The poll for the most influential person in fundraising has just opened at the Civil Society website.

It's a rather weird accolade as it's obvious that votes aren't always cast in recognition of influence. Some voters will support friends and colleagues and others may well respond to the blatant lobbying used by those individuals desperate to climb the list.

Which turns the whole thing into something that resembles a popularity contest.

I think that is incredibly sad, because it means that the key benefit of the poll to our sector is lost. If this vote really was based on identifying the individuals that are running the most effective fundraising programmes, who are sharing best practice and offering insight and inspiration then once the votes were counted, we would have an incredibly valuable resource available to us.

The best writers and thinkers would be identified. The most effective doers and sharers would be rewarded. The best research and insight would be exposed to a whole new audience. And those people who really wanted to appear on the list would be encouraged to do something to earn their position.

It sounds a rather marvellous opportunity to me. But it won't happen unless we make it happen.

So if you are going to vote this year – and all people involved in fundraising at any level can vote – may I suggest that you ignore the emails requesting your support. Instead spend just a little time thinking about who has inspired you and influenced you for the better over the last twelve months and share that precious information with the rest of us.

It could be one of the most important things you do all year and may result in an incredibly valuable gift to the sector.

To kick things off, I'm going to share the names of people that I'm voting for. As few have ever appeared on the list before I'm also explaining my reasons for their inclusion.

Compiling the names was a very tough task. My original short-list contained over twenty five people. In the end, I focused on including those individuals who had the greatest influence on my thinking over the last 12 months. That removed some very good candidates but made the whole thing fair. And at the end of the day, that was my goal.

I should also point out that, for the same reason, I decided not to include any close friends nor any members of Bluefrog staff (past or present).

So in no particular order:

Damian O'Broin

Damian is founder and CEO of Irish fundraising agency Ask Direct. He shares a huge amount of great information on Twitter and through the Ask Direct blog. I've particularly valued his ideas on thanking donors and his thoughts on how we can improve donation forms.

Damian is on Twitter at @damianobroin.

Adrian Sargeant

Adrian is Professor of Fundraising at Indiana University, Bristol Business School and Queensland University of Technology.

He is number one for me when it comes to academic research into fundraising. I can't remember the last time I did a presentation that didn't feature some of his research. Building Donor Loyalty (which he co-authored with Elaine Jay) is the book I return to most often when searching for inspiration.

A full list of Adrian's publications can be found here.

Jeff Brooks

Jeff is Creative Director of US agency, Trusense Marketing. His blog, Future Fundraising Now, is essential reading and his podcast, Fundraising is Beautiful (produced with Stephen Screen) is essential listening.

Jeff cuts through so much of the rubbish that is presented as good fundraising practice by the ad agencies and brand consultants who really don't know what they are doing.

Jeff is on Twitter at @jeffbrooks.

Tom Ahern

Tom Ahern is king of the charity newsletter. He's also incredibly generous with his knowledge. If you aren't making at least as much from your newsletter as you do from appeals you are doing something wrong. Tom explains why on his website.

Tom is on Twitter at @thattomahern.

Ken Burnett

Ken has written one of the key books on fundraising, Relationship Fundraising. He also has a blog. But perhaps his most important gift to the sector is SOFII. If you know about SOFII you'll understand why. If you haven't, please take a minute to visit this online museum of some of the best ideas in fundraising from around the world. You'll probably stay for at least an hour as you uncover idea after idea that will transform your own fundraising programme.

Ken is on Twitter at @Kenburnett1

Pamela Grow

Pamela is a US fundraising consultant. She aims her services at small charities and shares a huge amount of fantastic information in her newsletter, the Grow Report and on her two websites, and

If you work for a large organisation, please don't let the small charity label put you off, Pamela's advice is a valuable resource for anyone who works in fundraising.

Pamela also runs a regular weekly chat session on Twitter, #smNPchat.

Pamela is on Twitter at @pamelagrow.

Rachel Beer

Rachel is one of the founding partners of British fundraising agency, Beautiful World. She also set up the #NFPtweetup, a regular opportunity for charities to meet up and discuss the fast moving world of fundraising and relationship building through social networks. I haven't managed to attend an #NFPtweetup, but I regularly watch online.

Rachel is one of the most generous people on Twitter, sharing some great information. She can be found at @rachelbeer.

Beth Kanter

Beth is the author of beth's blog and CEO of Zoetica. I was lucky enough to attend her presentation based on her recent book, The Newtworked Nonprofit (co-authored with Allison Fine) at the launch of Voluntary Sector Network at The Guardian earlier this year.

Beth focuses on the power of social media to drive change. Her work on joyful funerals, free agents, and donor participation has been of huge use to me.

Beth is on Twitter at @kanter.

Craig Linton

Craig is a (semi) anonymous blogger who writes from the perspective of working as a fundraiser at a charity on the Fundraising Detective blog. He regularly shares insight from his interaction with his donors and will give free and frank advice to anyone who is struggling with their own fundraising problems. His weekly best of the blogs round up regularly features some of the best ideas on the web.

Craig is on Twitter at @frdetective.

Harpreet Kondel

Harpreet is Assistant Director of Fundraising at Barnardo's. She doesn't blog but she should. She's worked in telephone fundraising and on both charity and agency side. She takes a highly donor focussed approach to fundraising and I've learnt a great deal from working with her.

Harpreet is sadly not on Twitter, but a quick Google search helps turn up a number of her sector interviews.

You might have noted that The Donor is missing. I think it was a stroke of genius by @derekhumphries when he first put forward the suggestion that the donor is the most influential person in fundraising. He is, of course, right. But in creating my list, I've focused on those people that will help you influence the donor rather than simply recognise her (or his) power.

All that is left for you to do is choose your own list of candidates and cast your vote. They will no doubt be completely different to the people who appear on my list, but that's what makes the poll so fantastic. By using this once a year opportunity to recognise and recommend those who inspire and infuence us we'll build that great resource that I mentioned at the beginning of this post – created for the sector, by the sector.

You can cast your vote by clicking below…

I want my vote to make a difference to fundraising.

And of course, if you'd like to help me spread this message, you could mention this post on Twitter, Facebook or on your own blogs. There are some buttons below that will help you do all three.

Thanks for helping out.