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“Relentless champion” for fundraising Mark Astarita dies

Melanie May | 29 April 2024 | News

Mark Astarita OBE, Principal Partner at AAW Group, former Chair of the Chartered Institute of Fundraising, and a fundraiser credited with helping to raise over £1.5 billion for humanitarian causes, has died.

Astarita fell ill while on holiday in Spain last week, and died on Friday, 26 April.

A statement by Principal Partner Imogen Ward on the AAW Group site calls him “one of those unique people who changed your life from simply being in his presence”, and paid tribute to his passion for, among other things, the Red Cross Movement, and for championing fundraisers.


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In the statement, Ward says:

“Mark raised loads and loads of money for the causes he worked for in his career – billions of dollars in fact. He won countless awards, was the Chair of many, many committees and institutions and even received an OBE in recognition of his work. But I think the thing he was proudest of was the teams of Fundraisers he led and inspired to not only deliver the greatest for the charity they were working for, but to achieve greatness for themselves.”

Astarita was awarded an OBE in 2015 in recognition of his services to fundraising.

At AAW Group, which he founded with Ward and Tobin Aldrich in 2016, he worked primarily with the People division. Before this, he spent 14 years at British Red Cross as Director of Fundraising where he is credited with trebling its income, and prior to that, spent nine years at National Deaf Children’s Society where he was its first Director of Fundraising, before later holding the role of Deputy CEO. He was Chair of the Chartered Institute of Fundraising from 2011 to 2014.

In addition, Astarita was Vice-Chair of Trustees at St Clare’s Hospice in Essex, and had served on the board of St Joseph’s Hospice in Hackney, and been a Trustee at VSO. He also joined Article 25 as a Trustee in 2022.

Article 25’s Chief Executive, Gemma Holding described him as “a passionate and committed advocate of the work we do around the world.”

She added:

“Mark had a brilliant mind and a big heart – and he will be sorely missed by us all. We will miss his warmth, his wisdom, his humour and his commitment.


“We were exceptionally lucky to have Mark on board – he really was one of the greatest leaders in the sector in recent decades, and we benefited hugely from his international development and fundraising expertise. Mark was a great trustee, a good friend and a huge support.


“The Board of Trustees, myself and the staff would like to send our sincere condolences to his family.”

More tributes from the sector

Susan Daniels OBE, Chief Executive at the National Deaf Children’s Society, said:

“Mark Astarita joined the National Deaf Children’s Society as our first Director of Fundraising in 1993. At that time the charity had one fundraiser and was totally dependent on legacy, statutory and trust income with a turnover of just over £1 million. Mark introduced challenge events and face to face fundraising into the mix and set the foundations for our income growth, making it possible for us to invest in growing our charitable programme and campaigning activities.


“Fundraising was in his DNA – he was an incredible fundraiser with an uncanny ability to spot opportunities and nurture up and coming talent. Many of the people who worked with him in those early days at the National Deaf Children’s Society have now gone onto be Directors of Fundraising and CEOs in the sector.


“He was a big personality with tremendous charm and charisma. He touched the lives of so many people and made an immediate impression on everyone he met. He was a loyal friend who always had time, no matter how busy he was. I sought his advice on many occasions over the years and his extensive experience of fundraising across the globe was invaluable. It is so difficult to contemplate the fact he is no longer with us, and his untimely death has left everyone who knew him reeling. Our deepest condolences to his family, his many friends and colleagues.”

Also commenting, a CIOF spokeswoman said:

“We are very sad to hear of the death of our former Chair, Mark Astarita OBE. He was a relentless champion for our profession, and his passion and achievements leave an indelible mark on our community. A dedicated and proud fundraiser, throughout his 30-year career Mark was responsible for raising over £1.5bn for good causes across the world. Our thoughts are with Mark’s family, friends and colleagues at this sad time.”

Giles Pegram CBE, Consultant, said:

“Mark Astarita was a force of nature.  He had a huge personality and presence.  He couldn’t be missed.


“Whether as a Director of Fundraising himself, or recruiting the very best Directors of Fundraising for tomorrow, Mark had a profound influence on the fundraising sector.


“We had lunch regularly. I knew to expect a whirlwind of energy, ideas and scurrilous comments.  We discussed, debated and profoundly disagreed. I always came away from our lunches feeling better than I did before them.


“I know it’s corny to say so, but Mark will leave a void in the fundraising world.”

Many people have also commented on a LinkedIn post by Ward on the news, paying tribute to his passion and his kindness, and sharing their sadness.