Starkey Hearing Foundation Gala Raises Over $9 Million

By Brian Taylor, AuD

gala
Starkey Founder, Bill Austin, at 2014 Gala with wife Tani and Hillary Clinton. Image Courtesy AP

Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, along with luminaries such as Gene Simmons and Katy Perry helped the Starkey Hearing Foundation raise more than $9 million dollars to fund mission trips to provide hearing services around the globe.

The event took place in the Twin Cities on Sunday, July 26.

Although the annual gala attracts Hollywood celebrities, professional athletes and politicians, and raises considerably sums of money to fund “the gift of hearing” to people in several countries, the Foundation’s business strategy was examined in a recent story featured on Minnesota Public Radio

According to the report, the Starkey Hearing Foundation donated 175,000 hearing aids in the United States and globally over the past year, but the celebrities who have attended the event have reaped hundreds of thousands of dollars for their own foundations, participating in a partnership that benefits Starkey’s brand internationally.

The MPR report also indicated that between 2011 and 2013 the foundation donated $1.9 million to the George W. Bush Presidential Library, the George W. Bush Foundation and The Global Health Corps, founded by Bush’s two daughters. Between 2010-2013 $1.6 million was donated to the Clinton Global Initiative.

Gala Brings Awareness, Donations, to Foundation

The annual Gala, which is a private affair, asks event sponsors to donate $250,000 and individual seats range from $1,500 to $5,000 per the MPR report.

Experts disagree on the use of celebrity charities as a business strategy. Some suggest the efforts of the Starkey Hearing Foundation is brilliant marketing, simultaneously helping people in need and getting Starkey hearing aids into emerging global markets.

While it raises substantial sums to provide hearing assistance to those in need, some worry that the Foundation obscures the relationship between itself and celebrities, and between the foundation and its corporate partner, the privately owned for-profit Starkey Hearing Technologies.

Listen to the 8-minute MPR story in its entirety here: http://www.mprnews.org/story/2015/07/23/starkey-hearing