Diana 1961-1997: The charities - The best fundraiser in the world

There are few who work so devotedly for the well-being of the poor Imran Khan
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The Independent Online
She was probably the most successful fund-raiser on the planet, and charities yesterday said the loss of the Princess would leave an enormous hole in the world of voluntary organisations and campaigns.

A year ago, she severed links with all but six of the charities with which she was involved - a decision predicted by some to cost the losers a total of up to pounds 300m - but still lent her backing to many causes.

Although Diana made a massive contribution as a fund-raiser - the recent New York auction of her old dresses alone raised pounds 3.5m for charity and a seat next to her could sell for $100,000 - it was also her ability to raise the profile of issues such as Aids and landmines which impressed many observers.

The British Red Cross, one of those she officially "dropped" last July, said yesterday that the effect of her subsequent support for the campaign to outlaw the use of landmines, including visits to Angola and Bosnia, had been incalculable. "We had been working long and hard to raise public awareness. The impact she had was absolutely phenomenal," said a spokesman. "For many people she was the landmines campaign. She is irreplaceable in that respect."

He pointed out that her involvement had come at a crucial time with a new international treaty being negotiated and a change of government in Britain. Officials had held talks with the Princess about the prospect of her visiting another country, probably Cambodia, next year.

Meanwhile, her death caused George Foulkes, international development junior minister, to call for a ban on the manufacture, export and use of anti-personnel landmines at the November conference in Canada. "It would be a fitting tribute to the memory of Princess Diana if countries were now to pledge themselves to sign up to the Ottawa process and make what was her dream become a reality," he said.

Aids and HIV charities also claimed that the role of the Princess, who was patron of the National Aids Trust, had done much to help their work. Nick Partridge, chief executive of the Terence Higgins Trust, said: "Diana took the stigma away from Aids. She was one of the first and most committed champions on this issue."

Much of the Princess's work underlined her obvious love of children. Television presenter Esther Rantzen, who founded the charity ChildLine, said: "She gave us personal donations when we started. She was in there right at the beginning. She met deprived children so often in private and she also made many public visits to promote our work to protect children."

Diana's death also caused distress internationally where she was a recognisable name, even in countries where Britain has little direct influence.

Imran Khan, the former Pakistani cricket hero and a friend of the Princess, who invited Diana to Pakistan two months ago to help an appeal for his charity cancer hospital, said: "This world has very few people like Diana who work so devotedly for the well being of the poor, deprived and down- trodden people."

He added: "There was hardly any non-Muslim who worked in a Muslim country with as much devotion and dedication which Diana demonstrated for the sick and poor in Pakistan."

When the Princess made her surprise decision last year to sever formal links with most of her charities, including household names such as Help the Aged, Bernardos and Relate, it was predicted that in fund-raising alone it could cost them a total of pounds 300m. Many, though, claim that through being force to work harder they have staved off any loss.

However, her undoubted fund-raising ability has been shown on numerous occasions. A two-day trip to the United States in June last year raised more than pounds 1m from a round of lunches and functions.

But Vicki Pulman, spokeswoman for the Charities Aid Foundation, which co-ordinates research in the sector, said the loss of Diana as a fund- raiser and personal donor was only part of the tragedy.

"In financial terms it is going to be significant. But she also raised awareness of issues, which is a large part of what charities do. She is going to be very deeply missed."