Top fundraiser to fill Blair's coffers

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The Independent Online

Political Editor

One of the most successful fundraisers in Britain has been engaged by Tony Blair, the Labour leader, to solicit large business and individual donations between now and the general election.

Mr Blair has appointed Dr Henry Drucker - the man credited with raising pounds 340m for Oxford University in just six years, regarded as one of the most successful-ever operations of its kind - to build up Labour's election war chest. Its target is pounds 12.5m, although party finance managers refused to say yesterday how much they had already.

Dr Drucker, 53, is a long-time Labour supporter but he has never raised money for a political party before. His current clients include University College London, the Welsh National Opera and Nottingham University.

Dr Drucker will concentrate on soliciting single donations of pounds 25,000 or more and is understood to have convinced Labour that it has so far undersold Mr Blair's potential appeal to the business community. He is an experienced practitioner of the "networking" approach to fund-raising which works on the principle that every donor knows other potential ones.

Dr Henry Drucker, an academic who headed Oxford University's development office, outlined recently how he changed radically its approach to raising money: "At Oxford, we went to large numbers of donors' companies, foundations and wealthy individuals in the UK and abroad to ask them to give much more than they were used to giving. We saw our job as that of creating and expanding a market. We put greater emphasis on legacies to raise money."

He is also on record as an advocate of encouraging public discussion of giving based on a particular income level. He says: "In America there is a flourishing `Give five' movement whose members have promised 5 per cent of their income."

Certainly, he has proved his effectiveness as a fundraiser. When an initial target of pounds 220m was set, many at Oxford were scornful. That target was raised to pounds 340m, and exceeded. More than 100 academic posts have been created as a result, including more than 30 professorships.

At present many individual donations are channelled through Labour's "1,000 Club" which has 200 members pledged to give pounds 1,000 a year. Dr Drucker is said by senior party sources to believe that the level could be much higher. Labour sources claim that several prominent businessmen have already given private indications to Mr Blair that they are ready to endorse him through public statements or cash donations as the election approaches.