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How Some Of The Biggest Celebrities Are Leveraging Their Influence To Do Social Good And How You Can Too


Part of Kathy Caprino’s new series “Doing Great Good With Your Influence and Impact

In these times of tremendous upheaval and hardship around the U.S. and the world, it’s very inspiring to see individuals who are coming forward to make a positive difference—those who are in the position to help others actually stepping up to do just that. Healthcare workers, celebrities, artists, sports figures, business leaders, innovators, scientists, community volunteers and so many others are contributing all that they can to help people not just survive this pandemic, but thrive through these crisis times.

In this first interview in my new series “Doing Great Good With Your Influence and Impact,” I was excited to catch up this month with Shauna Nep, Vice President of Philanthropy at Scooter Braun’s SB Projects—a diversified entertainment and media company behind pop culture icons such as Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Demi Lovato, Ashley Graham, and many more. SB Projects was founded with the principle that a social good element be integrated into everything they do. Nep works closely with each client to develop social impact initiatives tailored to reflect the passions, causes, and communities most important to them. She does this in partnership with nonprofits and social enterprises that have a positive track record of impact and commitment to change.

Just a few examples of how SB Projects clients have gotten involved amid the COVID crisis.

  • Demi Lovato launched The Mental Health Fund supporting organizations addressing the increased demand for crisis counseling.
  • Lil Dicky announced more than $800,000 in grants to environmental organizations fighting COVID-19 and climate change.
  • Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande are participating in the #ALLin Challenge to raise funds for hunger relief.
  • Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato and J Balvin joined Global Citizen to support the WHO’s Coronavirus campaign to urge global leaders to take action. 

Here’s what Nep shared about her work with SB Projects and how others can help support the causes that matter most to them:

Kathy Caprino: Shauna, how did you get involved in this current direction, of facilitating social good initiatives and combining that with helping celebrities make a positive impact while doing their great work?

Shauna Nep: I’ve always worked in the social good sector–first as a youth organizer increasing healthy food access to students within Los Angeles Unified School District, then at a social enterprise bringing gardens and fresh food to schools in need across the country.

By chance, I was introduced to the Goldhirsh Foundation as they were about to launch LA2050, a multi-million dollar grant-making initiative which aims to build a better future for Los Angeles, and there I was introduced to the world of philanthropy.

I was always interested in how we can maximize resources, financial or otherwise, to create an impact, but had no idea you could build a career in that field. At the Goldhirsh Foundation, we focused on how to best allocate financial, social, and human capital to make LA and the world a better place, and because the foundation worked with private and public sector partners, I learned change is possible when everyone, not just the nonprofit sector, has a seat at the table.

I continued to work with high net worth individuals and families on their giving strategies and eventually joined SB Projects to help our artists make an impact on the issues they care about most.

Caprino: Why is your work in social good important in today’s entertainment industry and what does that mean for other major companies in the space?

Nep: The entertainment industry has the unique ability to move the needle on big issues. Artists have always played a major role in culture change, in unifying during divisive times, and even in normalizing life-saving behaviors—there has been awareness about our industry’s ability to make change.

It’s no longer just about our ability but our responsibility to make change. In other words, social good is no longer an afterthought, it is now core to our business. And not just because climate change or COVID-19 threatens our very existence; our community expects us to take a stand on issues that matter.

This next generation values transparency, accountability, and no longer accepts neutrality as a policy, so it’s important that as a company we know a) what our values are and b) how we will use our voice, as a company and as individuals, to help when there is a need. It’s not enough to have a CSR strategy. You need to know who you are and what you stand for as a company, and be ready to use the assets at your disposal.

Caprino: How can people—business leaders, artists or other individuals—identify the right philanthropy or cause to support or partner with?

Nep: It’s impossible to deny how interconnected the issues we are facing today are. Gun violence prevention is tied to healthcare and poverty, civic participation is tied to education, and so on. But if you focus on too many issue areas, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and it’s hard to see the impact you’re making.

I suggest clients choose one or two issue areas to focus on then reflect on how they are uniquely positioned to make a change.

As for choosing the cause, I like to ask clients to think about the issue that makes them both angry and energized. Action happens when we feel a combination of angry and hopeful, so finding one that sparks that in you is important.

