'Meet the Funders' Civil Society Interview with David McDonough

'Meet the Funders' Civil Society Interview with David McDonough

How did the October Club start?

A small group of us back in 1987 and into 1988 decided to get together to see if we could create an evening which the City and the institutions in the City would enjoy coming out to once a year to raise money for a different small cause each event. We set up some pretty simple rules – that the charity had to be small and that the effect we had from the evening was going to be transformational.

How do you choose the charity you fund?

We receive several dozen applications. Applicants have to be charities with voluntary incomes of between £500,000, and £2m. We go through a process of selection which eventually goes down to a shortlist of three to four charities, out of which we pick one. We don’t do a basket of charities, we just pick one lucky winner. Last year it was a charity called the Encephalitis Society.

How much does the October Club raise?

The amount of money generated by our annual gala has been extraordinarily steady despite the changing times and pressure. The figures have pretty consistently been from the late £300,000s up to £500,000, even in the difficult last five years.

What factors do you take into account when choosing a charity?

For most of our history we have used external expert advice in choosing which charity will benefit from our fundraising. We try to consider all of the applications, but some don’t fit even the fundamental criteria. When we get the list down to a manageable number (which tends to be around 15) we’re really looking at the strength of the transformational case. We’re not just talking about more beds, or more children treated – not just an extension of the existing service. We want to get a charity to a level that it never would have achieved without our help and from which it will go on to even greater things.

How do you keep your supporters up to date with what is happening?

We don’t have a formal presentation or report back to our supporters about the progress of the charity since we funded it, but we always tell them what’s been happening at the next year’s event. We tend to keep in touch with the charity – not in any kind of governance way – but to ensure that what we’ve done works, and the money we’ve raised is applied to the principal objectives that were set out.

What sort of charity would you support?

The majority of charities we have supported have been children-related and we have also funded quite a lot in medical research.

I'd very much like to find a cause related to the elderly and care of the elderly that we can support. It’s the one area that we have never supported. 

If we found the right cause, a smaller charity on which we could have a real impact at a national level, then we’d be very keen to take a look at it.

We do not top up appeals. It’s got to be a project that is self-contained. It has to have national impact. We’ve always avoided regional projects, otherwise you end up doing one in East Anglia, one in Cornwall, one in Wales and so on. The impact of our donation has to be national.

How succesful do you feel the October Club has been?

The October Club has been a wonderful tribute to the generosity, and kindness and compassionate spirit of all the leading institutions of the City for over a quarter of a century. I know it’s become fashionable to be rude about the City of London, and particularly bankers, but the Club is an example of generosity in action. It’s a colossal sum of money to have raised, but it isn’t just about the money. Some of the supported charities have got royal patronage, some of them have linked up with government, some of them have linked up with other partners, some have found themselves on television. Our hope is that we sprinkle a bit of magic dust on that evening, and something extraordinary happens. It isn’t just the fulfilment of that project, but the raising of their profile and the raising of their game.

What would you say to charity's looking for funding?

Our plea is for people out there running causes that match our criteria to have a good look at the website, to talk to charities which have been successful applicants. Money is tough out there. We’re offering an extraordinary boost to a charity’s fortunes. We’d love to hear more from more applicants with really good ideas. If it’s got that transformational element, it will grab our attention and put itself ahead of the field.





14 March


Since its first event in 1988, the October Club has raised nearly £10m for small charities

Deadline to apply to benefit from this year’s October Club gala dinner will close on 14 March

Last year the October Club raised£500,000 for the Encephalitis Society

e. enquiries@octoberclub.com     t. 07813 165 325
Privacy Policy