We couldn’t look after the places in our care without the help of our millions of supporters who visit, become members, donate, volunteer and leave us gifts in their Will. Many of them joined us in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Neptune Coastline Campaign. We were delighted to see people enjoying our beach events, sharing their memories of the coast with us and supporting our fundraising. Many of the projects at our houses, gardens and countryside places benefited from their support too. Thank you.

 

Improving the visitor experience

Last year saw a record 22.5 million visits to our pay-for-entry sites. Much of this increase has come from repeat visiting, with more properties than ever before opening all year round, while our places are doing much more to encourage visitors to come back by offering more imaginative programmes of activity, from exhibitions and contemporary art to complete re-presentations.

In 2015/16 our places worked to create outstanding cultural programmes, such as Folly! at Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire, and Wolf’s Child at Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk. Sanctuary from the Trenches, the reinterpretation of Dunham Massey in Cheshire as the First World War Stamford Military Hospital, became the first historic house to be shortlisted for the Museum of the Year Award. Visitors also loved our bold and successful new approach to presenting Upton House in Warwickshire during A Country House at War and at Dyrham Park in South Gloucestershire, where new exhibitions and a remarkable rooftop walkway helped it to become the first property to increase both visitor enjoyment and visitor numbers during a major roofing project.

It was also a year of new experiences in the outdoors. Our year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Neptune Coastline Campaign saw thousands of visitors getting involved with ‘bio-blitzes’, coastal wildlife surveys and other events. Through our partnership with Sport England, we saw a 50% increase in the number of people taking part in sport at our outdoor places. We also worked with partners to create experiences that move, teach and inspire at our outdoor places – highlights included Withdrawn, at Leigh Woods near Bristol, and The Jurors, a major installation by artist Hew Locke at Runnymede in Surrey to mark 800 years of Magna Carta.

 

Volunteer recommendation

In 2015/16 over 61,000 volunteers gave more than 4.9 million hours of their time to help us. We are very grateful for their support. 95% of volunteers told us they would recommend their experience to others and 64% of these said they would ‘strongly recommend’ volunteering with us; we therefore met our target of 64%, and 145 of the 266 properties that took part in the survey exceeded it.

Volunteer roles ranged from house guides and countryside rangers to project management and IT support. We encouraged families to volunteer together, and our internship programme flourished. New and different ways to volunteer and participate will be an increasing focus in 2016/17.

We continued to support our staff in helping them feel capable and confident of working with volunteers, and we completed the successful roll-out of our new volunteering system. All our volunteer data are now together in one place, and volunteers can claim their expenses on-line, sign up for volunteer shifts and apply for new roles.

 

Membership reached 4.5 million members

Over a third of our income comes from membership subscriptions and in 2015/16 this exceeded £178 million.

Over 2.2 million households have a National Trust membership; that’s 4.5 million members. In 2015/16 we added over 400,000 new memberships and our membership grew by 6.7%. Since introducing a monthly direct debit payment option, 37% of new memberships have paid by this method and it has particularly appealed to families who now make up 20% of our memberships. Recruiting more members at our countryside places was a priority in 2015/16 and will remain so in 2016/17.

Our hard-working team at our Supporter Services Centre handled over a million contacts – over 800,000 phone calls.

 

Another good year for fundraising

Last year, fundraising accounted for 16% of our overall income:
donations, gifts in Wills and grants are vital to our work, and the combined generosity of the individuals and organisations who supported us raised £83.6 million.

Gifts in Wills continue to be an invaluable source of support. Last year we received £51.6 million in legacies and a further 350 supporters let us know that they plan to leave us a gift in their Will, enabling us to say thank you and stay in touch with them during their lifetime.

Individual donors and charitable trusts supported our priority conservation projects generously. We received gifts of £846,000 from the Kinsurdy Charitable Trust, £540,000 from The Monument Trust, £250,000 from the Garfield Weston Foundation and valuable support from the Royal Oak Foundation. An anonymous donor pledged £1 million to restore Stowe Landscape Gardens and we are fundraising to match this gift. During the 50th anniversary of the Neptune Coastline Campaign a major donor contributed £230,000 for our coastal work. We also received numerous generous gifts through regular donations, in response to campaign appeals and from donations in property collection boxes for which we can’t thank our supporters enough.

The Heritage Lottery Fund continued to provide vital support for a range of work at our properties including Ickworth in Suffolk, Castle Drogo near Exeter, Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, Mottisfont in Hampshire, Gibside in Gateshead, Brockhampton Estate in Herefordshire and Attingham Park in Shropshire. We also received £2 million from Sport England to support our cycling programme and £996,000 from the Big Lottery Fund for the Green Academies Project 2 to help equip young people with skills to make improvements to their local environment.

Last year fundraising as a sector was in the media spotlight. We strive to meet the highest standards of professionalism and good practice when contacting our supporters with fundraising communications. We have never shared our supporters’ data with third parties. Protecting and effectively using our supporter information remains critically important
to us.

 

Promoting our cause

Our cause is rooted in the vision of our founders – we exist to look after places of historic interest and natural beauty for ever, for everyone. We can only do it with the help of our supporters and we want to encourage more people to enjoy these places, value them and join us in looking after them. In 2015/16 our marketing and communications focused on Coast, in what was the 50th anniversary year of the Neptune Coastline Campaign.
It was a campaign across all communication channels including TV advertising, website and publishing and a participatory audio experience with the BBC and British Library called Sounds of the Shore. We encouraged people to share their love of the coast. At the heart of this was a poem celebrating the coast written by Dr John Cooper-Clarke which we asked the public to help finish. We also secured strong media coverage for Shifting Shores, our strategic approach to managing coastal change.

We couldn't look after the
places in our care without
the help of our millions of supporters
 Top: A child at Hatchlands Park, Surrey.
Middle: Visitors in the silver birch grove during the annual winter lights.
Bottom: Reenactors demonstarting historical weaponry during a Christmas fair at Blickling Hall, Norfolk.