Growing support for what we do

Sir Winston Churchill's desk in the study, Chatwell House, Kent

Our strategy to 2025

We generated more income than ever, enabling us to spend more on the places in our care and to pursue wider plans

Top: Dame Helen Ghosh speaking in the National Trust food theatre at Countryfile Live 2016, Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
Middle: Volunteers in the courtyard at Tyntesfield, Somerset
Bottom: Volunteers scouring the chalk horse at White Horse Hill, Uffington, Oxfordshire
Top: Dame Helen Ghosh speaking in the National Trust food theatre at Countryfile Live 2016, Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire

Middle: Volunteers in the courtyard at Tyntesfield, Somerset

Bottom: Volunteers scouring the chalk horse at White Horse Hill, Uffington, Oxfordshire

We are delighted to report that during 2016/17 more people became members of the charity and visited our properties than ever before. We could not carry out our purpose without
the support we receive from our members, visitors, volunteers and all those who donate
and leave us legacies. Their support, time and generosity is what enables us to look after
the beautiful houses, gardens, countryside and coast that have been entrusted to us for
the nation. Thank you.


Membership numbers have continued to grow strongly and we now have 4.8 million members. A large part of this success is down to the work of our property teams who recruited more members than ever before and provided engaging and inspiring experiences to make them want to stay with us longer. Income from membership subscriptions was over £200 million for the first time – money that enables us to carry out our work as a conservation charity. These figures not only suggest that we are good value for money, but also that people choose to support the places we look after and enjoy the experiences they have in our houses, gardens and countryside.

This year we have been working hard to improve the quality of our communications with our members and supporters. Our members’ magazine was recognised in the annual Professional Publishers Association Independent Publisher Awards as membership ‘magazine of the year’. Our supporter services call centre has made some changes to provide a better service – we introduced webchat across longer opening times and launched ‘MyNationalTrust’ which is our members’ self-serve online platform where they can access and edit their details on line, with over 100,000 members registering within the first six months.

For the first time we ran a competition for supporters to provide the image for the front cover of the 2017 handbook – more than 2,500 people entered and the winner was Paul Rook with his photo ‘on the beach at Burton Bradstock’.

Promoting our cause

Our cause is rooted in the vision of our founders – to look after places of historic interest and natural beauty for ever, for everyone. We can only do it with the help of our members and supporters and we want to encourage more people to enjoy these places, value them and join us in looking after them.

In 2016/17 our marketing and communications focused on building that sense of engagement and commitment to our cause so that more people feel it matters to them personally. For the first time we used advertising on television to communicate that we are a conservation charity. We have carried out a lot of work to understand better what our supporters want to hear from us, shaping our communications to fit people’s interests and locations, to give them a better day out or understanding of our work.

Our partnership work with broadcasters continued to develop with a landscape artist series with SkyArts and a walking series with ITV. We partnered with the BBC for Countryfile Live – a major new countryside show staged at Blenheim Palace over a weekend in August and visited by over 125,000 people. We will be joining them again in 2017.

Fundraising: supporting our cause

Donations, gifts in wills and grants are all critical to looking after the places in our care and providing access to them for the public. Through the generous support of individuals and organisations we raised over £91 million this year. This represents 15% of our overall income.

Gifts in wills continue to provide invaluable support to benefit our houses and collections and to care for the coast and countryside. We received £61.7 million in legacies and a further 250 supporters let us know that they plan to leave us a gift in their will, helping to support the future of the Trust for the long term.

2016/17 marked 50 years since Sir Winston Churchill’s family home, Chartwell in Kent, was opened to the public. In this anniversary year we launched a £7.1 million campaign to reinvigorate Churchill’s legacy and secure Chartwell’s future. 

We received tremendous public support including: more than £680,000 from our appeal to members and visitors at Chartwell; a £3.45 million grant from the National Lottery; and major pledges and gifts from The Royal Oak Foundation, The Wolfson Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation and the Linbury Trust.

Major grants from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund, a fund set up by the late Hon. Simon Sainsbury and a bequest from Mrs W E Hooper enabled us to secure permanently a miniature portrait of Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury, for the nation at its historic home, Powis Castle in Powys. We were delighted to receive grants from the Arts Council England to enable us to work with artists and community groups and bring our places to life in new ways through dynamic arts installations and contemporary programmes. Major support from the players of People’s Postcode Lottery is helping to fund the Heritage Open Days festival in 2017.

Supporters have also helped as we do more to ensure that the coast and countryside are protected and nature can thrive. More than £350,000 was donated to help repair the damage caused by Storm Desmond in the Lake District, while in Cornwall over £280,000 was raised to help care for Trevose Head following its acquisition this year with the help of a legacy gift.

Throughout the year we received numerous gifts from regular donations in response to campaign appeals and donations in property collection boxes. Every gift, whatever the size, makes an important contribution to our work to keep places special and open to everyone – thank you all for your support.

Fundraising: Code of Fundraising Practice

We are committed to employing a transparent and ethical approach to all our fundraising activity. Supporters are always in charge of what we send them and can manage their preferences online via ‘MyNationalTrust’ or by calling our Supporter Service Centre.

We are registered with the Fundraising Regulator and abide by the Code of Fundraising Practice and the Fundraising Promise. We are also organisational members of the Institute of Fundraising and support the professional development of our staff in relation to excellent fundraising practice.

We do:

  • send appeal letters and emails to selected supporters and, if supporters call our Supporter Services Centre, we sometimes tell them about our current appeal;
  • undertake major donor fundraising, on-site fundraising activity at properties, online fundraising via our website and other giving platforms, and operate a national and property raffle;
  • operate a rigorous contact planning process that limits the number of communications supporters might receive;
  • respect our members’ wishes if they do not wish to receive fundraising information.

We do not:

  • sell or pass on our supporter or customer details to any other organisation;
  • make phone calls to supporters asking for donations;
  • buy lists of other charities’ donors;
  • use agencies to fundraise;
  • engage in street or door-to-door fundraising.

In 2016/17 we received 100 complaints relating to our fundraising, none of which was in relation to any breach of the Code of Fundraising Practice. These complaints were handled promptly and within our published complaints handling guidelines to customer satisfaction. As part of our practice of continuous improvement to reduce complaints and improve our customer service, we have introduced a new customer satisfaction survey to capture how our supporters feel that their complaint has been handled. The feedback helps us to improve our customer service and develop our training.


In 2016/17 over 65,000 volunteers gave more than 4.7 million hours of their time to support the National Trust. As ever, this wonderful support was a major contributor to our success. We are extremely grateful to all our volunteers.

During 2016/17 volunteers supported us in more than 500 roles. As well as the familiar ones of house guides and countryside rangers, we also welcomed volunteers as researchers, trainers and translators and in project management, events organisation and as specialist advisers. There were more opportunities for families to volunteer together, and we created more short-term opportunities, providing ways for people to volunteer on a drop-in basis, perhaps as part of their visit or for a particular event. Christmas volunteering was particularly popular in 2016 and helped a number of properties during very busy times.

Our annual volunteer survey helps us understand how best to support volunteers. In 2016/17 96% of volunteers told us they would recommend volunteering with the National Trust (an increase of 1% on last year) and 64% of these said they would ‘strongly recommend’ volunteering with us. Although we narrowly missed our ‘strongly recommending’ target of 65%, 134 of the 263 properties that took part in the survey did meet that target.

We continued to support our staff to develop their skills and confidence in working with volunteers and to measure this through our annual staff survey. This year was the third year of improvement in this area, with 95% of staff agreeing they felt confident and 50% strongly agreeing.