‘I want my life to have a purpose because time is precious’, meet the UK’s most generous fundraiser

Richard Barker might have biggest heart in the UK. A fundraiser for over a decade now, Barker has made a world of difference to so many charities and is showing no signs of slowing down. The vastness of his ideals are as enormous as his generosity.

Currently working on the 30 Donations project for Haven House Children’s Hospice, Richard tells List For Life about how he gained support from the likes of Richard Branson and Bill Gates as well as what young people should be doing to get into charity work and making a difference in this world.

1. Can you tell us about yourself and how you got into fundraising in the first place?

In my late teens my Mum told me about the Children With AIDS Charity. I decided that I wanted to help so I started collecting books and I asked celebrities to sign them. Sir Richard Branson was one of the first people that I approached. He very kindly signed copies of his autobiography. As time progressed Bill Gates and J. K. Rowling signed books for me. A book auction in Mayfair raised £4,175. I kept fundraising and as a result I became a Trustee. I also won Vodafone World of Difference which enabled me to work directly with the fundraising team. By setting up various appeals throughout the years I’d managed to raise in excess of £22,000 for Children With AIDS Charity. I also collected over 20,000 items of clothing and other small gifts that were distributed to children infected and affected by HIV.

I applied the knowledge that I gained as a voluntary fundraiser and I supported other charity events. I helped to raise thousands for charities such as Help for Heroes by collecting ‘Money Can’t Buy’ auction prizes. I chose to support Haven House Children’s Hospice and I raised £4,520. During a twelve year period I’d supported various charities and devoted countless hours voluntarily. At the age of 30 after 12 years of fundraising it seemed the perfect time to complete a new challenge. My goal was to collect 30 auction prizes for Haven House. By donating a few hours or more each day working from my PC at home I’ve managed to collect hundreds of prizes. Sales of prizes at events and cash donations have raised £46,285 thus far. Initially I aimed to raise £3,000. I raised more than my target very quickly so I raised it to £30,000 and I’m currently aiming to raise in excess of £250,000. I have been supported by Usain Bolt, Kate Moss, Eddie Redmayne OBE, Annoushka Ducas MBE, Philip Treacy OBE and many others.

2. Where does your self-belief and power of positivity philosophy stem from?

Years of experience gives me the courage to face daily rejections. Most celebrities and businesses receive thousands of donations requests therefore you have to expect that the majority of your requests will be politely declined. I still get excited when I receive a positive response.

3. In the world of fundraising who do you consider your heroes?

At the age of 17 I received an award from Sir Jack Petchey. Meeting Sir Jack inspired me because he has built up a successful business and very generously donated £100 million to his Foundation. The Jack Petchey Foundation encourages young people to pursue their passions and recognises their achievements. Other heroes include Sir Richard Branson who I met when he supported my fundraising. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet founded The Giving Pledge which encourages wealthy people to contribute their fortunes to philanthropic causes. I’m always inspired when I read that an entrepreneur has made the pledge. Finally in my spare time I’ve studied businessmen like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller I’ve seen the enormous impact philanthropy can have and that motivates me to think big. We’re only limited by the boundaries of our imaginations.

Richard Barker

Richard with Mark Wright and Michelle Keegan – Image credit: Richard Barker

4. Where do you want to be or have achieved, as a fundraiser or otherwise, in 15 years?

Ultimately I aim to raise in excess of a million pounds for good causes. I want to make a massive difference. My father died when I was eleven and my older sister died in childbirth. My mother recently beat Cancer. I want my life to have a purpose because time is precious. By supporting British charities I can have a positive impact upon society and my local community.

5. What do you think you’d be doing if you hadn’t decided to become a fundraiser?

I’m a voluntary fundraiser so I have to earn my income from working. I work as a freelance event and food photographer. I’ve donated my time to Haven House as a photographer for a couple of years. I’ve also offered other charities my support. I can’t do it for everyone but when I can I’m happy to help. If I wasn’t fundraising I’m not sure what I’d be doing. I’d love to be an entrepreneur. In an ideal world I’d run a successful business and my own Charitable Foundation.

6. Can you give five tips to any young people out there interested in fundraising?

  • Don’t be afraid to have ideas. Keep it simple and work hard. A good idea can be priceless
  • Age is not a barrier. You can make a difference at any age.
  • Hard work pays off. It’s taken me 12 years to raise in excess of £75,000. Never give up and always aim for the stars.
  • Do your research. The internet is full of useful information. You can teach yourself new skills. You’ve also got access to millions of inspiring ideas and stories.
  • Look to the future. Technology is making more things possible. Social media is a great way to share your fundraising ideas and reach a global audience.

What now?