INSTITUTE OF FUNDRAISING: A prize to encourage big donors deserves support

Lindsay Boswell, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising

On the face of it, we are being asked to be very un-British. Just before Easter, the Beacon Prize was launched. Established by the Beacon Fellowship, this is a national organisation set up to encourage individual contributions to charitable and social causes and to celebrate and showcase best practice in giving. In other words, give a high profile to those who have given a great deal and as a result celebrate giving and inspire the culture of donating in the UK.

So, we are mostly introspective, attention-avoiding, shy caricatures of the classic Brit. It doesn't stand a hope does it? Well, it's really up to the charities that make the connections between extraordinary folk mostly leading pretty ordinary lives and the causes they help. We know who the unsung heroes are and we know them well enough to encourage them to make this a success. Recent weeks highlight some of the more extraordinary efforts made. I am sure that many look on Michael Watson, the injured former boxer, and admire and respect his courage and bloody-mindedness to complete the marathon. But it's different if you have gone through the horrors he has faced, isn't it? I can detach myself from him as an example. The person who really infuriates me is the Prime Minister's press secretary Alistair Campbell. If he can spare the time to get fit and raise huge sums of money then where can I hide?

My argument about being too busy gets shot down in flames by his example.

I can't be the only one feeling let down by his example. But what I really enjoyed was his total openness about money. How much he had raised and why he was doing it. Now the Brit in me comes over all cynical, but that is my problem, not his.

There are six categories for the Beacon Prize: leadership; lifetime achievement; courage; start ups; creative giving, and young philanthropist. The prize has as good a chance of succeeding as any as it has attracted considerable backing.

Like all good fundraising, it is being led by example by David Charters who has put up the running costs and prize money for the first year, a six figure sum that ought to qualify him for both the leadership and creative giving categories.

The prize is a £20,000 sum to allow the winner to invest in a charity of their choice. Please draw your organisations attention to the Beacon Fellowship, it really deserves to be a huge success.

Nominations are open until the 15 July and available from www.beaconfellowship.org.uk or ring 020 7849 6550. I am going to nominate football manager Graham Taylor.

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