Charity Bribes: Coerce celebs for a good cause

Want Donald Trump to post a picture of his hair when he wakes up? You might just get your wish, if a new site that trades amusing celeb stunts for charity dollars takes off.

Benjamin Dreyfuss
Ben Dreyfuss is a CNET social media editor. An obsessive newshound and political wonk, he still finds time to play Dots.
Benjamin Dreyfuss
3 min read
Charity Bribe screenshot
Screenshot by Ben Dreyfuss/CNET

If I could make one celebrity do whatever I wanted, I'd have Kobe Bryant come to my house and feign interest in my problems. But how could I get him over? Letters? Begging? None of it has worked so far will work. Maybe I can appeal to his kind heart?

If Bryant would come spend the afternoon with me, I'd gladly make a donation to a charity he supports.

This is the logic behind the new site Charity Bribes, which lets regular old citizens of the Internet come together and, as a group, extort their favorite famous person. The site's debut proposition: If Larry David joins Twitter, 51 people will give $1,356 dollars to an environmental charity. If he doesn't, the charity gets nothing.

The basic message: "If you really cared about the environment, Larry David, you'd come online and make jokes with us in 140 characters or less."

It appears to be a win-win-win: The charity gets a nice donation, Twitter gets funnier, and Larry David gets more new technology to argue with.

Here's how it works: Charity Bribes users vote on suggestions offered by the community. After one month, the site lists the winning proposition and has 30 days to gather pledges for a charitable organization the selected target -- ahem, celebrity -- has voiced affinity for. (In the "Curb Your Enthusiasm" star's case, the charity is the National Resources Defense Council). Then the offer is locked and the celebrity has 30 days to act.

I know what you're thinking: This could get out of hand fast. The site urges users to keep the prop bets classy (nothing that endangers anyone, nothing crude), but the Internet isn't necessarily known for its highbrow taste.

The creators -- William Burks Spencer and Chris Baker, both writers -- are aware of this potential problem. "We think the key is to keep it positive, so it's fun for users, but also for celebrities," Spencer told Crave in a phone interview.

And the pair reserves the right to "edit" suggestions, though they said that in the weeks since the site's gone live they've taken down only "one or two" submissions.

In general, they're trusting the community to vote up bets that are not only fun but also practical. "Users understand that if the bets don't happen, the charities won't get anything," Baker said.

And though they've dabbled in viral sites before (Baker was behind a site that jokingly sought to send M. Night Shyamalan back to film school), Spencer pointed out that with Charity Bribes, they're in it for the long run.

"We'd like it to grow and support itself and develop a real community, like Kickstarter," he said. "If it takes off, we could soon have a whole new measure to compare celebrities by. ('It took Dan Aykroyd a pledge of $2,000 to get him to live-blog a reality show, but Armand Assante was willing to read ICanHazCheeseburger for only $800.')"

First, of course, the site has to actually get a celebrity to do something. (At the moment, Larry David is still not on Twitter.)

Maybe they'll have more luck with Conan O'Brien. The early front-runner for the next bribe is "Get Conan O'Brien to wear an eye patch (and turtleneck, also holding a pipe) while interviewing a guest on his show. If asked about it, he should say 'I don't want to talk about it.'"

What would you like to bribe a celebrity to do?

Which famous person would you most like to bribe? Celine Dion? Donald Trump? Bill Clinton? Morgan Freeman? (Click to enlarge.) Screenshot by Ben Dreyfuss/CNET

(Via BuzzFeed)