projects. But Ellen is one of the biggest to launch her own campaign.

This is an effort worth watching. While the power of celebrities to raise money for causes is hardly new, we're entering a different era in which the combination of social media and crowdfunding tools allows celebrities to exercise that power more easilyno fancy galas or concerts required—and also for their fans to respond more easily. The result is the potential for more celebrity-driven campaigns that raise more money for more causes. Which means that the value of getting celebrities interested in your cause is soaring even higher 

On the other hand, people's attention spans are short, and crowdfunding campaigns are unlikely to achieve their goals if a celebrity backer doesn't stick with them. We still don't know what the end of result of this particular campaign by Ellen will be.

Also, she's a pretty unique figure. It’s hard to replicate the huge reach of her daytime talk show and her social media presence, which allow her to reach over 50 million fans with a single tweet.

Whether or not the campaign meets its $1 million goal remains to be seen, although since GoFundMe places no time limits on its fundraisers, any amount raised will benefit Spain Elementary.