"They" are WealthWatch, a new service for the country's 250,000 charity fund-raisers designed to offer an inside track on potential donors, influential supporters and patrons. "Time and time again, the same few names - the Marks & Spencers, the Sainsburys - get asked for support," WealthWatch's founder, Pat Thorne, says. "We're trying to draw attention to the fact that there are tens of thousands of others wealthy enough to help as well."
WealthWatch magazine, launched this week, includes personal and professional information on some of Britain's wealthiest individuals. By scanning the national and business press and incorporating additional research as well as contact names, addresses and telephone numbers, Ms Thorne hopes the monthly will quickly become an invaluable fund-raising tool.
"We'll include news and profiles detailing the newly rich, City high earners, latest wills and corporate developments, such as flotations," she says. "Everything, in fact, that might point to a new individual or organisation likely to be inclined to consider charitable giving or other forms of support or patronage, perhaps for the first time."
In an attempt to unravel the mysteries of the interests and motivations of the people behind the cheque book, Ms Thorne also intends to commission personality profiles and interviews.
Charity Commission figures show that there are around 200,000 organisations with charitable status in the UK. Around three-quarters of these are mainstream charities sharing accounting for an estimated income of pounds 12.8bn. When other organisations, such as educational establishments, housing associations or museums, are included the figure is nearer pounds 19bn.
Voluntary income accounts for 46 per cent of the total, earned income (through events and merchandise) 34 per cent and investment 20 per cent, according to statistics from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.
Since the launch of the National Lottery, there has been a well-documented decline in charity donations by private individuals. According to a poll conducted by the NCVO earlier this year, donations to charity in December and January slumped by 13 per cent and 11 per cent respectively compared with three years ago. Over the same period, National Lottery sales increased by between 25 per cent and 50 per cent.
However, the lottery has not only had a negative effect, according to Neil Croucher, development director for both Bristol's Centre for the Performing Arts and Bristol 2000, a landmark millennium project. "Fund- raising has become increasingly sophisticated as a result of the National Lottery which has pumped millions of pounds into local activities nationally, and required people to match this with private sector funding," he says. Bristol 2000 was recently allocated pounds 41m by the National Lottery Millennium Commission; it must raise pounds 20m itself.
"Research is at the core of successful fund-raising - one has to look at a potential source in depth before even considering making an approach," Mr Croucher adds. "Although there are already information sources available, these tend to be lists and annual surveys. What fund-raisers are really looking for is regular market information."
Nigel Dumbrell, head of fund-raising and marketing for the charity Cruse Bereavement Care, welcomes any additional weapon to add to his arsenal, so long as the information it offers is something new. "I am always looking for that extra little detail that can give me a way in," he explains. "I got two ambassadors, once, after reading they had links with mental illness." It is a question of knowing the right buttons to press, and acting fast.
Ms Thorne adds: "It sounds difficult, but the money is out there. Good research is essential, even at the smallest level. Lots of time and money is wasted by making inappropriate applications to people who wouldn't dream of ever supporting you or your cause."
WealthWatch is being published by Ms Thorne's company, Sunrise, which runs training courses for fund-raisers. She became involved in the voluntary sector while running a wholefood retail and restaurant business, Sunflower, in Bristol. "I regularly helped out local organisations and causes I had an interest in. This involved advising them on targeting, good letter writing, brochure design and annual reports."
Local beneficiaries of her talents included FemFM, a local ratio station for women. She also worked with the Bristol Women's Workshop and Send A Cow, a Third World charity sending British cows to Uganda. "Local farmers found they had milk surpluses," she explains. "But they couldn't send it to Africa, nor could they send it dried because of the dangers associated with mixing it with dirty water." So they began to export Friesian cows, instead.
Now, Ms Thorne plans to share her expertise with the entire voluntary sector - for a subscription fee of pounds 20 per month. Added value, she says, will come with the inclusion of detailed contact numbers and addresses. "Good research is the pulling together from numerous sources relevant information and personal details, and clear sign-posting."
Any British millionaire is fair game, she believes. That includes big prize draw and National Lottery winners, although, she adds, "It would be unlikely we'd know a lottery winner's address, for example. Besides, I'd be reluctant to distribute it as we could then encounter concerns regarding invasion of privacy."
Dismissing any suggestion the subjects of her latest business venture might not approve, she says: "All the information we gather and disseminate is in the public domain - whether it's the latest contents from someone's will [where contents exceed pounds 1m], which can be found at Somerset House, or information concerning public companies. I can't imagine why anyone would possibly object."
She may be right. But she is already considering WealthWatch's potential in secondary markets. "I can see it appealing to financial services companies, City institutions, even marketers of high priced goods and services, such as luxury property," she says. Britain's millionaires: you have been warned
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