Caprino: Are there certain elements you look for to ensure a social good campaign is successful?

Nep: Most importantly, a social good campaign needs to be authentic to the artist. The artist must truly walk the walk when it comes to the issue or campaign they are promoting. We can all see right through greenwashing. I also look at how to engage the artist’s fan base—will it get fans excited and compelled to share? These campaigns are most powerful when the fan base brings them to life.

When designing the collaboration for Ariana Grande and HeadCount which allowed her fans to register to vote on site at her shows, we wanted fans to know this call to action was from Ariana directly, so every aspect of the campaign was Ariana branded—from the color of the booth to the hashtags, to the signage which was often a play on her lyrics.

Caprino: How can business leaders navigate the world of philanthropy and giving back as consumers continue to expect companies to infuse philanthropic elements into their work?

Nep: If you can, it’s worth having a dedicated staff member or team focused on philanthropy so they can give “giving back” the time it needs and deserves.

At SB Projects, we were founded with the philosophy that philanthropy would be integrated into every single thing we do, so philanthropy has been given the same weight as our efforts in other areas—like digital or brand partnerships. For that reason, the philanthropy we do is both thoughtful and measured—not an afterthought.

But before going outside of your core business to make an impact, think about the changes to make within your own practices. Could your operations be more sustainable? Could your hiring process be more equitable and inclusive? Who is on your board? Start by asking those internal questions.

Caprino: During this time of crisis, how can those who are able to help assist those who are most impacted and looking at a very uncertain future?

Nep: If you can donate, there are several funds to help those who have lost their jobs and income. I recommend the National Domestic Workers Alliance Coronavirus Care Fund for home care workers, GiveDirectly for vulnerable households enrolled in SNAP, LIFT’s Family Goal Fund for families in poverty, or the One Fair Wage Fund for gig workers, all of which are providing emergency cash support.

There are also niche funds for those who cannot pay their rent, for artists and activists, for the music industry, and the list goes on. Make sure the fund is run by an organization you can trust. Many cities are setting up emergency funds as well–the L.A. Emergency COVID-19 Crisis Fund or United Way of Greater Nashville’s COVID-19 Response Fund are examples.

For those that can’t help financially, you can assist at-risk neighbors with groceries and meals (volunteer with Meals on Wheels, sign up for the C19 Help Squad which shares needs by city and assigns helpers to each person in need, or find a virtual volunteer opportunity and help from home through Points of Light).

And if you haven’t lost your own income, consider continuing to pay your own home care workers (nannies, cleaners, etc.)–it could make all the difference for that individual.

Caprino: Finally, there are several SB Projects clients who have publicly supported those affected by COVID-19. How have you guided those initiatives?

Nep: Our clients immediately asked how they can help and where their donations could make the most impact. In fact, Justin Bieber took action very early, donating to the Beijing Chunmiao Charity Foundation in February. Since then, our artists have donated to the WHO Solidarity Fund, Direct Relief, the Italian Red Cross, and have paid to transport medical supplies and PPE to U.S. hospitals most in need via Flexport.

They’ve given to Feeding America, Opportunity Fund’s Small Business Relief Fund, GiveDirectly’s Emergency Cash Fund and more. And all our artists have used their platforms to share key messages around the importance of social distancing, staying home, and taking care of your mental health. Several of them recorded ads which will run on Spotify with key messaging from the CDC.

Even now, I still aim to guide our clients to help the populations and issues that matter to them—and vulnerable communities are impacted in different ways by COVID-19. J Balvin is supporting Families Belong Together—acknowledging that many immigrants do not have the option of being at home with their families and are uniquely suffering in this moment.

Demi Lovato supported #Cut50’s efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our prisons and leveraged her new collection with Fabletics to raise funds to support WHO’s Global Response to the crisis. She also partnered with LA’s Department on Disabilities to distribute meals to those living with disabilities having trouble accessing meals and groceries.

The most pressing needs are changing daily, so it’s important to stay up-to-date on where those needs are and which organizations are servicing them. I’m grateful to work with clients who check in often on how they can help.

For more information, visit SB Projects.

To build more impact in your endeavors, work with Kathy Caprino in her Career Breakthrough programs and read her upcoming book The Most Powerful You: 7 Bravery-Boosting Paths to Career Bliss.



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