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In their coverage for ABC News, Megan Chuchmach and Brian Ross, report on the reactions to Former President Bush charging a wounded veteran charity $100,000 plus expenses for a speech during a fundraiser gala in 2012.  Mr. Ross is Chief Investigative Correspondent for ABC News. He reports for “World News Tonight with David Muir”, “Nightline”, “Good Morning America”, “20/20”, and ABC News Radio.  Ms. Chuchmach is a journalist with the ABC News Investigative Team.

To Help US Veterans Charity, George W. Bush Charged $100,000

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By Megan Chuchmach and Brian Ross| ABC News| 7/08/15

Former President George W. Bush charged $100,000 to speak at a charity fundraiser for U.S. military veterans severely wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, and former First Lady Laura Bush collected $50,000 to appear a year earlier, officials of the Texas-based Helping a Hero charity confirmed to ABC News.

The former President was also provided with a private jet to travel to Houston at a cost of $20,000, the officials said.

The charity, which helps to provide specially-adapted homes for veterans who lost limbs and suffered other severe injuries in “the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said the total $170,000 expenditure was justified because the former President and First Lady offered discounted fees and helped raise record amounts in contributions at galas held in 2011 and 2012.

“It was great because he reduced his normal fee of $250,000 down to $100,000,” said Meredith Iler, the former chairman of the charity.

According to the charity’s yearly reports to the IRS, it raised about $2,450,000, after expenses, from the 2012 gala where President Bush spoke. The following year, the gala netted the charity substantially less, about $1,000,000.

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Finding Affordable Celebrity Speakers for Fundraising Events

Celebrity speakers for fundraising events often come with a high price tag, but may yield the organization contracting them a large return on investment. When asked about the $100,000 speaker’s fee that Helping a Hero paid former President George W. Bush, the nonprofit group, that helps veterans wounded in the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan, reasoned that the amount they paid was worth every penny.

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Healing a Hero Twitter about George W. Bush speech, for which they paid $100,000 fee.

Thanks to Mr. Bush’s appearance, Helping a Hero reported to the IRS that it raised about $2,450,000, after expenses. In comparison, the next year they only raised $1,000,000.

What If Your Organization Can’t Afford a $100,000 Speaker Fee?

For many nonprofits securing well known person who charges high speaker fees may not be within their means.

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Organizations unable to pay a lot of money can still find celebrity speakers for fundraising events that can motivate their audience and compel them to support their cause, especially with donations.  Here’s a few ways to get started:

  • Reach out to a local celebrities like local TV personalities, business owners or government officials to help eliminate the cost of travel expenses for speakers from out-of-state.
  • Toastmasters International and other local public speaking groups may have interesting candidates to speak at your events for little to no fee.
  • Who better than someone who already supports your cause to motivate others on your behalf at no charge. Look through your list of your donors and volunteers for a potential celebrity speaker then reach out to them via phone call, email or mobile communications.
  • Post a request on Speaker Match with details of your event and the fee (if any) that you are able to pay.
  • Speaker’s bureaus like Partnership for Nonprofit Excellence may be great sources for your next event. If the speaker you are interested in for your event charges a fee, contact them to find out if they will waive it to support your cause.

Be Prepared and Ensure Your Prospective Celebrity Speaker Is Too

Before you start looking for celebrity speakers for your fundraising event, put together a simple event kit that you can send to prospects:

  • Describe your nonprofit and the good work that you do. Include photos for bigger impact.
  • Explain why you are asking your speaker to provide their services pro bono.
  • Provide description of the event including who will be attending, what your goals are and what you expect from your speaker.
  • Any technical information your speaker should know including whether there will be a podium, computer, projector etc…
  • Let your speaker know what’s in it for them, especially if you are not paying them, which could include publicity from press releases, promotions in all event advertising, newsletter, email blasts to your constituents and of course signage and mentions in your event program.
  • Use mobile communications to send out updates to your speaker and event attendees.

Remember, your speaker will probably open up any email that you send them on their phone so make sure your website and donation page are mobile responsive so your org’s information looks good on any size screen.

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