What would you give to spend some time with these celebrities?
Website offers access to the famous – for a donation to charity
Since Sir Jimmy Savile extinguished his last cigar and rose, be-tracksuited, from the magic fix it chair for the final time, the nation's dreamers have had scant cause for optimism. Until now that is.
A pioneering new charity is promising to unite wide-eyed fans with their idols, for special experiences. The only drawback – a sizeable donation to their idol's chosen charities.
Afternoon tea with Geoffrey Boycott and breakfast at Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons with Raymond Blanc are among many experiences on offer with Pro Dono. Would-be clients simply make an offer, which is then communicated to the "ambassador" as Pro Bono calls them, who says yes or no – though a "no" may well be negotiable, should a higher offer be made.
Paying to charity to meet a politician, actor or sports star is not a novel idea – it is a staple of fundraising campaigns and charity auctions – but Pro Dono hopes that by simplifying and broadening the idea, it will benefit charities.
"It's incredibly expensive for charities to put on these auction events," said Duncan Turnbull, a recent Oxford graduate and one of Pro Dono's founders. "A large amount of the money they raise goes to pay the caterers, the venue and so on. And it's always the same attendees at every one, the same small targeted demographic. We wanted to see if it could be widened, and made applicable to more people."
More than 100 ambassadors have already signed up to Pro Dono, including Alastair Campbell, Lord Robert Winston, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and journalist Toby Young.
Unlike charity auctions and dinners, at which the cost of the ticket is usually already a barrier to most, the donations involved may also be reassuringly affordable. "I'd take whatever I could get," said Alastair Campbell, when asked for a price on accompanying him to a match at Burnley FC. "It would depend on who was bidding and how much I could drive it up."
In Mr Campbell's case, the money would go to Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, of which he is chairman of fundraising, and Rethink, a mental health charity. Although not quite 100 per cent of the money pledged would find its way there.
Seven per cent is paid to Pro Dono to cover salaries for its two full-time staff and administration expenses, primarily the costs of arranging the meetings. But charities are able to apply for gift aid on the 93 per cent they do receive, which means the Government will refund the tax paid on the donation, and the charity will receive about £1.15 for every £1 pledged. "We are very much not for profit," said Mr Turnbull. "We have other causes close to our hearts, such as York Against Cancer, which Pro Dono will support if there's any extra money available."
Glen Jeffries, Pro Dono's chief executive, graduated from Oxford in 2010. "I wanted to have a go at starting a project of my own," he said. "Duncan and I believed that making these types of experiences more readily available, and from a single platform, might encourage the public to think differently about their charitable giving."
Pro Dono doesn't officially launch until later this month, although some people have stumbled across it by accident, after it was mentioned in a Government White Paper on charitable giving. Already it has secured £20,000 in donations.
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